ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (4): 597-609.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.00597

• Conceptual Framework • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The effect of interpersonal authenticity on coworker interactions within work team

TANG Yipeng1, REN Zhiyu1, PU Xiaoping2(), HAN Wei1   

  1. 1School of Business Administration, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, Wuhan 430073, China
    2School of Management, Wuhan University of Technology, Wuhan 430070, China
  • Received:2019-12-27 Online:2021-04-15 Published:2021-02-22


Authenticity serves as the key foundation for social interactions. Nevertheless, upon joining an organization, employees are often socialized to regulate and conceal their true selves. Such inauthentic displays not only make the employees stressful, but also bring substantial loss to the companies. Recent years have witnessed an upsurge of both public and academic interest in authenticity at work. Taking a self-based perspective, prior research has focused mainly on personal authenticity. However, authenticity has an inherent orientation towards interpersonal relationship. That is, people may display different levels of authenticity depending on the nature of the interpersonal relationships. To extend the current literature, therefore, this research adopted a socio-relational perspective to propose the concept of interpersonal authenticity. Moreover, grounding on the review of current literature, we postulate that interpersonal authenticity consists of three critical components: cognitive, behavioral, and social. The cognitive component mainly focuses on the knowledge and processing of self-concept. The behavioral component reflects in autonomous behaviors which convey internal values, conscious feelings, and true self. The social component emphasizes honesty in social interactions and the response to social pressure. 
A comprehensive model was developed to understand how interpersonal authenticity may influence coworker interactions. Building on social penetration theory and behavioral script theory, we develop a theoretical account of how interpersonal authenticity may help focal employees be socially included and well-liked by coworkers and reap the benefit of getting higher status. Social penetration theory states that people tend to draw close to those who reveal their true selves because interacting with them constitute a rewarding experience and thus increase interpersonal closeness. As employees display authenticity in their interactions with coworkers, the coworkers see the employees as open and vulnerable and thus socially include them because openness and vulnerability suggest a willingness to be involved in an interpersonal relationship and also reduces the interpersonal risk, such as betrayal, for the coworkers. Such social inclusion may enhance the employees’ influence on group decisions, that is, increase their social status in the group. People sometimes are expected to “wear a mask” and act in a desired manner at work. Interpersonal authenticity may not be necessarily functional in facilitating social inclusion under this condition. We, thus, introduce a key contextual moderator: political climate of the work groups. We argue that the positive influence of interpersonal authenticity on social status via social inclusion will be stronger when the work environment has a weak political climate. 
Meanwhile, interpersonal authenticity conveys a positive meaning in interpersonal relationships, and thus can lead to interpersonal liking from coworkers. Behavioral script theory posits that people compare a particular behavior with related expectation in the social context to understand the social meaning of this behavior. And, the theory further suggests that such expectation may be shaped by the behavioral pattern of the actor. Since personality trait represents a relatively stable behavioral pattern, we believe that the personality trait of the focal employees may influence whether interpersonal authenticity is acceptable to coworkers. We argue that the effect of interpersonal authenticity on social status via interpersonal liking may be moderated by the dark triad of the employees such that this effect is weaker when the employees have a high level of dark triad.
Furthermore, we draw from face-negotiation theory to argue that interpersonal authenticity makes the focal employees concern less about saving face. In this sense, we postulate that interpersonal authenticity may be negatively related to face-concern. And this theory argues that a low level of face concern will be more of an issue under the condition of conflict. We thus further suggest that when team conflict climate is high, interpersonal authenticity may lead to interpersonal exclusion by decreasing the employees’ face-concern. Overall, the research model helps us clarify how and when employees benefit from their interpersonal authenticity in coworker interactions, providing practical implications in building a work environment that encourages employees to be authentic.

Key words: interpersonal authenticity, coworker interactions, socio-relational perspective

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