The value of authenticity at work
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The value of authenticity at work

April 3, 2023 | Updated on December 1, 2023
Madeleine McCullough, Ellie Morris, Emma Shirato Almon

An inclusive environment encourages employees to feel comfortable expressing their authentic selves at work without fear of judgement. Higher levels of inclusivity improve employees’ engagement and commitment to their agencies, which helps the federal government improve its performance and foster an equitable work environment.  

According to the 2022 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, 70% of respondents answered positively to questions regarding workplace inclusivity. Still, there is room for growth. To do better, we need to take a deeper look into what might keep employees from feeling included in the workplace.   

Political polarization, covering and their effect on inclusion  

One way to approach this question is to better understand the experiences of federal employees who feel that they must bury aspects of their identity to avoid judgment or exclusion. Covering, a term used to describe this concealment of crucial aspects of one’s self, occurs with greater frequency within groups that are underrepresented in that environment.  

The urge to mask oneself to fit in with colleagues disconnects employees from their work environment and detrimentally affects their self-esteem and overall professional experience. It also negatively impacts employees’ commitment to their organization.  

In an increasingly polarized political climate, federal employees may feel urged to downplay identities based on sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, religion and racial background out of concern that an expression of pride in them may be interpreted as political statements or the undermining of established hierarchies.   

Already, LGBTQ+ civil servants report worse overall employee experiences than their colleagues in several areas, including workplace fairness and job satisfaction. Similarly, Black women nationwide continue to report feeling like they have to wear their hair straight to a job interview to be successful or considered suitable for a job.   

Moving forward  

As a nonpartisan organization, we recognize that politicizing identity inhibits a culture of inclusion, and we strive to implement practices in the workplace that encourage authentic expression. Whether by normalizing pronoun-sharing in electronic signatures and meetings, providing name pronunciation recordings or emphasizing employee resource groups, we strive to bridge the comfort gap at work. Implementing strategies such as these and creating spaces for respite, wellness and prayer gives employees the opportunity to bring their authentic selves into the workplace.  

 We look forward to promoting a workplace culture—both within our own organization and within the federal government—that promotes inclusive and supportive dialogue, encourages authenticity and, in turn, fosters more effective work on behalf of the public good.  

Learn more about the Partnership’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.   

Ellie Morris is a former intern at the Partnership for Public Service. Emma Shirato Almon is a former manager at the Partnership for Public Service.

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