Fatima Dainkeh (00:00:02):
What is happening in the body in that moment? There is a response in the body, right? Maybe there's nervousness, maybe there's guilt, maybe there's shame. What is that response? What is that doing to us in our workplace interactions?
Dr. Huong Diep (00:00:15):
Most of us are living in a state of fight or flight. We're just a fear-based society that is constantly reacting. So many folks don't even realize that they don't feel safe within their own body.
Melanie Ho (00:00:27):
I think these are things that we need to name, right? There are so many things that go on at work that actually are emotional or psychological abuse, that are bullying, that are gaslighting.
Karina Becerra (00:00:37):
I was unconsciously judgemental about the women who didn't push through and keep going like I did. If an employee said they were sick and they needed time off for something like the flu, I would silently think to myself, "For goodness’ sake, it's just the flu." I mean, I've had surgery in the morning and been back at my laptop by the afternoon, but I was very, very wrong in that.
Felicia Jadczak (00:01:05):
Hi everybody. I'm Felicia.
Rachel Murray (00:01:06):
And I'm Rachel. And welcome to the SGO podcast, the She Geeks Out podcast.
Felicia Jadczak (00:01:11):
This season is unlike any that we put out so far. What does the future of work look like when we're thinking about diversity and inclusivity and equity and what does it look like for different groups of people?
Rachel Murray (00:01:21):
We got to interview so many incredible people.
Felicia Jadczak (00:01:23):
You'll also be hearing some little snippets and interjections from our facilitation team.
Rachel Murray (00:01:28):
You'll get their perspectives on what DEI really looks like in the workplace from a practical, actionable standpoint, so let's go.
Rachel Murray (00:01:39):
When we think about work in the current hustle culture climate, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. We use phrases like dream job and pursuing passions, but this mindset doesn't allow for rest, recovery and equity. This week we're talking to some of our favorite experts, leaders and facilitators about workplace trauma, psychological safety, somatics and emotional intelligence.
Rachel Murray (00:02:02):
We'll start with Belma McCaffrey, CEO and Founder of Work Bigger, asking what it looks like to work from a healthy place.
Belma McCaffrey (00:02:08):
Because one thing I always stress to our members and to our clients is what does it look like to work from a healthy place? What does that really mean for you? Not because you're striving to belong, which comes from a place of trying to fill this deeper psychological need, but instead, what does it look like to work in a healthy way, in a sustainable way, where work becomes a vehicle for you that you leverage. You're in charge of that.
Felicia Jadczak (00:02:39):
Yeah, I was just listening to a podcast with Adam Grant. He was talking about the great resignation being a little, there's a lot of regret that's starting to form because a lot of us are thinking about how, "Oh, if we leave our job then we're going to find something else and it's going to create that piece of happiness that I was missing at this other job." Then they're like, "Oh yeah, no, this place is also terrible," or, "There's a new set of problems that I'm facing," or whatever. Maybe it wasn't worth it to get that extra bump in salary to deal with X, Y, and Z. So, I'm curious to just know if you're seeing that.
Belma McCaffrey (00:03:17):
What you're describing this, "Let me try another job and maybe that will solve itself," that's what I did for almost 10 years, and that's what I see people doing before they join our membership. They think, "Okay, it's the job's fault," in a sense. "It's the job's fault or I'm not happy here. This is in aligning with me, so I'm going to go." No, it doesn't work. I think more than a mindset shift, I think that's where purpose comes in. That's where I think it's really important to do the inner work so that when you are going into a job, it doesn't have to be the perfect one, but then you're going into it with eyes open of knowing this job is maybe just a stepping stone into the next one and that intention is really clear and is laid out, or this job is meant to help me provide more of an income for these next two years, so you have that clarity.
Belma McCaffrey (00:04:14):
I think what I see, people, they can shift out of that cycle when they start to get clear on who they are and what they want on a deeper level. It's not simple, but just asking these questions of what are the things that I stand for and values, do my values align with that of the company? I think that is something that you can connect to on a deeper level. It's interesting because when we talk about job fulfillment, fulfillment, it's an emotional need and to get clear on what that is, what that emotional satisfaction looks like, you have to do this deeper work of who am I, what do I want and what is my intention for this next job?
