Should we stop hiding our emotions at work? New study says authenticity boosts success and wellbeing

Should we stop hiding our emotions at work? New study says authenticity boosts success and wellbeing

We all know the type. The office ‘politician’ who spends way too long by the water cooler, who subtly undermines colleagues in meetings, and who’s fascinated by your weekend camping trip – right up until the CEO appears over your shoulder.

According to conventional wisdom, that person is going to go far. Fake it ’til you make it, the old saying goes, play up and play the game.

Office Space Television GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Thankfully, for most of us anyway, a new study is throwing doubt on the idea that put-on personalities help you get ahead in the workplace, and suggests that expressing your emotions – yes, even the ‘negative’ ones – may be better for your career.

Researchers at the University of Arkansas, measured a group of 2,500 working adults from a range of industries for two distinct types of emotion regulation: ‘surface acting’ and ‘deep acting’.

Not always the right choice (iStock/PA)
Not always the right choice (iStock/PA)

Surface acting focuses on your exterior or the impression you’re making outwardly – such as fake cheeriness when dealing with colleagues, or regulating your emotions so that you still ‘appear’ a certain way around your coworkers – while deep acting refers to an internal struggle to change your emotions yourself.

Respondents with high levels of deep and surface acting (so-called ‘regulators’), were much more image-focused than their peers, and prone to emotional exhaustion and fatigue. In contrast, respondents who relied largely on deep acting, but worried less about the surface, reported lower disruption and higher wellbeing.

Selina Meyer Veep GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

“We found that people who put forth effort to display positive emotions towards others at work – versus faking their feelings – receive higher levels of support and trust from co-workers,” says co-author Chris Rosen. “These people also reported significantly higher levels of progress on work goals, likely due to the support they received.”

Relentless outward positivity, they suggested, is simply not practical for the average worker bee, and it’s better for employees to embrace this.

Authenticity is rewarding both personally and professionally. After all, isn’t it important that you sometimes feel able to answer the question: “How are things?”, with an honest, “Rubbish.”

Authentic communication could benefit everyone (iStock/PA)
Authentic communication could benefit everyone (iStock/PA)

“A high level of authenticity suggests an individual ‘walks their talk’, keeps their promises, and can be relied upon” says Jo Maddocks, Chief Psychologist at PSI Talent Management. “This helps them collaborate and build trusting relationships.

“Authenticity requires two steps,” he adds. “Being authentic – and being known to be so, which requires connecting with others. Being truly authentic requires both high self-regard and high regard for others. Those that don’t value others are less inclined to keep promises, and more likely to let others down.”

More in this Section

Behind the scenes in The Great House RevivalBehind the scenes in The Great House Revival

How to grow your own mindfulness comfort zoneHow to grow your own mindfulness comfort zone

Secret Diary of an Irish Teacher: a nostalgic night in KerrySecret Diary of an Irish Teacher: a nostalgic night in Kerry

Ask Audrey: Why aren't William and Kate coming to Cork?Ask Audrey: Why aren't William and Kate coming to Cork?


Latest Showbiz

Director-general Noel Curran released a statement to mark the European Broadcasting Union’s 70th anniversary.Digital giants becoming ‘powerful gatekeepers’ to what we watch – EBU boss

The Invisible Man, based on HG Wells’ science fiction novel of the same name, tackles themes of domestic violence.Elisabeth Moss wants to honour abuse survivors in latest film

Pasha Kovalev announced he was quitting the BBC One show last year.Strictly stars Pasha and Aljaz to reunite on stage

The pop star performed the dramatic ballad at the Brit Awards earlier this month.Harry Styles dons lilac dress in underwater video for Falling

More From The Irish Examiner