In a world of increasing competition and and with so many striving to be seen as successful, productive – the best – it can become a bit disconcerting and off-putting to see some people around you not necessarily being authentic. Not being their genuine selves.

Amongst your colleagues, is there someone who:

  • sucks up / kisses up
  • is a ‘yes person’
  • hero worships

… and there’s something about them that when they are doing this, it just doesn’t sound, look and/or feel like it’s the real them?

It often has an air of ulterior motive, self-serving or simply not trustworthy.

It tends have the impact of others wanting to…

It takes so much energy to lie … I wish people could grasp and sensate freedom and liberation which comes with being honest genuine.

Mama Zara


Consistent: Genuine people are consistent in their thoughts and beliefs.

Feelings: Genuine people don’t deny their feelings. Every human gets angry, genuine people will acknowledge their emotions, are okay if they are seen.

Reliable: Genuine people will show up when they say they will and won’t stand you up, cancel last minute or leave you with all the work.

Happy: Genuine people will be happy for your success.

Priorities: Genuine people will know their priorities which means they are with you, they will be more present and see their connection with you as important, because you’re important.

Eyes: Genuine people will look you in the eye, they won’t avoid eye contact.

Direct: Genuine people will be direct in their communication, even to have the tough conversations.

Strong: Genuine people will stand up for themselves, not give in to peer pressure.

Own it: Genuine people will own their mistakes, feelings, and mess. They will take responsibility for their actions.


This is a question asked by a manager and three points come to mind in consideration of this question. It’s about what’s happening around you, within you and between you.

1 What’s going on that the person feels they cannot be genuine?

The relationships, culture, and current climate (e.g. change, crisis, COVID-19) all impact on how safe people feel to be themselves.

Relationships that are strained may be so because others perceve you as not being your true self. If this is the case then review the list on the previous page and, to start, act on one aspect that will ease you into feeling safe to be you.

For example:

  • When someone has a win show genuine happiness for them. Congratulate them sincerely.
  • If someone has not been clear with you, then instead of trying to guess your way through, ask direct clarifying questions.
  • When in a conversation with someone, be present, listen a little deeper and maintain eye contact a little longer.

What one small adjustment will you make to start showing your true self? Start there and build your confidence in feeling safe to be yourself.

The culture of an organisation can significantly impact how people behave: to stand up for what’s right (or what they believe is right), or to put their head down and hope no one sees them, or somewhere in between.

Being genuine in a toxic culture, if the culture cannot be shifted and the culture is negatively affecting you is unhealthy. If you feel truly helpless, all your efforts have not worked, then it’s time to decide: (continue to) hide my true self for the sake of keeping the job or look for another job? Ask yourself:

  1. What’s the value of you staying?
  2. If I stay how will I move toward being my genuine self at work?
  3. If I stay what one difference will I make to my managing up that will keep me being more genuine to myself?

At times of uncertainty, people respond to stress in a myriad of different ways. A genuine person will remain consistent, that is, their reactions to stress and crisis will be consistent each time. They will also be okay with and can identify their emotions. This is about taking their anger or fear out on anyone but rather they are okay with sharing how they feel.

Direct communication, taking responsibility for work and actions, holding respectfully mutual boundaries will help you stay true to yourself through any uncertain times.


2 It’s not about looking genuine but rather simply being genuine, being yourself.

Reflect on the list of ways you can tell someone is genuine and consider which one you could do more of to help ease more into being the real you with your manager. Even if it’s more eye contact, start there, but start.


3 Managing up is, amongst other things, about helping your manager to manage.

If your manager perceives you as not being genuine, be it holding back or being overly attentive (a kiss up) without the back up, then they may find it challenging to work out how you are being helpful.

You may be perceived as not interested, withdrawn or dis- or un-engaged. Alternatively, if you are being a ‘yes person’ and overtly enthusiastic you consistency and integrity may be perceived less favourably.

Perception is reality!

In the wise words of Star War’s Obi-Wan Kanobi:

“Luke, you are going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”

(Image source:

Even with the most positive of intentions for your behaviour, the less genuine you are the harder it is for you and your manager to have a positive relationship. They will always hold back, even if they can’t quite tell why, they will sense something.

Have you ever felt uncomfortable with someone and not really know why? This is similar to how others will experience you if you are not being genuine.

How do you want your manager to perceive you, ?



Direct communication is one way you can be genuine. Direct communication is sometimes misunderstood, being thought of as talking to get your way, demanding others listen to you, being heard. This is being aggressive and has a negative impact on what is wanted.

Direct communication is about saying what your think and feel, it involves active listening and participating in giving and receiving feedback. It’s about ensuring the message you want to send is the one that is received. It avoids pretence or hidden messages, like indirect communication: like when someone talks in circles around an issue without actually talking about the issue.

I once knew someone who would say, “I wouldn’t have done it that way.” or “Wouldn’t a good coffee be nice right now?” You could see people roll their eyes or avoid responding to her when she was indirect. If she had simply said, “Tell me why you did it that way.” or “Let’s go get a nice coffee.” she would have had a much more open and conducive relationship with her colleagues.


Managing up and being direct is about sharing your thoughts and feelings on work and decisions. Being honest about concerns or decisions you don’t agree with but be helpful and respectful. simply saying you disagree with your boss might not go down too well, so explain why in a way that demonstrates you’re trying to look out for your manager.

Researchers from Rice University, Texas A&M University, University of Memphis, Xavier University, University of California-Berkeley, and Portland State University, worked together to analyze 65 workplace studies in which individuals were open about their identities at work. The researchers … found that those who showed up to work with their authentic selves were found to be more efficient in their jobs, and generally more optimistic.

“Feeling like you belong is one of the most powerful drivers of human behavior,” Eden King, Ph.D., associate psychology professor at Rice University and co-author of the study, tells Thrive. “That powerful feeling of belonging is really only accessible to people who feel like they can be their authentic selves.” (Forbes, 2019)

As a manager who may have people managing up to you, , what do you do to make it okay for people to be genuine with you?

I’d love to know your thoughts.