Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid Of Being Vulnerable At Work

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Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid Of Being Vulnerable At Work

Yes, it may sound counter-intuitive to show vulnerability in the workplace. After all, in order to move forward in our career, we’re supposed to constantly show that we have it all together.

But here’s the thing: being vulnerable isn’t about showing weakness. Instead, it’s about being comfortable and brave enough to be open and honest in a professional setting without the fear of being “punished” in the form of a bad appraisal or reprimand from your boss.

The result: you’ll learn from your mistakes rather than try to hide them. And on the personal front, letting your co-workers know when you’re going through a tough time can be the difference between getting no support at work to getting help in terms of managing your workload and deadlines.

And on top of it all, your team ends up with more creative and innovative solutions because people won’t be afraid of sharing their ideas.

Say your grandmother is in the hospital fighting a serious illness, or you’ve made a huge mistake at work. Would you talk to your colleagues or your boss about it?

If your answer is ‘yes’, then congratulations—you’ve hit the jackpot with a workplace that fosters a culture of vulnerability. According to a 2017 article in the Harvard Business Review, those who trust their co-workers enough to be open with them are reported to be 40 percent more likely to enjoy their work than those who don’t.

Also, the chances of you experiencing burnout are lessened by 60 percent. You’re also likely to be 50 percent more productive.

Vulnerability starts with a boss you can trust

A leader defines the team culture, says Olivia Coléon, cultural specialist and founder of Naked Nights, an event series that celebrates vulnerability. She says leaders must be willing to hear their team members out and ask for help when they need it to set an example for the rest of the team.

Cindy Leong, personality coach and corporate trainer at Relationship Studio, chose to have an open communication policy at her company because she had experienced what it was like to “keep things professional”. “At the previous company I worked, we were told to ‘behave like adults’,” she explains. “This meant a culture where the boss was always right, and there was no room for open discussion.”

Cindy could not share her feedback honestly back then, and this caused her to be miserable. She says as an employee in her position, you either need to have the support of your peers to push for better communication, or leave and find a company that has an existing culture of vulnerability.

Struggle with being vulnerable in the workplace, or allowing your colleagues to be vulnerable around you? Here are four tips from Cindy.

1. Use the right words and tone 

That means that whenever there is a disagreement, refrain from making you team members feel attacked. Instead, remain objective and focus on the problem. “I believe in direct vulnerable, authentic and encouraging language that promotes growth,” Cindy says.


2. Check in regularly

Cindy has weekly team meetings where her staff shares about their victories and struggles at work, as well as in their own personal lives. Through these meetings, her team feels a closer social connection and loyalty to her and to each other. She’s also better able to support their needs.

3. Encourage counselling or coaching for personal growth

Not everything can be solved simply by hashing it out in a meeting room. “Some problems stem from deep-seated personal insecurities, in which case I send my staff for private coaching to work on them,” Cindy says. This is an opportunity for personal and professional development.

4. Know what to share…and not share 

It may be helpful for your boss to know you’re going through a bad breakup, because then she knows why you’re more distracted or tired than usual. but does she really need to know the gory details? Probably not…

Of course, it’s up to each employee to determine what their boundaries are, adds Olivia. But if you’re a manager, letting your staff know they can talk to you about anything is absolutely crucial to building trust.


This article is featured in CLEO. Written by Davelle Lee on 12 November 2019

Cindy Leong
Cindy Leong
Cindy Leong is a sought after bilingual (English and Mandarin) Enneagram Personality Coach and Corporate Trainer in Asia, who can help you make sense of your professional and personal relationships. She is a member of International Coach Federation (ICF) and Singapore Psychological Society (SPS). Besides a Bachelor Degree in Psychology (majoring in Communications), she also has a Diploma in Business and has done in-depth research and studies in the areas of Organisational Behaviour and Gender Communications, both in Singapore and Taiwan. Through her expertise in corporate executive coaching, personal development, and relationship coaching, she has helped many professionals in their walk through challenging times, particularly in the areas of identity searching, relationship building and career breakthrough. Aside from being a published author of 2 books, she has also been invited by several radio stations and magazines as an expert guest speaker to provide insights into Enneagram, workplace conflicts and relationships.
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