Living Wholeheartedly

Bringing Your Whole Self to Work

Many organizations want to  encourage their workers to be real, but very few are able to provide the actual support for this to happen.  Most people know that to be authentic is often a very dangerous idea; as you can be deeply hurt. How can we help build businesses that support people right where they are at?

Brené Brown in her book, dare to lead, defines whole-heartedness as, "engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough."

Wholehearted living means that our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are integrated - we own who we are, as we are. Integrate in the latin means "to make whole." It is learning to connect with others by allowing ourselves to be seen.

Living a life of courage in all areas of your life takes trust, innovation, creativity and accountability. In the workplace, it is not a place where anything goes, where people can slack off and still get paid, where no one is accountable.  It is encouraging others to be real, to strive to improve oneself, to bring the best "you" to the table.

Often companies reward people who are able to compartmentalize and turn off who they really are while they are at work because they feel that it will help them be more efficient and productive. I mentioned in a previous post that I was once told that I needed to work on being less sensitive and there is truth in that statement, but another truth is that when you are dealing with different temperaments and personalities you are going to cross paths with people who are termed, "empaths" - people who feel deeply about everyone and everything around them. If you see this as a weakness you can shame them into hiding, but if you can see the gifts that they can bring to the team you will build a much more compassionate and caring work atmosphere.

Every one of us has an ego that craves acceptance and approval, which causes us to pretend, perform, people-please and become perfectionists.  No one likes to get in over their heads, to fail, or be wrong and this can cause people to hide because of the feelings of shame that arise in these situations.

People are worried that machines are taking jobs away from humans; that artificial intelligence is taking over. So instead of making work environments that foster the de-humanizing that is taking place, we need to be using the gifts that human uniqueness can bring.

Jim Hollis stated, "We are here to be eccentric, different, perhaps strange, perhaps merely to add our small piece, our little clunky, chunky selves, to the great mosaic of being...we are here to become more and more ourselves."

To become more and more ourselves we must live out our values and to do that it takes vulnerability. It means that we become people of empathy, self-compassion and trust.  It means striving for resilience and engaging with the gift of the human heart.


Vulnerability is opening up yourself to really be seen and known by others. In order to do this in the work environment, it is important to recognize that we all have flaws and to be willing to accept these flaws. It does not mean that we don't have to be accountable for our behaviour but it means being real and working to become a better you. Our workplaces and employee relations will flourish when people are allowed to be vulnerable.

Wherever we work, there are expectations - that superiors place onto those under their leadership and that employees place onto their superiors. No matter who we are we are going to fall short at some point in our careers. There is no one in this world who can meet every expectation placed upon them. Some areas that are often seen where people fall short on an expectations are: late to a meeting, misunderstanding directions given, failing to meet a deadline etc. A company can be set apart as a company of excellence based on how they handle people at these times when the expectations are not met.

What vulnerability can look like:
An employee fails on a company expectation - the leader helps the employee carry out self-reflection and provides corrective actions. The employee is helped to see the areas where he/she can grow and improve but not in a way that shames him/her. Vulnerability from a leader is often seen by having the manager provide an example when they also needed to self-reflect and then taking what they learned to model what the correct behaviour is that they want to see in their team members. When all the people in the team are committed to the team and invested at helping the team to be the best they can; then the team will have respect and trust for each other. The business will flourish and become stronger. Employees will want to stay with the company because of the respect and trust that builds up between the employees and the management of the company. New ideas will be shared throughout the organization and ultimately everyone associated with the business will feel the positive impact of people who are allowed to be real in the work force.

What will happen if people are not allowed to be vulnerable:
Employees will self-protect. They will not offer up ideas for fear that they will be shamed. They will be resistant to corrective measures feeling that they are being targeting and picked on. They will check parts of themselves at the door when they enter the workplace.

How can you find job candidates that are displaying vulnerable traits that would benefit the team:
- able to own up to past mistakes on a job interview - showing the courage to be vulnerable
- able to have difficult conversations with colleagues
- able to share times that they were able to take risks
- able to share times that they had hard conversations with co-workers or supervisors.
- able to learn from failures and pick themselves up when knocked down, instead of getting discouraged
- able to bring their whole selves to work - by trusting, confiding and respecting team members

According to the article "Why Being Vulnerable at Work can be Your Biggest Advantage," "If you’re going to risk being brave, courageous, and vulnerable—if you’re going to show up and be seen—“you’re going to get your ass kicked,” says Brené. It’s a natural consequence of courage, and it’s why it’s so difficult. But it’s just as important to rise and pick yourself up when you’re inevitably knocked down."

As you have read the article, I am sure that some experiences at your workplaces or businesses have come to your mind.  I would love if you would share your thoughts on what you have experienced and how you responded.


Works Cited:

Brown, Brené. dare to lead. USA. Random House. 2018