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Office Space: Authentic vs. Professional Part 1

How do you navigate being yourself and keeping it professional at work?

When I speak to people about bringing their humanity into all aspects of their life, I get that question a lot. The answer is that every part of you is situational. We navigate that outside of work all the time. Within work, very little changes.

However, all of this is easier said than done because of how we conceptualize work and different company cultures. Since it is complex, this is going to be at least a two-part series in Office Space. Today is about what it means to be authentic at work.

Being authentic at work begins with your core beliefs and values.

This may be something that is easy for you to define or you might have to spend some time considering the internals. Those core values create a foundation from which all of your communication can flow. Your brain is much more amenable to giving you resources for actions in alignment with your values. When your core beliefs and values amplify and communicate your humanity you have begun to express authenticity. But authenticity is not a one-way process. It completes the loop when you see and hear the humanity in others. In essence, when you allow for authenticity, you can be more authentic.

Professionalism is another issue altogether. It often refers to the customs and culture of a work environment and how it sees its employees. In practice, professionalism is often about conformity rather than a code of conduct. This makes the desire to be authentic at work feel risky and sometimes it truly is. This is important to note because being authentic in your life is about your well-being and ability to thrive. It may or may not be compatible with your current workplace.

So how do you even get started?

You begin with the body.

You can choose to be connected to your body, engaged with your breathing, and holding space for yourself to be truly physically present at work. To stop apologizing for your existence at work. And, you can decide to hold that space for others. This is not about demanding that workspaces adapt to you, it isn’t transactional at all. What I am suggesting is that you can exist fully as a human being without anyone’s permission.

If you are already there, great. If not, here are some things that can help.
  • Move more at home and at work. One of the ways we compact ourselves is by using stillness as a shield. This often involves holding your breath as well.
  • Breathe consciously. Set a reminder to breathe in and out fully at least once per quarter-hour. You might have to set a timer. Or use your senses to determine you need more air. Sudden restlessness, mental roadblocks, or the need to stretch are good indicators you need a deeper breath.
  • Be conscious of how you may be shrinking yourself. Take up more room. Sit fully in your chair, think of your posture as dynamically holding you both up and out, and use more air as you speak. In the Zoom context, get the camera to make you a bigger part of the square. Take up space.
  • Become the Hero of your meeting. Invite more breath and movement into the spaces you control. Invite people to turn their cameras on more and to feel empowered to turn them off for short periods if they need a break. My favorite tweak is to have every use “hide self” mode and to use the gallery view. This is more natural as we don’t need to see a reflection of ourselves all day.

Next time, we are going to get into creating environments that support authenticity and go more deeply into situational propriety as a better metric than “professionalism.”


Gina Razón is the principal voice specialist at GROW Voice LLC, a full-service voice and speech studio in Boston’s Back Bay.  She has over 18 years of experience both as a teacher of voice and speech, and a voraciously curious voice user.  Gina has worked professionally as a classical singer for over a decade and more recently as a professional public speaker.  For more information on the studio or to book Gina visit www.growvoice.com.

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