Felicia Jadczak (00:04:59):
Tying it back to some of that generational mindset, shifting around work and what place it has in our lives, I know when I was younger growing up, my older generation, my parents, whoever, always told me, "Work is just a job so it doesn't have to be your passion in life." I think that's something that's shifted over the last few decades where now we see people who are like, "No, work has to be my end all be all passion. It's not just about the values piece. It's not just about making money. It also has to spiritually fulfill me or some need in that way." I think especially with Gen Z, I'm definitely not part of that generation, but I've seen a lot more where I don't think it's necessarily they're looking at work as it needs to be their passion, but I actually think there may be moving away from that mindset, back into this previous thinking of "It's just a job. It's a nine to five. Don't call me after the job is done." That kind of mindset and I'm really curious if with your membership and even maybe with the conversations you're having with companies, are you seeing differences in how people are looking at that next job or that next step in terms of what they're looking for?
Belma McCaffrey (00:06:06):
Yeah, I see both. I still see people who, and I have a lot of thoughts around this because I think when we say our job needs to… First, I hate the question of: what's your passion? I think that really sends us down this rabbit hole. I think work should be a vehicle that you decide what it should be for you and how it serves you. I see both. I see people rebelling and being like, "No, I don't want this work to be my all," right? "It shouldn't have to be tied to my purpose," and I say, "Good, whatever you want it to be." I think that's where it's getting clear on what you want and what's most important to you is so important because then you can drive that conversation for yourself versus being flooded with all these external messages and letting those drive your decisions essentially. So yeah, I see both. I see people who are rebelling and saying, "No, that's not what I want," and I think that's totally fine. And I see people who do still really want work to be connected to their passion and their purpose. I think wherever you fall, the deeper question is how do you feel about it?
Felicia Jadczak (00:07:19):
There's a really great quote to of tie these two threads together that I think about a lot. This artist, he used to be based in New York and I think he's in Hawaii now, Adam Kurtz. He has this quote which is, "Do what you love and you'll work super fucking hard all the time with no separation or any boundaries and also take everything extremely personally." I feel like that just needs to be tattooed on my chest because that I think is the dark side or the danger of doing stuff that you're super passionate about. I think every generation, as Rachel was just saying, is trying to figure this out. None of us have figured it out yet. Maybe Gen Z is the generation, maybe it's Gen Alpha. I think that's the next round that's coming up. I don't think anyone's really figured it out, but the work that you're doing and what we've been talking about I think are all attempts to try and find that balance in some way.
Belma McCaffrey (00:08:07):
Yeah. Can I add one more thought?
Felicia Jadczak (00:08:09):
Belma McCaffrey (00:08:10):
I think this whole idea and not just an idea, the whole pursuit of finding your purpose and doing what you love and doing something that you're passionate about, I just want to say that does come from a place of privilege. You have to be in a certain place because I think about my parents, they didn't have that available to them because they were like, "Let me just get food on the table. Let me make sure my kids are supported." Just think about our society and where we're at and it's a privilege to be able to have that, to say, "Okay, I'm going to work towards my full potential," your basic needs really do need to have been met. I can see as you're talking about now Generation Alpha, as we're evolving maybe as a society or as we're, I don't know, maybe moving up in a sense it would be so fascinating to see how that evolves. Then what does it mean to reach your full potential from a maybe more evolved place? I don't know. Now I'm getting all meta, but that's where my head is going. I'm like, this is fascinating thinking about the future in that way.
Rachel Murray (00:09:18):
But I am curious with the work that you are specifically doing when you are coaching, when you're doing these workshops and folks are struggling with difficult personalities, toxic workplaces, bad managers, how do you help them to address it? Or do you just say, "Maybe it's time to move on." How do you work through those?
Belma McCaffrey (00:09:38):
This framework to me is really foundational in understanding what happens to us as human beings as we get older and it's really rooted in the idea that one, we're born, we are all born good. We have that innate goodness and what happens is when we're kids… And this is a very summarized framework, it's like a lot more complex, but just for the interest of time, I'll be really quick with it. Something happens or doesn't happen or someone says something or doesn't say something like maybe an adult yells at us or maybe another kid takes our toy. When that happens, we have this other part of us that's born and that's called the wounded itself. This is based on the three selves framework and it's by Franz Ruppert who's a psychologist, I believe in Germany or professor in Germany, and I can give you the book recommendation if you want.It talks about these parts that we have as human beings.
Belma McCaffrey (00:10:36):
When this happens to us as children, this part of us, this wounded self is born and that's a really raw part of us that when that part comes up, we need to protect that and that's where the third self is born, which is the survivor self. Our survivor selves, we spend about 98% of our time in that part. The survivors in us are the parts of us that are defensive, maybe the perfectionist that part of us will do whatever it takes to protect that wounded self, to protect that part of us that experiences that raw emotion or that feels a lot of pain. It's really… It's trauma. It's this splitting of our self and when we're born, that original part that's called the healthy self. So I think every individual has these parts, right?
