Brené Brown on "Who You Are at Work"


An interview with Brené Brown, a researcher at University of Houston, reminds us to bring our whole selves to work. According to Brown, we need all of ourselves to solve problems.

Brown encourages people to create a culture where people can lose their armor, which she considers most damaging to relationships. When people protect themselves rather than allow themselves to be vulnerable, they miss opportunities for connection.

Brown defines vulnerability as “the willingness to be ‘all in’ even when you know it can mean failing and hurting.” She says vulnerability means risking emotional exposure when you don’t know the outcome.

The interview reminds me of a Deloitte study that identified ways employees “cover” themselves to fit in. For example, people change their appearance, avoid discussions that would reveal political and other affiliations, and avoid associating with people who are like them.

Like Brown’s conclusion that leadership is key to enabling employees to be themselves at work, 53% of respondents in the Deloitte study said their leaders expected employees to cover.


  • How is “armor,” as Brown defines it, similar to ways of “covering” identified in the Deloitte study?

  • What are the benefits of protecting ourselves in this way? What are the negative consequences?

  • When have you avoided vulnerability? In retrospect, how did the decision turn out? Would you do something differently today?

  • What can leaders do to create a culture when people can be themselves at work?