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Why being yourself trumps trying too hard at work

Being yourself is always better than trying too hard, research has revealed. Source: Getty

If you thought putting on a front in a job interview or in the workplace was going to earn you brownie points – you were wrong. 

The only thing that’s going to earn you brownie points is being your most authentic self, research has found.

People experience greater anxiety when they cater to someone else’s preferences – ultimately hindering their performance – as opposed to when they behave authentically, a study by the Harvard Business School (HBS) revealed.

The study asked 166 entrepreneurs to participate in a fast-pitch competition, in which each person had to present a venture idea to a panel of judges, who then selected finalists. 

The entrepreneurs were then required to reflect on their performance. 

The results found that when the entrepreneurs felt they were being genuine in their pitches, they were more than three times likely to be chosen as finalists, compared to when they tried to cater to the judges. 

Another study recruited 379 working adults, and asked them to read a job posting and prepare a two to three minute video in which they would apply for the job in a way that would either cater to the employer, be authentic to themselves, or in any way they like. 

The results found those who behaved authentically were 26 per cent more likely to be hired than those who catered to the employer.

“When approaching interpersonal first meetings (eg job interviews), people often cater to the target’s interests and expectations to make a good impression and secure a positive outcome such as being offered the job,” the HBS study found.

“Although people believe using catering in interpersonal first meetings will lead to successful outcomes, the opposite is true: catering creates undesirable feelings of instrumentality for the caterer, increases anxiety, and ultimately hinders performance.”

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