What It Means to Bring Your Authentic Self to Work

Heather Bussing, October 2019

What It Means to Bring Your Authentic Self to Work

A hallmark of an exceptional workplace is one where you're encouraged to be your authentic self, but what does that mean?

What if you came to work every day knowing that your real, complex, authentic self was welcome? What if you knew you could be vulnerable and share your unique perspectives? If you feel comfortable being yourself at work, you aren't spending energy constantly monitoring yourself, worrying about saying the "right" things and trying to be someone you're not. Instead, you can focus on the work you're doing and how you can add value.

At Key, we encourage you to bring your authentic self to work — including your experience, your perspectives, your culture, and your history. And we believe that in order to build a workplace environment that values authenticity, we must also value diversity and inclusion. After all, your identity helps shape your experiences and your beliefs.

Why Being Yourself at Work Matters

Being your authentic self at work creates a better work environment and experiences for both employees and clients. It also has a positive effect on your life outside of work. Research shows that feeling you can be yourself at work improves employee engagement, empowerment, trust, relationships, and happiness. The ability to be yourself at work is shown to lead to:

  • A Sense of Well-Being and Happiness: Forbes reports that when we can be ourselves at work, we feel more comfortable and productive and have a better sense of well-being.
  • Higher Work Engagement and Lower Burnout: Research from the Netherlands showed that employees who feel like they can be themselves at work felt more motivated, had higher self-determination, were more engaged and felt less burnout.
  • Feelings of Empowerment and Satisfaction: Another study discovered that the ability to be one's self at work facilitates feelings of control and mastery and leads to greater job satisfaction and happiness.
  • Better Relationships with Clients and Coworkers: The study cited by HBR also found that being yourself promotes greater feelings of trust, understanding, and connection with others, which also leads to higher happiness at work.

The Employer's Role in Fostering Authenticity at Work

Being your authentic self isn't easy if your employer doesn't actively foster authenticity. The ability to be yourself requires a workplace that allows room for everyone. The work culture must value a wide range of talents, skills, and experiences to create a sense of belonging for everyone. Cultivating a workplace environment that values authenticity also requires employees to be courageous, open, and willing to see past their own experiences and assumptions.

Creating such a work environment requires commitment, training, and resources.

How Key Creates a Workplace of Inclusion and Authenticity

At Key, we believe that diversity among employees fosters inclusion, improves innovation, and is essential to the success of our employees, clients, and the business itself. We believe that an essential part of both diversity and inclusion is creating a work culture where employees are encouraged to bring their best, authentic selves to work. For Key, it's more than a mission or belief; inclusion is a priority.

In 2014, we adopted a focused strategy to improve diversity in hiring, and we also identified and developed diverse talent within the organization, and our efforts have paid off. Currently, women make up a total of 60 percent of Key's total workforce, while minorities represent 20 percent of that total. While the Board of Directors is made up of 36 percent women and 14 percent minorities.

Another example of Key employees bringing their authentic selves to work is evident in our 12 Key Business Impact and Networking Groups. Through these resource groups, employees can connect with people from multiple backgrounds, explore opportunities, develop professional skills, and participate in activities to connect with the broader community. Over 55 percent of employees participate in these groups. To support and maintain an inclusive culture, Key also provides unconscious bias and inclusion awareness training.

We all want to be valued for who we are. Key understands that bringing your authentic self to work is essential for building a great workplace where employees are included, appreciated, can grow and develop and do their best work.

Key is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Employer.