A recent senior hire in a client company commented to me that the thing that most impressed her in the round of interviews was that everybody seemed to be themselves. She had the perception that nobody was trying to project a particular ‘party line’, or being different from how they really were. Some were very nice, others less. It was, paraphrasing that person, an invitation to be oneself in that particular company. There was something fresh and appealing. She did join.
I had a similar experience many years ago when working for a big multinational. The HQ environment was stiff, corporatized. It was a cloning machine, with its own dialect, a language not spoken outside those walls by any other human being. Headhunted to another company, I went for the round of interviews. Regardless of the content related to the job in question, I thought: ‘Oh God, these people actually speak and act normally’. It was refreshing. I joined.
Authenticity is precious but it is often difficult to describe. However, when you see it, you know it. The great sociologist Erving Goffman, using theater comparisons, wrote about how we try to control human interaction in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Our personas are our own versions of the Self, and they may vary. However, authenticity beats any artificial persona, and certainly always wins over the ‘corporate persona’.
Authentic comes after all from autos (self) and hentes (doer and being). Fake it and you’ll be found out.