Two of the biggest buzzwords in business these days are transparency and authenticity. But according to bestselling author, speaker, and entrepreneur Seth Godin, it’s time to throw those words out of our vocabularies. Brands and people shouldn’t aim to be authentic or transparent. That’s because a workplace culture that claims to allow employees to be authentic or transparent is a lie.
People start making calculating decisions as soon as they’re out of diapers. We’re constantly thinking about the impact of our actions. Even little decisions impact how people think about us, our ideas, or our causes. In that sense, no one is ever really authentic because every decision and action has a hidden meeting, even if it’s subconscious.
Even trying to actually be authentic has limitations. As Godin points out, a person who authentically wants to go to work naked can’t, just like someone who authentically wants to have bad manners during a meeting or take office equipment can’t. We can claim to be authentic, but there are always rules and other motives that impact our actions.
Instead, Godin says that companies should create a culture where they and their employees are consistent. “Consistent means you made a promise to me about how I expect you to behave, and you keep that promise,” Godin says. In order to function and be successful, companies, managers, and employees need to be consistent.
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In reality, true authenticity can’t happen in the workplace. There have to be rules and boundaries or else everyone could do that they wanted in the name of transparency and never have to worry about the consequences. What people want and are used to is a consistent system like they had in school. This happens when everything is laid out with expectations and boundaries and also promises of results and consequences. That doesn’t mean that company culture can’t be fun and flexible. A company could set the boundaries that employees work eight hours a day, get satisfied clients, and are paid a certain amount. That’s consistent. Within those boundaries, employees could have the flexibility to set their own schedules and do whatever is needed to build client relationships. Consistency doesn’t mean rigidity; it just means that employees and managers know what to expect.
Instead of relying on marketing words that people don’t really understand, brands should change their language to tell the truth and really represent the organization. No one really knows what it means to be authentic or transparent, so Godin says it tells potential job seekers that the company uses ambiguous words and doesn’t have a strong grasp of meaning or culture.
How we present ourselves and fit within the boundaries at work is all part of marketing. Being consistent and dependable is much more important than any false idea of being authentic. According to Seth Godin, it’s time to erase authenticity and transparency from our vocabularies and focus on being consistent.
Listen to Seth Godin on the Future of Work Podcast here.
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