What is Authenticity in the Workplace?

I was at my firm’s recruiting event and our team got the following question:

“I see that authenticity is a Root Value. How exactly does authenticity manifest itself in your company’s culture?”

What happened next was four different employees in the room answered the question in their own way. I like to call it Authenticity Four Ways.

First to go was Alex. He said:

As you can see, like many of you, I am wearing a suit.  You can also see that my colleagues are not wearing suits. In fact, many of them are wearing T-shirts.

The reason I am wearing a suit is that it is Fancy Friday. Back at [University of] Michigan, I was involved with the soccer team. As such, I usually did not wear suits. However, a group of my friends decided it might be cool to show up in suits on Fridays, bringing our best selves, at least once a week.

When I got this gig at Root, my ex-teammates told me I had to keep the tradition alive in my new workplace. I decided to honor that, and thus I have started Fancy Friday. It is an authentic part of me, and Root accepts me for it.

To date, about six of the 150-ish Root employees participate in Fancy Friday.

I went next:

Root embraces your skills and talents. I for example love the power of the digital world and mobile platforms. As such, I was able to work with teams to create one of the first mobile learning experiences at our company.

A better example is my colleague Micah. He’s big into strategy board games. A couple years back, he was able to pitch an idea for a strategy board game to a client. Several years and many games later, Micah heads the Strategy Board Game team, and focuses solely on making games for a multitude of clients.

Root lets Micah leverage his authentic interests to bring results to our clients.

Next was Aaron:

I was with Steven [i.e. yours truly] at a client. We had just finished a successful meeting and had celebrated with some wine and a nice Italian dinner.

Both of us had been traveling for a few days for this client and felt that we needed to hit the gym.  We looked at each other after our last glass of wine and said, “Gym?” We both nodded, and as soon as we got to the hotel, we went to our respective rooms, changed, and met at the weight room for a solid one hour workout.

When we had finished with our dumbbell presses and rows, we were amped up with adrenaline. There were some outcomes and to-do’s coming out of our client meeting and so we looked at each other and said, “How about we meet in the lobby in 10 minutes for some work?” We both nodded.

For the next hour, we worked on finishing up some client work in our basketball shorts into the night.

That night was one of the most authentic experiences I have had in my working life.

Finally, it was Nic:

Every year, our company has an award night called The Rooties. At the Rooties, we celebrate those individuals who best embody a Root Value. Last year, I won the authenticity award.

I’ll keep it brief. You’ve met me as Nic. Last year, I was Nicole. I am transgender, and my colleagues voted for me for the most authentic individual at Root for 2016.


The room was silent with amazement.  We closed the recruiting session on that note. I will end this article on that same note.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *