Overcoming Fear of Being Vulnerable at Work

Aug 16, 2022

As I work with founders, leaders and teams, I often see resistance from people in being vulnerable.  Yet it is a critical behavior to enable a high performing team.  So it’s important to understand it and foster a safe environment to be vulnerable. 

Fear of being vulnerable at work can also cross over into our personal lives.  At the end of the day, our personal lives and work lives truly are integrated so understanding what vulnerability at work means can also have a positive impact in our lives. 

In my experience, learning how to be more comfortable being vulnerable at work was a game changer in my personal life.  It helps me more clearly share my feelings, experiences, needs and desires so people understand me better and also can see parts of themselves in me.  Because at the end of the day, we are all human having a human experience. And this is what connects us.  Hearing both the ups and the downs is a key unlock to creating stronger and more intimate relationships.  

Emotions have a bad connotation in the workplace because we have been taught to suppress them and then they come out in big burst of emotion (anger, frustration, resentment, tears, etc.) but that probably wouldn’t have happen if we had the skills and tools to discuss those emotions when they were still small and we could communicate through those issues. 

Vulnerability at work, especially as a leader, does not mean sharing everything all of the time, but should share some emotion and feelings.   

Research shows that when leaders open up a little bit, share stories here and there about a personal failing, people perform better and trust leaders much more.  The same is true if you are the owner of your business and in speaking to clients/customers. 

I’ve personally never regretted making the choice to be vulnerable and authentic with my past teams/organization. I had to learn and shift how to do this, because it was hard for me.  I didn’t want to show any weakness.  When I started to share more of my concerns, challenges or places I needed support, people on my team have always come back and thanked me for telling them.

I will always remember a time during my former career as a Marketing Exec when I was managing through a lot of company politics and dynamics of different opinions on big meaty company long term strategy, along with trying to balance the responsibilities of day to day operations and hiring new team members…and while I may have be projecting that I confidently managing it all, I shared my own internal struggle and rather than facing criticism, my team members said, “wow, thank you for sharing that with me, it’s really nice to know that you also feel challenged by some of these things…I really appreciate you sharing that openly with me…is there anything I can do to help?”  

I felt their energy shift that day and they felt more connected to me as a leader and human, plus they wanted to offer support. 

How my vulnerability was received shifted everything for me, and I never went back to not being vulnerable.


Resources Inspiring Me

I, like many others, have been greatly inspired by the work of Brene Brown.  Reading her book Daring Greatly was eye opening to see all the research behind our different dynamics!  

If you’d like to be further inspired on this topic, check out this podcast interview with Adam Grant, one of my other favorite thought leaders on the topics of organizational behavior and psychology.

Taken for Granted: Brené Brown on What Vulnerability Isn't

In this podcast Brene talks about:


  • How giving language to hard emotions gives that thing power…but giving language to hard things gives us power 
  • How different it is to first lead with a positive and then an opportunity 
  • Understanding the “right” times (and “wrong”) to be vulnerable 
  • How to figure out what appropriate level of vulnerability is
  • The difference between shame and guilt in how we parent and lead 

Connected Conversation Sparker


Why this question matters: helps you understand what someone’s definition is since we may come from a different place.  Helps open the conversation to learn what someone’s level of comfort is, and what they also may desire themselves and from you in levels of openness to create a high performing team. 



I’d love to hear what resonates with you on this topic.  Hit reply and share a story or a question on where you get stuck on how to be appropriately vulnerable in the workplace.


Live and work connected, 



P.s. if you are looking for ways for your team to learn how to feel more comfortable and confident being vulnerable with each other, my Connection Hour® Experience has been prove to build a strong foundation of openness and comfort in sharing opinions, experiences, and beliefs to create a culture of psychological safely, trust, compassion and belonging.  


Complimentary gift: To help you accelerate and strengthen your relationships click here to download a free toolkit on the 3 Simple Ways to Connect Better, including some of her favorite conversation starter questions!

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