Help Wanted: Vulnerability in the Workplace

Pictured: Brené Brown
American professor and social worker

In recent years, the concept of vulnerability has emerged as a preferred, often highly desired trait in the workplace, challenging traditional notions of leadership and organizational culture. This article explores the evolution of vulnerability in the workplace, tracing its origins, examining key milestones, and analyzing its impact on organizational dynamics.


Historical Context:

Historically, vulnerability was often viewed as a weakness in the workplace, associated with incompetence or insecurity. However, societal shifts, cultural movements, and influential thought leaders have gradually reshaped perceptions of vulnerability, highlighting its potential as a strength rather than a liability.

Cultural Shifts:

The rise of vulnerability in the workplace can be attributed to several cultural shifts, including increasing awareness of mental health, changing attitudes towards authenticity and emotional intelligence, and the influence of millennial and Gen Z values on organizational culture.


Key Milestones:

Significant milestones in the acceptance of vulnerability include the publication of Brené Brown’s groundbreaking research on vulnerability and shame, the growth of the mental health and wellness movement, and the widespread adoption of agile and collaborative work practices.

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.” – Brené Brown

Impact on Organizational Dynamics for Leaders:

Embracing vulnerability in the workplace has profound implications for organizational dynamics, including improved trust and communication among team members, increased employee engagement and satisfaction, and enhanced creativity and innovation.

Executive Leadership Takeaways:
Executive leaders play a crucial role in shaping organizational culture and fostering an environment that embraces vulnerability. They can demonstrate flexibility and adaptability by:

Leading by example: Executive leaders should model vulnerability by sharing their own experiences and challenges, thereby creating a culture of openness and trust.

Encouraging psychological safety: Executive leaders should create an environment where employees feel safe to take risks, share ideas, and express themselves authentically.

Providing support and resources: Executive leaders should invest in programs and initiatives that promote mental health and well-being, recognizing the importance of holistic support for employees.

However, executive leaders should also be mindful of the potential pitfalls of vulnerability in the workplace. They should avoid:

Over-sharing personal information: While vulnerability can foster connection, executive leaders should maintain appropriate boundaries and avoid oversharing personal details that may detract from their leadership effectiveness and overall relationship. This is a personal and case by case relationship choice though of course. For example a leader who is a caregiver – yet leads out loud, has firm boundaries on accessibility and manages their schedule yet outperforms on objectives and has a winning team…. This demonstrates the value of honest, genuine, vulnerability cascading into a high performing culture that leader engenders.

Using vulnerability as a performance tool: Executive leaders should ensure that vulnerability is genuine and authentic, rather than a calculated strategy to manipulate or control others.


Future Trends:

Looking ahead, the trend towards embracing vulnerability in the workplace is likely to continue, driven by a growing recognition of its benefits and its alignment with changing societal values. However, challenges remain, including overcoming cultural resistance and integrating vulnerability into leadership development programs.

As our liberties evolve and our expectation of individual freedom and rights are upheld – Good Intent feels this will continue to be an expectation.


The evolution of vulnerability in the workplace represents a significant cultural shift, challenging traditional notions of strength and leadership. By embracing vulnerability, organizations can foster a more inclusive, empathetic, and innovative work environment, ultimately leading to greater success and fulfillment for employees and leaders alike.

Are you looking to grow or enable others to grow their ability to demonstrate or just appreciate vulnerability in the workplace? Contact Good Intent.