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  • Writer's pictureMalini

The Crucial Role of Honesty and Vulnerability in Impact Workplaces

In the social impact space, where passion for a cause often drives individuals, acknowledging vulnerability becomes a catalyst for empathy and understanding. When team members are open about their uncertainties, fears, and challenges, it creates a culture of support and resilience, essential for navigating the often unpredictable terrain of social change.

This blog post draws insights from a variety of renowned sources to understand why this openness is so crucial for success.

The Foundation of Trust:

At the heart of any successful team, particularly those committed to making a social impact, lies trust. Honesty is the bedrock upon which trust is built. In their article “The Neuroscience of Trust,” Paul J. Zak and Karen L. Zigarmi emphasise the neurological basis of trust and how honesty releases oxytocin, the hormone responsible for building trust. In close-knit teams working towards a shared mission, establishing and maintaining trust is paramount for achieving collective goals.

Diverse team building trust and resilience
Source: Freepik

Open Communication and Innovation

A culture of honesty fosters open communication, creating an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas. McKinsey’s research on team effectiveness highlights the correlation between diverse, inclusive teams and innovation. When team members are honest about their perspectives and experiences, it enriches the collective pool of ideas and enables innovative solutions to complex social challenges.

Vulnerability as a Strength:

While honesty is fundamental, vulnerability adds another layer to the fabric of close-knit teams. Brené Brown, a renowned researcher on vulnerability, argues that vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change. In her TED Talk and book, “Daring Greatly,” Brown explains that embracing vulnerability allows individuals to connect on a deeper level, enhancing teamwork and collaboration.

Conflict Resolution and Team Dynamics

Honesty and vulnerability also play a pivotal role in addressing conflicts within close-knit teams. HBR’s “The Discipline of Teams” by Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith emphasises the importance of trust in handling conflicts effectively. Honest communication about concerns and vulnerabilities allows teams to navigate disagreements constructively, promoting a culture where conflicts are seen as opportunities for growth rather than impediments.

Building Resilience

In the ever-evolving landscape of social impact work, resilience is a crucial attribute for teams. HBR’s “Building Resilience” by Martin E.P. Seligman and Steven D. Maier suggests that resilient teams possess a sense of coherence and optimism. Honesty about challenges and vulnerabilities contributes to this sense of coherence, as team members collaboratively face difficulties, share responsibilities, and collectively work towards overcoming obstacles.

As individuals embrace honesty and vulnerability, they not only strengthen their professional relationships but also contribute to the greater impact they aim to achieve in the world. By fostering trust, promoting innovation, and building resilience, teams can navigate the complexities of their work and create lasting change.



  1. Zak, P. J., & Zigarmi, K. L. (2017). The Neuroscience of Trust. Harvard Business Review. Read here.

  2. McKinsey & Company. (2018). Delivering through Diversity. McKinsey & Company. Read here.

  3. Brown, B. (2010). The power of vulnerability. TED Talk. Watch here.

  4. Brown, B. (2012). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Gotham Books. Read here.

  5. Katzenbach, J. R., & Smith, D. K. (1993). The Discipline of Teams. Harvard Business Review. Read here.

  6. Seligman, M. E. P., & Maier, S. D. (2011). Building Resilience. Harvard Business Review. Read here.


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