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Be Authentic at Work: Tips for B2B Marketers

With more than 15 years of international marketing leadership experience across fintech and payments, I know first-hand what it’s like to be a woman in tech. In this time, I’ve seen a shift in employee expectations, with people increasingly wanting to work alongside colleagues that they know well and trust.

This sentiment comes with having a level of openness at work, showing people who you truly are and what you care about. It’s an ideal that has become more relevant than ever during the pandemic, as businesses have learnt to have direct conversations about the emotional and personal needs of their teams and offer an added layer of support.

But there remains a stigma around bringing your ‘authentic self’ to work. In traditional environments, finance included, showing how you truly feel, can quickly be called out as ‘vulnerability’ or a lack of professionalism. It’s a constant battle for many, and disproportionately so for women.

Reframing the way we describe women’s behaviour

People often label female colleagues with ‘negative’ descriptors, from ‘emotional’ and ‘aggressive’ to ‘bossy’ and ‘abrupt’. In response, I say, “Are those bad things?” I don’t think so. I’m passionate about what I do. Caring about your job and showing emotion in the workplace is part of being human. These feelings should be celebrated by businesses, not actively discouraged or hidden away as they represent enthusiasm and energy.

This is doubly important when men are lauded for exhibiting the same traits. Reframing the way we describe this behaviour, then, is key to empowering women to be true to themselves at work and can only benefit the business and team culture.

Likewise, people shouldn’t have to feel that they have to play a character at work. The truth is you don’t have to be anything except yourself. Trying to fit with the status quo or what people expect only encourages others to mirror this behaviour. In turn, it perpetuates a vicious cycle of ‘covering’ behaviour, where employees downplay aspects of their personality as not to appear different or ‘rock the boat’.

What’s more, covering behaviour is most common among traditionally underrepresented groups, with two-thirds of women reporting that they exhibit at least one element of covering behaviour at work, according to Deloitte. The result is an echo chamber of ideas and common behaviours. It’s not just bad for diversity, it’s bad for business.

Don’t do what’s always been done

I love working in marketing, no two days are the same. One moment I’m championing marketing’s role in the boardroom and the next I’m writing a press release or working on the brand. It’s a creative job – one that connects you with people from all areas of the business and is generally a lot of fun. Despite working in an industry often considered to be risk-averse and slow to change, my experience of financial services is that there’s a desire to do things differently.

Our business sells to a banking market that is ripe for and, increasingly, open to disruption. Banks don’t want the way things have always been done, they’re searching for new ways to connect with and deliver better value to their customers. So I’d be doing both myself and our customers a disservice if I didn’t bring my authentic self to work. As would all Mambu’s other employees. That’s how any organisation can get the best results, through the diversity of viewpoints and different perspectives.

Encouraging authenticity

A company that encourages authenticity is more likely to attract diverse talent because employees feel accepted and valued for what they can add to its culture, not how well they fit the existing one.

It’s proven that diverse workforces and leadership drive better performance and results. Encouraging different views at every level of a business, from product teams to the boardroom, is critical to innovation, creativity and overcoming bias. But you have to be flexible too. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when you’re running a global team, so you have to recognise different cultures and ways of working, while still having consistent core values across teams.

However, be sure to steer clear of initiatives that only pay lip service to the problem. Don’t invest in diversity because it looks good, do it because it matters to your company and has real meaning. It’s easy to throw words like diversity and authenticity around without making a conscious effort to embody them in your ways of working. If you want to deliver real change, don’t put the onus on underrepresented individuals to take a seat at the table. Take ownership and make one available.

It’s time we started celebrating our individuality. To recognise that we’re all human and have a multitude of life experiences to bring to our work, so we can all move forward as our authentic selves.

At B2B Marketing, we know we’re not perfect, and we need to keep these things in mind as much as anyone else. If you have any ideas for content to keep this discussion at the fore of our industry, please feel free to drop us a line at: [email protected]

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