Christine vs. Work: What Does ‘Just Be Yourself’ Really Look Like at Work?

Chrstne vs. Work: Wht Does ‘Just Be rself’ Relly Look Lke t Work?

Job nd lfe dvce for ng professonls. See more from scend here.

Everyone sys to “be uthentc” or “just be rself” t work. But wht does tht relly men, nd why does t mtter?

nnovton tor Chrstne Lu explores the often blurry concept of “beng rself” whle lso “beng professonl.” How do those two thngs ntersect? re there to lern? Hve workplce expecttons chng over tme? nd from the employer’s pont of vew, wht’s to be gn from ng culture where employees cn be uthentc?

We spoke to Madison Butler, resources nd recrutment prcttoner, bout the chllenges nd benefts of brngng r most uthentc self to the workplce.

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CHRSTNE LU: Hve ever gotten the dvce: Just be rself? Don’t try to be nythng but rself. Just be rself. Just be rself. Just be rself. t’s lke, well, ll rght, t the end of the dy, wht does ths relly men when t comes to r professonl lfe nd gong to work? Outsde of work, tht s not problem. But beng myself t work, tht’s hrder.

Reserch shows tht t’s overll benefcl for people to be more uthentc t work. So when her, be rself or be uthentc, ’re gong to be honest, rght? nd then f ’re honest, mght be blunt. nd f ’re blunt, don’t know, mybe ’ll be seen s brsve. nd f ’re seen s brsve, then lke ’re gong to be nm not professonl.

Here’s my queston. Wht does brngng my uthentc self to work relly look lke? nd hve expecttons chng over tme? Wht bout ths pst yer?


MDSON BUTLER: Msconcepton s tht f 100% brng rself to work, tht’s t, there’s no — t’s ether — t’s ether lke zero or 100. There’s nothng n between. When n ctulty, t s 100% personl choce. t’s not lke some, ll n, or nothng.

CHRSTNE LU: Tht’s Mdson Butler. She’s the Vce Presdent of People nd Culture t strtup bs n ustn, Texs. She speclzes n workplce culture nd n cretng nclusve busness envronments.

Mdson, when brng r uthentc self to work, wht does tht relly look lke? How do brng tht?

MDSON BUTLER: So obvously, t’s lttle dfferent now becuse we’re not n the offce. But ctully thnk the uthentcty prt s lot deeper thn bout my blue hr or my tttoos. t’s bout beng relly honest wth ourselves bout everythng else tht’s gong on n our lves, whether t be COVD or George Floyd or ’re gong through dvorce. There’s ll of ths other stuff tht hppens every dy. nd t doesn’t py for us to gnore those thngs. thnk there s ths msconcepton tht we get to work, we check our sweter t the door, nd we move on wth lfe. nd tht’s just not relty.

CHRSTNE LU: So Mdson, feel so comfortble beng r uthentc self nd sendng tht messge to everyone, ws there ever tme lke tht ths ws hrd for or ths wsn’t lwys the cse?

MDSON BUTLER: Oh, totlly. nd thnk tht t strts much erler thn corporte merc. thnk, even s we’re growng up, we wnt to ft n, nd we wnt to hve frends. hd ths moment where thnk we probbly hve ll dt the wrong person t some pont n our lves. nd ws very dfferent person for tht person. nd when got out of tht reltonshp, t ws knd of lke promse tht mde to myself tht wsn’t gong to do ths gn.

But hdn’t mde tht commtment to myself t work yet. remember the knd of turnng pont for me, though. hd n ntervew here n ustn. nd they knd of rnt nd rv bout how much they lov me nd how gret ws nd they relly wnt to brng me on. nd then t ws follow by lke ths bg ft but. nd t ws lke we love , but we would ne to chnge r hr, cover r tttoos, wer dresses nd heels. nd ws lke, wer Brkenstocks lke every dy.

nd thnk tht ws the frst tme tht relly relz how mny people ’ve work for tht ddn’t lke me t ll. They lk the de of who they could mke me nto s long s would mke them money. nd thnk tht ws the moment tht relz lke f ’m gong to work for someone else’s drem, then they relly ne to vlue me t 100%. t’s tken me very long tme to understnd tht f mke someone uncomfortble, tht s not my responsblty.

f re uncomfortble wth my Blckness, my queerness, my blue hr, whtever t s, t’s not my responsblty to mke feel comfortble. None of tht hs ny mpct on how do my job, except t mkes me better t wht do becuse embrce ll of those thngs bout myself.

