by Laura Sue Johnson
Most people are taught at an early age that vulnerability ("uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure", according to Brené Brown) is scary. Whether it be in an interaction with a family member, teacher, or schoolmate, many of us learned when we were quite young that being vulnerable is weakness and is to be avoided at all costs. For many of us, that led to a deep, on-going striving for perfection. Perfectionism ultimately became our defense.
In adulthood, while we may have learned in some of our interpersonal relationships to admit when we were wrong or have made mistakes, for some reason, this admission of imperfection can still be scary in the workplace. Why?
Well, we know that a healthy work culture starts from the top and then spreads downward from there. It is possible that you have not had the opportunity to work within a healthy, psychologically safe environment before. Perhaps you have not had a manager or leader create that safe space for you. Healthy work culture is in danger when vulnerability is absent.
In her book Dare to Lead, Brené Brown explains:
... many organizational cultures and leaders still ascribe to the myth that if we sever the heart (vulnerability and other emotions) from our work, we’ll be more productive, efficient, and ... easier to manage. Or, at the very least, we’ll be less messy and less ... well, human. These beliefs lead us to consciously or unconsciously build cultures that require and reward armor ... They reward armor like perfectionism, emotional stoicism, the false compartmentalizing of our lives and our work ... When we imprison the heart, we kill courage.
Here are three ways we can encourage and cultivate vulnerability at work:
Vulnerability does not need to be scary. When we open the door for vulnerability, we increase invention, create genuine connections with one another, and foster growth and learning. If this atmosphere was the norm, who wouldn’t get excited about a day at work? Let’s be intentional in creating spaces for people where dreaming is rewarded and mistakes are merely stepping stones on the path to seeing those dreams fully realized.
Suggested Reading for further growth:
Dare to Lead, Brené Brown
Written by Laura Sue Johnson