Is It Unprofessional to Show Your Human Side at Work?

by Oct 20, 2023

In the fast-paced world of modern workplaces, people have often thought that acting professional means not showing too much emotion or getting too attached to things. Employees are expected to act like they’re always super focused and calm, and they don’t have much chance to show their regular, human feelings. But is this traditional definition of professionalism still relevant in today’s evolving workplace? Many argue that there’s an increasing need to redefine professionalism to make room for authenticity and emotional intelligence.

Studies suggest that being more human at work can actually lead to increased productivity, job satisfaction, and creativity.

So, why are we still so afraid to let our true selves show in the workplace?

Let’s explore why being more human at work is not unprofessional, but actually essential.


Authenticity fosters trust and collaboration.

We’ve all been in a workplace where we can’t trust our colleagues. Whether it’s because we suspect they’re hiding something from us or pretending to be someone they’re not – a lack of trust can be incredibly detrimental to teamwork and collaboration. By being more authentic and human at work, you can foster a sense of trust with your colleagues. When you show vulnerability and connect with others on a personal level, you break down barriers, and people are more likely to trust you. This, in turn, leads to more productive and effective working relationships.


Embracing emotions can lead to better problem-solving.

For years, we’ve been told to leave our emotions at the door when we come to work. Still, human beings are inherently emotional creatures, and it’s impossible to shut off our feelings entirely. Instead of trying to ignore or suppress our emotions, what if we embrace them? Studies show that emotions can be critical to good decision making and problem-solving. By acknowledging and addressing our emotions, we can tap into our intuition and work through problems more effectively than if we try to override our natural emotional responses.


Vulnerability and empathy can create a more positive work environment.

Creating a positive work environment is essential for maintaining morale, engagement, and overall productivity. However, many of the so-called “professional” modes of working and communicating often undermine this goal by promoting a culture of competition and individualism. One way to counteract this negative tendency is by bringing empathy and vulnerability to the workplace. By taking the time to connect with our colleagues and understand their feelings and perspectives, we can create a more supportive and collaborative environment where everyone feels valued and heard.


Creativity thrives on authenticity.

Gone are the days where simply clocking in and putting in your eight hours are enough to get by in the modern workplace. Today, companies are looking for employees who can bring creativity and innovation to the table. However, being creative isn’t just about having bold ideas; it’s also about being able to connect with others, think outside the box, and approach problems from multiple angles. Authenticity and humanity can be a driving force behind creativity in the workplace by allowing us to tap into our unique perspectives to drive innovation.


Being more human can enhance your own well-being.

Finally, being more human at work can actually enhance our own sense of well-being. When we’re constantly trying to suppress or hide our true selves, we’re more likely to experience stress, anxiety, and burnout. However, when we allow ourselves to be authentic and vulnerable, we can experience a greater sense of fulfillment, connection, and purpose. When we feel like our work aligns with our personal values and passions, it’s much easier to sustain our energy and motivation in the long term.


So, is being more human at work unprofessional? Absolutely not. In fact, striving for authentic connections and vulnerability can help foster better relationships with colleagues, improve creativity, and even boost our own sense of well-being. Being human in the workplace ultimately means showing compassion, empathy, and authenticity – not just for the good of the company, but for our own personal and professional growth as well. This qualities go beyond the traditional definition of professionalism.

Civility is the platform for organizational success—it is absolutely necessary for an organization to reach its goals. Download our Ebook on Seeking Civility to learn more on how to create a workplace free of bullying and abusive conduct.


About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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In the fast-paced world of modern workplaces, people have often thought that acting professional means not showing too much emotion or getting too attached to things. Employees are expected to act like they're always super focused and calm, and they don't have much...