Career Corner: Being ourselves at work

Career Corner: Being ourselves at work

Why can it sometimes feel difficult to be open about your family or personal situation when you’re at work? Executive Coach Brad McCaw explains why truly being ‘ourselves’ can feel daunting, and at the same time how it can also make us more authentic and inspire others to reciprocate.  

As we spend the majority of our waking day at work, it is important that we are able to bring our whole self to work.  It humanises the workplace and enables us to relate better to one another.   

In “Reinventing Organizations”, Frederic Laloux states that “enormous energy is set free when we finally drop the mask, when we dare to be fully ourselves”. 

Being fully ourselves is not always an easy task.  It means in dropping the mask, we are more exposed.  The important thing to remember is that we always relate to people that we find are authentic.  It is just easier to communicate with them on a professional and personal level. 

Part of my journey of dropping the mask was starting a LGBT employee group at one of my consulting firms and going through the Stonewall Leadership Programme.  The Leadership Programme reinforced how important it is to bring your whole self to work.   It is about your identity, how to be a role model and about being more authentic.

For me, becoming a role model encourages others to be themselves.   It is a cycle that is self-generating and allows others to follow and makes it a more enjoyable place to work.  Being myself has led me on a journey to understand some key issues around being authentic. 

  1. Knowing who you are and what you believe in – this allows people to understand your identity which in turn, enables others to respect you and makes it easier to follow you as a team member, manager or leader
  2. Displaying transparency and consistency with values, action and ethics – this allows people to see you as honest and having integrity; in a word WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)
  3. Focusing on developing positive psychological states around confidence optimism, hope and reliance – this allows people to be inspired by your positive outlook and enjoy working with/for you
  4. Being empathic is a good thing – understanding another person’s frame of reference allows you to consider how to motivate them

I love the work of Bill George who has authored “Authentic Leadership” and “True North”.  He stated, “To be effective leaders of people, authentic leaders must first discover the purpose of their leadership. If they don't, they are at the mercy of their egos and narcissistic impulses. To discover their purpose, authentic leaders have to understand themselves and the passions that animate their life stories.”  (Emphasis added) “Your life story provides the context for your experiences, and through it, you can find the inspiration to make an impact in the world.”

Your life story is who you are.  Remember that we each bring something unique to the workplace – ourselves.  Part of our life story is our identity and all that encompasses (mother, father, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs, education, nationality and socioeconomic background).

Initially, being you can feel uncomfortable.  But being ourselves is about allowing our individuality to shine through and allow others to relate to us as because they understand us.  To me, that brings authenticity to the workplace. 


Brad McCaw is an Executive Coach.  He has worked for over 27 years in various HR and consulting roles.  He currently coaches to individuals and companies focusing on bringing authenticity into the workplace and on creating thriving people, teams and companies.  Please feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn:




Released On 31st Mar 2017

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