Read the working paper
INSEAD Working Paper 2016/08/DSC
Individuals feel authentic when they believe they act consistently with their values. However, others do not necessarily see such individuals as authentic. We explore the gap between felt and perceived authenticity and suggest that individuals’ prosocial orientation determines, jointly with felt authenticity, the extent to which they are perceived as authentic.
We hypothesize that to be seen as authentic, one cannot deviate from universally accepted self-transcendence values by showing little prosocial concern. When that happens, felt authenticity paradoxically reduces the extent to which the individual is perceived as authentic because it signals the deviance from prosocial values is genuine. Consequently, the individual is liked less and, ultimately, seen as less effective at work. The data collected at a large private organization showed that, as we predicted, felt authenticity was detrimental for individuals with low prosocial orientation such that they were perceived as less authentic, liked less, and received lower job performance evaluations. However, felt authenticity did not affect social outcomes for individuals with high prosocial orientation. Our results suggest that universal self-transcendence values play a fundamental role in determining authenticity perceptions. When one’s behavior is inconsistent with universally accepted values, individual authenticity becomes a social liability.