Belma McCaffrey (00:11:22):
Every person has a healthy self, a wounded itself and a survivor self. Most of the time as human beings we're operating in that survivor self. Our defense mechanisms are up. That's why people can communicate in a way that's productive. One thing I teach in Work Bigger is nonviolent communication. That really requires us to one first be in touch with our own needs as individuals and then also start to understand the needs of others. We all have the same needs as human beings. We all have a need for belonging and connection and love. I think it's because of this that I believe in this: we're all essentially good; we're all connected. These are our similarities, these are things that bind us together. It really comes from this.
Belma McCaffrey (00:12:07):
When people struggle with toxic bosses, first of all, none of that is excusable. Bad behavior is not excusable. I always say we need to acknowledge what you're feeling. We need to acknowledge your pain. I acknowledge your pain and all of that that's coming up for you. The trauma and the struggle and the toxicity that you're experiencing, none of that is okay. I also know that boss that's over there that's behaving really badly, this is not an excuse, but they're also coming from a place of pain. That doesn't mean you have to accept their behavior or that you have to be okay with their behavior. You have to set that boundary for yourself. For me, that's just understanding human psychology and what's happening with humans and how we're operating from these different parts. I think the more that we can understand these parts of ourselves: our healthy self, our survivor, and are wounded, the more we can start to operate from that healthy part and we can make a choice and we can say no today I'm going to choose something different.
Felicia Jadczak (00:13:11):
Well, I mean I think it's great because it's definitely a very trauma informed approach to work in general. I know especially in the work that we're doing, in the DEI space, I feel in general a lot of practitioners are moving towards that as the next step in how we're thinking about the work. That's what we're doing internally as well, really thinking about the body and somatics and trauma informed ways of having these conversations. I think that ties in so well with that.
Felicia Jadczak (00:13:40):
Let's talk more about what somatics is with SGO's, Fatima Dainkeh.
Fatima Dainkeh (00:13:44):
So what is somatics? Somatics is a technique, a theory, a movement, a method, all of those things and somatics helps us think about our body. It's really related to the body and it's helping us think about what might be processing internally that we might not always be in touch with, especially as distinct from the mind. With a lot of ancient traditions and religions, somatics is nothing new. It might have not been called somatics, but the concept and the idea that there are things that sit within the body or that there are certain feelings or trauma and pain and excitement and joy, they live within the body and our body responds in ways based off of our environments, whatever we're feeling and so forth. That concept has existed for thousands of years. That's ancestral wisdom that we're resurfacing again. What we now see is, as we see it coming back into our generations, I think the person who usually gets credit for the term itself, the coining of the term is Thomas Hanna.
Fatima Dainkeh (00:14:57):
He is an educator in the field and he was trying to describe the number of techniques that people can use or think about as they help themselves increase bodily awareness through movement, through relaxation and so forth. Why is this important in the DEI space? Well, it's important because DEI work is emotional work, period. If you are doing DEI work, I don't care if you have all of the privilege and power or you, it is the type of work that is emotional, that is taxing, that can be draining because what we are ultimately talking about is the livelihood of folks. We are talking about accepting folks for who they are. We are talking about access to things that people need and sometimes want. We are literally talking about humanity. And so everything that we experience has to do with diversity, equity, and inclusion. If we are experiencing things as humans with this body, then that means that we are also absorbing things as humans in this body.
Fatima Dainkeh (00:16:16):
For example, when we're talking about race and racism in the United States or in other countries and we are facilitating a workshop about that as a DEI practitioner, I need to be aware of the impact my workshop might have on folks. Why? Because it's not just a logical workshop that's helping people understand why race and racism exists and how we can dismantle it. It is also emotional work. When we ask folks to reflect on their racial experiences in the United States and those experiences have been horrible, we are asking them to revisit a memory that might trigger something for them. What is happening in the body in that moment? When we ask white folks, "What is your role in dismantling racism?" There is a response in the body, maybe there's nervousness, maybe there's guilt, maybe there's shame. What is that response and what is that doing to us as we meet? What is that doing to us in our workplace interactions? And you can use that framework or that example that I just shared with any other identity. Somatics is important in our field because it helps us not just think about what's happening neck-up, not just the cerebral level of thinking and action planning and what we should do. Granted those things are important too, but somatics work also helps us come into our body.
Rachel Murray (00:17:46):
Here's SGO DEI facilitator Rachel Sadler on psychological safety followed by Dr. Huong Diep.
