5 Reasons Why Being Authentic Can Be Bad For Your Organization

by cv harquail on March 5, 2008

1-brass.jpgBeing authentic requires constant vigilance.

Authentic organizations need constantly to monitor the relationship between their identity, their image, and their actions. Ideally, the organization wants to catch (and fix) any misalignments before others notice, because these misalignments can easily be interpreted as signs that the organization isn’t authentic or isn’t intending to remain authentic. This vigilance comes at a price; since vigilance requires attention and attention is a finite resource. Efforts to be vigilant about authenticity may distract the organization from other things that require its attention, and the organization might overlook issues that have a more immediate effect on the bottom line.

pink-2.jpgBeing authentic takes a lot of work.


Sustaining an alignment between the organization’s sense of “who we are”, the way it presents itself and the actions it takes isn’t easy. It takes work to tailor these parts of the organization’s self to each other, regardless of whether the gaps between them are big or small. When the organization can ignore authenticity concerns, it can invest its energy and financial resources in other goals. Simply put, it can be easier for an organization to be inauthentic.


3-on-a-door.jpgBeing authentic makes it hard for the organization to enjoy the temptations of inconsistency.

Authenticity requires consistency, and consistency requires that the organization be thoughtful about each and every action, expression, and initiative. But often organizations want to do things without a lot of forethought or without a lot of tailoring or adaptation. Organizations are tempted to try projects that are “quick and dirty”, to adopt ˜off the shelf” and turnkey solutions, and to pursue options that are attractive — even if these options do not fit with the organization’s definition, image or other actions. It can be easier (especially in the short term) to pursue the temptations of inconsistency.

varsity-4.jpgBeing authentic makes it difficult for the organization to make big changes.

Authenticity requires an organization to sustain the alignment between its identity, its image, and its actions. When an organization wants to make a big change, it needs to change its identity, its image and its actions more or less simultaneously so that this alignment is sustained. And, because every change needs to be connected to how the organization has previously defined itself, presented itself, and acted, changes need to be deep, intentional, and coordinated. The authentic organization can’t change on a whim, and it can’t change as swiftly as an organization that does not value authenticity.

numeral-5.jpgBeing authentic raises the level of scrutiny that an organization faces.

Oddly, even though authenticity engenders trust, organizations with a reputation for being authentic are scrutinized more closely than organizations that are known to be inauthentic. Authentic organizations attract attention because everyone knows that it’s hard for an organization to sustain authenticity. Some audiences may scrutinize the organization’s every move so that they can learn how to be more authentic themselves. Other audiences will scrutinize the organization so that they can be prepared just in case the organization slips up. Still other audiences, the particularly cynical ones, will be looking for opportunities to prove that the organization isn’t as authentic as it might claim. Schadenfreude, anyone?

{ 1 comment }

mian m akram May 7, 2010 at 3:30 pm

these 5 comments about authenticity being difficult are “true” ,,,, but they also explain why you’d wnat to be authentic. Wouldn’t any organizations want to have the benefits of authenticity, even if authenticity is harder to achieve than not?

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