Vulnerability Fatigue

By Erica Keswin

When I wrote Bring Your Human to Work in 2018, some people didn’t even understand what it meant to “bring your human to work.” They wondered if I was talking about my very human dog, Cruiser?!

The book was radical at the time because it made the case that creating a more human workplace was not only good for people, but also great for business and—this was the cutting edge part—that those things are not mutually exclusive.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

Today, being human at work is not only accepted but expected.

However, after speaking at HR Transform in Vegas and then sitting in on many different sessions, I began to wonder…have we gone too far?

From people feeling overwhelmed with oversharing, and what is sometimes considered a lack of “professionalism,” to a sense of what some generations experience as “entitlement,” and a shift in shared work ethics, I began to wonder:

Do we have vulnerability fatigue?

One CHRO shared with me that her firm has invested so much in the past few years to create a “human” people experience, and the result has been very low turnover.

At the same time, though, she is not seeing enough “differentiated effort.” She shared, “If you are going to stay and have a great people experience and everything that goes along with it, you need to perform.”

Funny isn’t it, how vulnerable one might feel to say out loud that people actually need to perform at work.

This particular CHRO is going so far as to bring back performance reviews so that people don’t get complacent.

So what can you do to make sure that you’re bringing the “right” amount of human to work?

  1. Don’t over-index on vulnerability: The recipe for human leadership is 1-part vulnerability, 1-part empathy, and 1-part effort. You need it all to succeed in today’s workplace. 
  2. Define outcomes: What does performance look like? We know that just because someone is physically in the office doesn’t mean they’re working. Likewise, just because they’re working from home doesn’t mean they’re at the gym or walking the dog.
  3. Measure performance and give feedback: Don’t forget, you’re running a business, so it’s important to measure what works and doesn’t work. Being intentional is the hallmark of all human business so don’t leave your outcomes to chance! 

Six years after writing Bring Your Human to Work, I’m proud to say that my biggest challenge as a workplace strategist is no longer about convincing people that bringing themselves at work is the right thing to do, but in helping them do it.

Your managers are on the front lines of this stuff. If you want them to understand how much vulnerability is too much, I can help your middle managers become human leaders. Reach out and tell me what you’re working on.


About Erica

Erica Keswin is an internationally sought-after speaker, bestselling author, and workplace strategist who partners with some of the most well-known companies in the world on how to bring their human to work. For the past two decades, Erica’s work has defined what it means to be a human leader. Erica’s Human Workplace Trilogy: Bring Your Human to Work, Rituals Roadmap, and The Retention Revolution was published by McGraw Hill and each debuted as a Wall Street Journal bestseller. 

When Erica isn’t writing books, she delivers keynotes, leads workshops, and coaches top-of-class companies and individuals to help them improve their performance by honoring relationships in today’s hybrid workplace.

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