CHRSTNE LU: totlly get where Mdson’s comng from. nd thnkng of my own story. There ws defntely tme when ws lke, yeh, ne to be myself here. cn’t ft ths mold tht doesn’t ft me. ws just bout to grdute from college. nd ws gong on ll these job ntervews. nd felt forc to buy sut, hve sensble pumps, be very conservtve, feel lke ws n ths sort of busness mold. nd t mde me relze tht ths wsn’t for me, ths ws not my chosen pth. nd ne to be n plce where could be cretve, wer color, know, hng out wth people tht re outsde of the corporte norm.

Wht s the proper wy to pproch the de of brngng r uthentc self? nd wht s the lke sort of msnomer or msconcepton bout t?

MDSON BUTLER: When t comes to the thngs tht dsclose t work or the thngs tht brng to work, tht s 100% up to tht person. There wll be tons of people who, regrdless, never wnt to tlk bout ther fmly or ther reltonshps t work. nd they don’t hve to. nd tht’s fne. But then there re other people who re completely fne tlkng bout those thngs. nd thnk tht’s fne too.

relly hte the word professonl becuse, gn, just lke corporte merc, the word professonl ws not ntend for people who look lke me.

CHRSTNE LU: So tht’s relly nterestng. Essentlly t’s bout the employer gvng people the utonomy nd choce to brng s much s they wnt to work. So f thnk bout myself, guess, put myself round brng mybe 50% of myself, know, freely to work. But wht f ’re not s lucky nd fnd rself n restrctve envronment tht doesn’t relly llow to mke tht choce of how much brng of rself to work? Wht s the rel cost there?

MDSON BUTLER: t s so exhustng to be two people durng the dy. work wth someone who us to sk them why don’t ever come to lke compny-sponsor hppy s or events? nd her response to me ws, know, go st n my cr every dy t lunch just so cn brethe nd put my gurd down for n , becuse t s so exhustng to be someone else for eght s dy tht just cn’t even fthom dong t fter 5 PM.

nd so when get people who re n stutons lke tht, ’re spendng so much of r energy mkng sure tht ft n, tht ddn’t come cross certn wy, tht t’s mpossble to be completely 100% gret t wht ’re dong. When empower people to be exctly who they’re ntendng to be n the world, get people who re more focus on wht they’re dong every dy. f ’m not focus on the sound of my voce, cn relly focus on wht ’m syng.

CHRSTNE LU: So wht f ’m n employer — nd look ths s gong to be cyncl pont of vew. But hey, busness s good. don’t wnt to rock the bot. nd nywy why should let my employees brng ther outsde lves nto the workplce?

MDSON BUTLER: cptl s the most expensve cptl we ll hve. So t pys for us to tke cre of our cptl. Retenton costs lot of money. t costs lot of money to onbord people. For exmple, there s compny who won’t nme, they’re ctully relly bg, but they’re onbordng process cost bout mllon dollrs per employee. So f hve someone who lsts bout 18 months, hve ctully gotten r return on nvestment? Probbly not.

So t ctully pys to understnd the s n r ng, regrdless of wht ndustry we’re n or how mny people we hve. t the end of the dy, we hve people. nd f understnd how they work nd why they work nd why thngs mybe ren’t s stremln s they were lst week, hve better chnce of cochng them nd ledng them to be successful.

CHRSTNE LU: So lern lot from Mdson. t ws relly gret to her her story nd her nsghts bout brngng r whole self to work. nd now understnd t. t’s relly not just thngs ’re werng or thngs ’re showng or the color of r hr. t’s relly bout the blty to brng r whole complex self to the offce. nd for employers out there, retenton sves money. f llow people to be themselves t work, they’ll probbly sty.

MDSON BUTLER: So regrdless of how feel, t the end of the dy, employ s. nd f don’t vlue s, then hve no busness employng them.

NDY: How much of rself re beng, lke rght now?

CHRSTNE LU: So rght now, f hd to gve percentge, ’m probbly pretty helthy 85%, 90% rght now. ’m n my house. ’m wth frendly collegue, ndy. feel lke n control where cn just be honest. Or f lke don’t know nythng, cn just blurt t out. nd ’m lernng too. nd ths s ll lot of terrtory or thngs could defntely mprove on. So ’m pretty upfront bout tht. Yeh, men ths s my lfe. Ths s my house. Ths s pretty much ll me.

Chrstne vs. Work: Wht Does ‘Just Be rself’ Relly Look Lke t Work?