There’s no shame in being vulnerable at work.

Laavanya Nagendran, Communications Specialist

Whether it’s when I share my work with a client or put myself out there on social media, I am exposed, I am vulnerable. So why even do it in the first place?

I finished watching Brené Brown’s ‘The Call to Courage’ talk on Netflix and started reflecting on vulnerability and how this might relate to my work and life in general. Vulnerability is a powerful yet misunderstood emotion. It’s on the agenda now more than ever, thanks largely in part to Brené’s research.

Vulnerability was and still is a massive talking point back when I worked for the Movember Foundation, as it challenged the very notions of traditional masculinity. This was also the first time I came across Brené Brown and her research during a mental health workshop held at Movember. We collectively watched her infamous TED talk on the ‘Power of Vulnerability’– one of the top five most viewed TED talks ever, with over 40 million views.

Vulnerability is worth more than our tears.

Now in my Communications role at Bunch, I’ve seen the evolution of vulnerability being displayed at work, particularly through leadership. Sadly, there still are leaders out there who are very much afraid of the concept of vulnerability. Why? They see it simply as being the act of crying in front of your employees to show a hidden side of them. There’s nothing wrong with crying, but vulnerability is so much more.

Food for thought.

I recently I asked the team at Bunch to grab a post-it note and write down:

  • What vulnerable means to you?
  • What does it feel like?
  • What do you see?

It was amazing to see the nods of agreement as they shared their words such as sensitivity, acceptance, and fear. On the flip side, I asked them to write what courage means to them. Again, more collective nods. Then the last question – look at both sides and ask yourself, “can we have both courage and vulnerability?”

The response…yes we can!

The call to courage.

Brené emphasised during her Netflix talk that “vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.”

We have a great culture here at Bunch where it’s easier to adopt this attitude and be courageous. I feel completely comfortable to stand up and talk about acknowledging vulnerability at work and am fully supported, not just by my team, but by our leaders who are willing to share their own personal experiences. Vulnerability is natural and should be embedded within any company’s culture. It creates trust and promotes acceptance and empathy when giving and receive feedback. It also helps with effective problem solving and decision making.

So how can you be vulnerable at work? First, you need to debunk a few myths about vulnerability:

  1. Vulnerability is weakness – it’s not!
  2. I don’t do vulnerability – yes, you do!
  3. I can go it alone – no you can’t!
  4. You can engineer the uncertainty and discomfort out of vulnerability.
  5. Trust comes before vulnerability – always.
  6. Vulnerability is disclosure.

And what about us here at Bunch?

Vulnerability is a key emotion that we don’t often realise that we tap into when we’re liaising with our clients. We work with them often when things haven’t worked out so these are times when they are most exposed and vulnerable; even if they find it hard to acknowledge. The challenge for us is to be is open, empathetic and sensitive to their situation, while respectfully suggesting a way forward.

Through reflection and practice, I’ve learned that it’s perfectly acceptable to be vulnerable at work. It encourages me to produce my best work because it shows I care. I challenge anyone to get comfortable with vulnerability, it’s the silent hero that we all have within us. As a personal hero of mine, I’ll let Brené conclude:

“I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.”

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