Over the past few years, the idea of vulnerability has been gaining a lot of traction and has become a hot topic. In our current pandemic environment, this desire to be oneself, to be vulnerable, tell your truth – at work and outside work has escalated even further.
My perspective? It may not be a good idea.
I’m a huge fan of authenticity. No one likes people who are fake or superficial and with how integrated our work and personal lives are nowadays, it’s more difficult to have a ‘work’ persona and a ‘non-work’ one.
So why is this such a bad idea?
Let me give it to you straight. IN GENERAL, because of social pressure, cultural conditioning or our own internal blocks, women are more likely to exhibit feelings of imposter syndrome, a lack of confidence and a desire to be part of the crowd vs. stand out (because we want to be liked).
This is because we tend to have extremely high standards for ourselves, only thinking we’re good enough once we know EVERYTHING about the subject in question (case in point: I read 30 books and completed two executive education programs on women’s leadership last year before launching my latest mission – even though I’ve been coaching women for almost a decade).
The problem that arises when we are indiscriminately vulnerable to those around us at work is that as a result, their perception of us changes. Worse still, their confidence in our abilities comes to question.
One of my clients was recently hired to run a new performance management initiative and in her desire to be transparent and vulnerable, very openly shared with her partners how she was still figuring all of this out, that she was nervous but optimistic and wanted to partner with everyone on the team and in the organization at large in coming up with a solution.
It helped her feel connected, authentic and less like a fraud.
For about two days.
Until she realized that the people around her were getting uncomfortable and nervous. They didn’t know what was expected of them (they wanted clear direction) and they appeared to be losing confidence in her ability to roll out this new initiative.
Yeah. Not cool.
Here’s the thing. Deep down, she actually knew that with her background, she was totally up for this ‘stretch’ role. Perfectly capable. And confident that she could and would get this done.
She had her moments of doubt of course – she was new to this role! Her thought was that by opening up that she didn’t have it all figured out, people would feel included and be supportive. The rockstar that she is, it didn’t take her long to realize her vulnerability was backfiring. Once she got the slightest hint of her abilities being called to question, she got back into her zone. She created a vision and went on a multi-office virtual roadshow educating the organization on the initiatives being rolled out, providing the direction everyone in the organization needed and is in her first quarter of executing that vision.
Yeah. She’s fucking amazing.
So what’s the lesson here? Should we never be open about our insecurities? Will being vulnerable always backfire?
Not necessarily. That’s why my recommendation to my clients in a similar situation is to be strategically vulnerable. You can open up – but don’t open up to EVERYONE about EVERYTHING. Get a confidante, a mentor, great manager or a coach. Don’t open up when you’re brand new to a department before people have had the opportunity to form a perspective on you.
When you have credibility and people know about your work ethic – go be vulnerable. Mentor someone and tell them you often felt like you didn’t know what the heck you were doing when you started but you trusted yourself and kept moving forward.
As one of my fabulous clients said to me last week when relaying her perspective about a conversation with her new manager, “I’ll invite you to my house and welcome you to my living room but the rest of my house is only open to my immediate family and my coach!”.
How can I continue to support you? What do you need from me? I want to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.