Author Profile Picture

Rod Webb

Glasstap Limited

Director and Co-Founder

Read more from Rod Webb

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Bringing our Whole Selves to Work


I was recently interviewed by Andrea Newton for her Really Useful Conversations podcast where I talked about the increase in hate crime in the UK (with particular focus on the LGBTQ+ community) and the impact this might have on people’s willingness to bring their whole selves to work. 

Getting involved in the podcast reminded me why I like writing so much - I’m less inclined to trip over my words as thoughts spill from my head. Nevertheless, it gave me pause to reflect not just on my own experiences as a gay man, but on the experiences of those from other minority groups. 

In retrospect, I’ve realised that I didn’t answer one of Andrea’s insightful questions with total honesty, because I said I was lucky that I’d not really had to think about whether to bring my whole self to work for a long time. After all, I’ve been self-employed for more than 20 years. 

It was only afterwards that I realised that I’d answered the question thinking about my colleagues (who are like family) and hadn’t really thought about what happened when I left the safe environment I’d worked in, where I could be myself, and started touting for business in the wider world.

I admit, there were times in those early days when we really needed the work, and I didn’t take my whole self to clients’ workplaces. In fact, I’m almost sure that if I had, I wouldn’t have gained some of the early work I did. 

Given that honesty is one of my fundamental values, I’m disappointed now that I haven’t always been totally authentic, and I’ve been reflecting since on why that is.

One of the first things we learn in terms of developing our ability to build relationships, negotiate and sell is to find something in common with the people we’re meeting. That, by implication, means not focusing on differences. 

Being different involves the risk of being judged not for who you are, but for what you are. This is true whether you’re the only woman on the Board, the only black child at school, the only disabled person in the office or a transgender taxi driver. In my case, there were times when I genuinely believed that being openly gay could negatively impact my ability to beat my straight competitors.

It’s not hard to understand where this caution came from. I talk in the podcast about being authentically myself as a manager in my previous career, and how I felt that helped others. But I didn’t, picking just one example where what I was mattered more than who I was, mention the time my boss’s wife refused to sit next to my partner at the work’s Christmas party.

If we want people to feel able to bring their whole selves to work, then we need to work on creating environments that don’t just feel physically safe but emotionally safe too and that fundamentally means we need to look at the culture, beliefs and values of our organisations and the people who work in them. It means too that Inclusion and Diversity must involve much more than tick box training.

Should we care whether people bring their whole selves to work?

I can only talk about my own experience, but the biggest thing I gained from Andrea’s interview was a renewed appreciation of those early clients where I felt I could take 100% of myself to their workplaces. Top of the list for me would have to be Orange, where I met incredible people like Terri Lewis, Jo Hurst and many others. 

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that 20 years on, I still get messages from the folks who worked at Orange about the difference my training made to them. I think I probably did some of my very best work prior to launching Trainers’ Library with Orange because, when people feel comfortable to bring their whole selves to work, it doesn’t just benefit the individual, it benefits the organisation too.

If you’d like to listen to the podcast, you’ll find it here; it’s episode 11. And if you’d like to do more than tick box Equal Opportunities training, we've got some great materials ub Trainers' Library that will help, including Witches of Glum, an exercise endorsed by Show Racism the Red Card, and which is available as a free sample for trainers to use in live training.

Author Profile Picture
Rod Webb

Director and Co-Founder

Read more from Rod Webb

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!