Rachel Sadler (00:17:52):
Psychological safety is the belief that you won't be punished or experience retaliation at work for speaking up. It's feeling safe to express ideas without fear of humiliation if they aren't supported by your colleagues. It's feeling protected by the structures at your workplace so that you can safely report harassment, unfair treatment or bullying. Without psychological safety, folks don't feel safe being creative or failing out of fear that they will be perceived as incompetent. They don't trust that they can report violations to human resources out of fear that they will be fired or demoted. Psychological safety is an important component of employee satisfaction and retention and can ensure people are willing to take the intellectual risks necessary for innovation.
Dr. Huong Diep (00:18:36):
Yeah, I see psychological safety obviously through a psychological lens of our nervous system and that even if you're in a physically safe space, if you have experienced a lot of trauma… You think about the different types of trauma, intergenerational trauma, current trauma, that trauma of just the last two years. There's so many different types, but I think part of this, what I've really seen and what I've been working on for myself and my clients is rewiring our nervous system because most of us are living in a state of fight or flight. We've just been in fear. We're just a fear-based society that is constantly reacting. More research has also been going about the fawn response, which is the people pleasing. I get a lot of clients who come to me are really people pleasers and not understanding. When I help them understand that people pleasing has been a survival technique that they've learned mostly because of their childhood and realizing that if you are able to please and read the room and understand how to placate your caregivers or whomever taking care of you, that is a very adaptive response, but there comes a point where certain responses are no longer adaptive and they become harmful because you're constantly putting other people's needs for your own.
Dr. Huong Diep (00:19:55):
I think once I'm able to break that down and then feeling safe and calm in our bodies, and I think, I don't know about you all, but there's times you can just feel this like buzzing, like your body just is like buzzing. Then potentially there's different stress, the physiological reaction to the stressors because the stressors are just constant bombarding. They're just coming, especially when you look at what's going on with the war right now and it's like a war also on TikTok and Instagram and whatever. It's just everywhere. We're constantly bombarded by this. These are the stressors and then our stress is our physiological response to the stressors, where it's different for each person. Then the worry is the cognitive thoughts. And then when you put worry and this physical stress together, that's when you get anxiety. Then panic attacks is like when it's just constant anxiety that's unmanageable and results and intense feelings.
Dr. Huong Diep (00:20:49):
I think for most of us it's like it's become such a norm and such a defacto part that I think it almost feels weird to be resting. It doesn't feel safe to be resting. I think part of this with my work with my clients and especially looking with my clients who their bodies have felt alien, for lack of a better word to them, or their bodies have not been their bodies. Their bodies been taken by other bodies, their bodies have been used for other things that there's dissociation from their bodies and so part of this work is how you sort reclaim your body in a way that is a step-wise approach so you're not flooded, which is then being overwhelmed too quickly.
Dr. Huong Diep (00:21:30):
I think in terms of that safety, in terms of feeling safe within ourselves, I think so many folks don't even realize that they don't safe within their own body because they have also using other substances to numb. I remind people too that when you feel numb, psychologically numb, it's not because you lack emotions, you're just experiencing so many emotions that your brain has to shut down in order to even just process. I was listening to this one Ukrainian refugee and some reporter had the gall to ask them, "How are you right now?" I think the person was like, "I have no feelings. Yesterday I was sitting in my office working and laughing with my colleagues or whatnot and today I am here walking to Poland; I have no feeling. I need to focus on the goal at hand," and I'm sure then the cascade of feelings is going to come after, I think, from a psychological perspective. I was seeing how the IRC is starting to provide psychological care and I think that's great. They're doing some of the triage stuff, but this, it's so massive and sometimes my brain, I can't even start thinking about this. I think in terms of feeling safe, I think so often folks are using or have used substances or whatever coping strategies to not be in their bodies because it's just been not safe to inhabit their bodies.
Felicia Jadczak (00:22:56):
One thing I actually was thinking of as you were just talking about how you even feel safe within your own body, I actually had never heard of it until this morning, but I'm curious if you are familiar with the snail study, the snail memory study at all? But essentially what I learned about was the study, I think it's from maybe 2018 or 2017, so a couple years ago, but it was essentially scientists were looking at how snails can basically transfer memory. The idea of that genetic coded-in memory and how that has a lot of implications for humans as well because of course we're not snails but there's been a lot of research and discussion around generational trauma and how the body holds that and a lot of science and research into that. And so I think that tying back to what you're just sharing, I'm really thinking about how things like the Ukraine and Russia, invasion of Ukraine right now is going to be lasting potentially very long term.
