Let your vulnerability make you a stronger leader

Let your vulnerability make you a stronger leader

The idea that employees should leave their personal struggles at the door when they show up at work is one that should be left in the past — being vulnerable can lead to deeper connections between workers and leaders that make the workplace stronger.

The conversation around mental health has been top of mind over the last few years, and now more than ever, people feel safe sharing their challenges and asking for the right benefits to help overcome them. Tennis champion Naomi Osaka knows first-hand how important mental health care is to wellness, and she’s working with Modern Health to provide education and advocacy around mental health for the whole family. As a new mom, that work is especially relevant, she says.

“I’m already feeling the stresses of parenthood,” says Osaka. “I can only imagine the mental health toll that many working parents face on a daily basis. For working parents to be fully at ease, it’s important that their children and dependents have access to mental health care.”

While mental health disorders are challenging to discuss, it’s crucial to getting employees the help that could potentially save their lives. For those struggling with substance use disorders, the mental, physical and financial toll this can take on the workforce is staggering: Over 46 million Americans have been diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder, costing employers $81 billion every year through drops in productivity, absenteeism, turnover and recruitment costs, healthcare costs, workplace accidents and disability and workers’ compensation.

“Employees usually think that the management is out to get them, and if they use [a treatment] program, they will get fired,” says says AJ Black, director of business development at Lionrock Recovery, a telehealth solution for addiction recovery.

While leaders are often the ones offering support, they can benefit from receiving it, too. Paul Wolfe, the former CHRO at Indeed, had been living with obsessive compulsive disorder for over 15 years before he decided to share his diagnosis in the workplace. Through a company-wide newsletter, Wolfe shared what he was going through, and it changed the nature of his role as a leader forever.

“I had been vulnerable, which is not normal of an executive leader. I bared my soul to 12,000 people, not all of whom knew me. But then I asked myself, why wouldn’t I [share this]?” he says.

Sometimes it’s the smallest gestures that can make the biggest difference for employees. A simple weekly check-in asking how employees are holding up and what they need can open the floodgates to the type of support and solutions that make the biggest impact. Balancing both the head and the heart at work can lead to conversations that really matter.