“Don’t swear, Jerry, and don’t bleed in the sink…”*

*Penelope Keith’s Margo, in the TV comedy The Good Life, written by Bob Larbey and John Esmonde.

Al Pacino as Shylock, John Sessions as Salerio, Gregor Fisher as Solanio, in the 2004 film of The Merchant of Venice.

From William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (1600):

Act 3 Scene 1:


Why, I am sure if he forfeit, thou wilt not take his flesh. What’s that good for?


To bait fish withal. If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies, and what’s the reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example?Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”

“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?”

…the essence of vulnerability. (In the UK, the Department of Health considers a person vulnerable if they are unable to look after themselves, protect themselves from harm or exploitation or are unable to report abuse.)

In the USA, Brené Brown now attracts the epithet of “vulnerable leadership advocate”, and her hugely popular TEDx talk on “the power of vulnerability” is used in corporate trainings. To my ear, the expression carries a tone of “barefoot doctor/wounded healer/servant king”.

I turned to the webpage Indeed for employers for its “7 Examples of Vulnerable Leadership”:

1. Apologize when you’re wrong 2. Share new or different ideas 3. Discuss sensitive matters 4. Set and respect boundaries 5. Don’t expect perfection 6. Get to know your employees 7. Call out inappropriate behavior.

They give as an example of a boundary (quite literally, in this example, a door), “asking employees to knock before entering”. I think you can even buy a sign.

Under “Get to know your employees” is this gem:

“If you notice an employee has a photo on their desk, offer a genuine compliment, such as, “I’m impressed that you managed to get three kids to look at the camera at once. My kids never seem to do that!” Bring in cake for the office if you just got engaged, or show off pics of your new grandbaby when your team isn’t busy.”

For some reason, a moment from Father Ted (written by Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews) comes to mind:

Father Ted: Dougal, you know you can praise God in other ways.
Father Dougal: Oh yeah, like that time you told me I could praise him just by leaving the room.
Father Ted: Yes, that was a good one all right.”

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