Authenticity in the workplace: Can you really be the real you at work?

Jené Kapela Develop your leadership ability, Focus on you, Leadership in the workplace

When I’m working with a group of people and ask them to self-select personality characteristics that are most natural to them, someone always asks, “Do you mean how I act at work or how I act in my personal life?”

Is this a trick question? Not at all.

Who we are is who we are – regardless of in what aspect of life. Our inherent characteristics, such as our value and strengths, don’t change based on the setting. But people often choose to act in ways that aren’t authentic to who they are in different circumstances. In particular, many people struggle with being authentic at work.

Authenticity is about who you are as a person at your core. It is about being true to what matters most to you rather than trying to be what others think you should be. People who live authentically don’t judge themselves for who they are and they don’t try to hide their strengths to fit in.

There are many benefits to behaving authentically at work. To begin with, you’ll be happier because you’re able to express your true self and your actions are aligned with your values and strengths. You’ll also be more productive, because it’s proven that when you are able to use your strengths in your work you are more engaged and do better work. Finally, and what might be most important, is when you act authentically you create deeper relationships with other people. You allow them to know the real you, and in return, you encourage others to show you their true self.

Trying to be different from who we are naturally requires us to spend more energy and can be draining, and also leave us unsatisfied. It can result in poor job performance, stress, and conflict with coworkers. So knowing all this, why aren’t we all more authentic at work?

The simple answer is, fear. Maybe at some point in our life we acted authentically and got hurt. Or maybe we are afraid that others won’t like us for who we are. It might just seem safer or more “professional” to blend in and be like everyone else.

The truth is, the most successful people stand out rather than blend in! They contribute in ways others don’t, and they are celebrated by others for being different.

Acting authentically doesn’t mean that we don’t continue growing and learning, that we aren’t willing to adapt to work effectively with others, or that we act inappropriately in the workplace. It does mean that we acknowledge our own uniqueness and embrace who we are and what value we can bring.

So – as my friend says, “You keep on being you.”

Are you interested in learning more about how to clarify your values and identify your strengths? Contact Jene at

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