When being oneself is socially rewarded: Social identification qualifies the effect of authentic behavior at work

Natalia Karelaia, Laura Guillén, Hannes Leroy

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Is “be yourself” always the best advice? We suggest that interpersonal consequences of behaving authentically depend on the extent to which individuals identify with the social environment where they behave authentically. Bridging the research on authenticity, social identity, and conflict, we propose that for high identifiers, authentic behavior reveals how similar they are to others, thereby reducing dyadic relationship conflict. When social identification is low, behaving authentically increases the salience of how different the individual is from others, increasing relationship conflict. In a multi-source time-lag sample of professional work teams (Study 1), we found that authentic behavior indeed reduced relationship conflict and enhanced task performance for high identifiers, but had an inverse, detrimental effect for low identifiers. In a sample of student teams (Study 2), we only found an attenuating effect of authentic behavior on relationship conflict for high identifiers, and no effect for low identifiers. These results suggest that the advice “to be yourself” applies in educational contexts involving younger adults, but has to be prescribed with care in professional work contexts. Our findings emphasize the importance of social context for the consequences of authentic behavior, and call for more research on the contextual effects of authenticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2058-2090
Number of pages33
JournalHuman Relations
Volume75
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

Keywords

  • authentic behavior
  • authenticity
  • relationship conflict
  • social identification
  • task performance

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