Existentialist Philosophy and the Pursuit of Authenticity in Work and Career

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Donovan - Life Coach

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In the modern corporate landscape, the concept of authenticity in work and career has gained significant traction. As professionals seek more meaningful and fulfilling experiences in their roles, existentialist philosophy offers a unique lens through which to view this pursuit. This article delves into the profound connection between existentialist philosophy and the pursuit of authenticity in work and career, particularly in the context of middle managers. Furthermore, it introduces an advanced executive coaching approach aimed at assisting middle managers in aligning their professional lives with their authentic selves.

I. The Essence of Existentialist Philosophy

Existentialist philosophy, which emerged in the 19th and 20th centuries, emphasizes the individual’s experience of existence and the challenges that come with it. Key existentialist thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Martin Heidegger examined the nature of human freedom, choice, and responsibility. The philosophy asserts that individuals are not merely products of circumstances but have the power to shape their lives authentically.

II. Authenticity in Work and Career

Authenticity in the context of work and career refers to the congruence between one’s inner values, beliefs, and aspirations, and the roles and responsibilities undertaken in a professional setting. Authenticity involves a deep understanding of one’s true self, and the ability to make choices that resonate with this self-awareness. It is through authenticity that professionals can find deeper meaning and satisfaction in their careers.

III. Middle Managers: Navigating Authenticity Challenges

Middle managers often find themselves in a delicate position, tasked with balancing the directives from upper management with the well-being and concerns of their subordinates. This complex role can lead to challenges in maintaining authenticity. The pressure to meet organizational goals while also addressing the needs of their team can lead to a sense of dissonance for middle managers.

IV. Existentialist View of Middle Management

Existentialist philosophy provides valuable insights into the challenges faced by middle managers. The concept of “bad faith,” as described by Sartre, suggests that individuals sometimes deceive themselves into adopting roles or beliefs that contradict their true feelings. Middle managers might find themselves in “bad faith” if they suppress their authentic concerns and conform to organizational expectations.

V. The Role of Executive Coaching

Executive coaching has gained prominence as a powerful tool for professional development and personal growth. In the context of middle managers, coaching can play a pivotal role in helping them navigate the terrain of authenticity. By engaging in reflective conversations, middle managers can explore their values, motivations, and aspirations.

VI. An Advanced Coaching Approach

An advanced executive coaching approach tailored to middle managers integrates existentialist principles to facilitate authentic self-discovery and alignment. This approach involves the following steps:

  1. Self-Reflection: Middle managers are encouraged to engage in deep introspection to uncover their core values and aspirations. This process lays the foundation for authentic decision-making.

  2. Exploration of Role: Coaches guide middle managers to critically examine their roles and responsibilities. They explore whether these roles align with the manager’s authentic self or if there is a need for adjustment.

  3. Embracing Ambiguity: Existentialism acknowledges the inherent uncertainty of life. Coaches help middle managers embrace the ambiguity of their roles while making choices that align with their values.

  4. Choice and Responsibility: Middle managers are empowered to recognize their freedom to choose how they respond to challenges. They take responsibility for their choices and their impact on their teams.

VII. Benefits and Outcomes

The integration of existentialist principles into executive coaching for middle managers can yield several benefits, including enhanced job satisfaction, improved leadership skills, and stronger team dynamics. By aligning their choices with their authentic selves, middle managers can inspire their teams and contribute to a more positive work environment.


Existentialist philosophy offers a profound framework for understanding authenticity in work and career. Middle managers, positioned at the intersection of organizational goals and individual needs, can greatly benefit from an advanced executive coaching approach that draws from existentialist principles. By nurturing authenticity, middle managers can not only excel in their roles but also create a work culture that values individuality, purpose, and meaningful contributions.

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Authenticity Amidst External Pressures: Navigating Societal Expectations

In a world where societal norms and external expectations can exert immense pressure, existentialism reminds us that authentic living involves resisting conformity. When applied to work and career, this philosophy urges individuals to challenge predefined notions of success and happiness. By focusing on one’s unique passions, talents, and convictions, professionals can defy the cookie-cutter approach to careers and create a narrative that resonates with their genuine aspirations.

Embracing Uncertainty: Finding Meaning in Ambiguity

The existentialist viewpoint encourages individuals to confront the inherent uncertainties of life, a perspective that can be particularly useful in the context of career choices. In a rapidly changing job market, where traditional career paths are no longer linear, embracing the unknown becomes paramount. Existentialism teaches us that meaning can be found even in the face of ambiguity – by viewing challenges as opportunities for growth and adaptation, professionals can transform setbacks into catalysts for reinvention.

Building Authentic Relationships: Nurturing Professional Connections

Existentialist thought emphasizes the significance of interpersonal relationships in shaping one’s identity. In the realm of work and career, this philosophy underscores the importance of forming authentic connections with colleagues, mentors, and collaborators. By fostering genuine relationships, professionals not only enhance their job satisfaction but also create a network that supports their journey towards authenticity.

Embodying Existentialist Principles: A Call to Action

In the pursuit of authenticity in work and career, existentialist philosophy serves as a guiding beacon. By embracing personal responsibility, resisting societal pressures, navigating uncertainty, and fostering authentic relationships, individuals can carve out a path that aligns with their deepest aspirations. As the modern professional landscape continues to evolve, integrating these timeless existential principles can empower individuals to not only excel in their careers but to also lead lives rich with purpose and fulfillment.

In conclusion, existentialist philosophy offers a profound lens through which to view the complexities of work and career. By weaving its principles into our professional narratives, we can create a harmonious balance between our innate desires for authenticity and the demands of the contemporary world. Through conscious choices, sincere connections, and a commitment to personal growth, the journey towards an authentic and meaningful career becomes a tangible and attainable endeavor.

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