Felicia Jadczak (00:23:55):
People today are probably still dealing with the impact of slavery. I was so struck by the fact that you told us about how slavery was legal till 1985 in Mauritania. I had no idea. That's within our lifetimes. A lot of times, especially in the US, we think, "Oh, this is so long ago," but it's really not. Even in certain parts of the world, it's current. Tying it back to your work with the people that you're working with, I'm wondering if you are seeing any shifts with how that discussion around the body experience, the trauma experience, the rest conversation has maybe shifted or any implications for in the future how that might impact the individuals you're working with or even the people that they're involved with.
Dr. Huong Diep (00:24:45):
I mean that's a study of epigenetics, of looking at how our DNA is changed over time because of intergenerational trauma and how it impacts each generation based on environmental factors and genetic factors. I think about my mom and that when she got on that boat, she was several months pregnant with me. Thinking about all the cortisol that was just pumping through her. Then I remember when I went to visit Vietnam and she was growing up, the government could come at any time when the north won and they were living in the south, that you can just come and take over your house or take over anything that you want, her brothers were POWs, all this stuff. I think with my cousins and I, with my generation, we talk a lot about how our families have this fear-based mentality and that it really was so prevalent.
Dr. Huong Diep (00:25:34):
The recent time that I was visiting that within the span of five minutes, my mom told me, I was getting ready to drive her somewhere to work and she said, "Okay, well turn off the dryer because we don't want to leave a dryer on. It's going to cause fire to the house. The house might catch on fire." Then she said, "Okay, and then you should also bring the key in case the garage door opener doesn't work because electricity fails." Then she said, "Okay, and then make sure as you're pulling out that nobody runs into the garage and hides in the garage." I think it was just so poignant that I'm like, "Oh my gosh, this is what I grew up with, somebody who constantly was so fear-based," because she was a stranger in strange lands and was afraid of police. I mean there's so many things.
Dr. Huong Diep (00:26:20):
I think about how that's impacted me and my own state of hypervigilance and that for her being a product of the war and I think of everything that she's been through and that I think it is just so much in our DNA and thinking about how when you talk about the idea… I don't know, I wrote down "pleasure activism" because I was just thinking about how a lot of the working and the hypervigilance is part of the white supremacy culture work environment and that in reading pleasure activism and nap-based ministry and some of these other ones of that part of that was part of this work culture was part of also during slavery times of working in the field and not resting and whatnot and the idea of being lazy or-
Rachel Murray (00:27:12):
I would love to hear what your thoughts are since I think you're right. I think there's a collective trauma that we're all sort of experiencing and yet we all have show up in the workplace and do our things and make sure the widgets get built because we got to pay them bills because we still live in the systems. As long as we are living in these systems, I guess I'm curious to know what your thoughts are on any sort of practical advice that you might want to give for folks who are struggling on how that they can show up in a way that feels good, authentic, supportive, both for their employees, for their colleagues, and for themselves.
Dr. Huong Diep (00:27:47):
Like I said, I'm still figuring out how to show up each day. There was no course in grad school on how to a therapist during a pandemic and post… Well, I don't we're yet, but yeah, I think part of this is just knowing that this is I think a lifetime project. I mean we're all in this for however long we're here. See if it goes back to doing some of the basic stuff of did you drink some water today? Did you have something to eat? Did you go to the bathroom? I don't know. I think sometimes in those moments we kind want to complicate things, but I also am like, "Okay, let's just go back to some of the basics first and looking a little bit at Maslow's hierarchy." I think part of this is really knowing how to self soothe without any external things.
Dr. Huong Diep (00:28:34):
I'm all about sometimes needing to numb out on YouTube or TikTok or whatnot. It's like that's a pleasure being alive, being a human. But I think part of this is how can we self soothe ourselves and sort of that moment… When I think about Victor Frankel, he is a psychiatrist who was the Holocaust survivor and he watched his wife and his family get murdered in front of him and he uses a form of logo therapy called existential therapy. He came out of this and was still able to make meaning and part of this is he says that part of the process in life is to increase. There is the stimulus and there's the response. If we can just widen that space a little bit between something happening and our response to it, I think that would give us a little bit more space. It requires just, I wouldn't say being zen-like, but I think it just requires having compassion for all of us in that moment is that we're trying our best.
Rachel Murray (00:29:38):
Here's Dr. Becca Shansky, Associate Professor of Psychology, specializing in sex differences and brain function, talking about the research her team is working on at the Laboratory of Neuroanatomy and Behavior at Northeastern University.
Becca Shansky (00:29:50):
The research in my lab is focused on understanding what happened to your brain when you experience a traumatic event. This is relevant to mental illnesses like post traumatic stress disorder for example, which is twice as common in women as it is in men. If you think about PTSD, probably the first thing that comes to your mind is somebody having a flashback of the traumatic event itself and so that kind of memory based symptom is something that we can study in the lab using a process called Pavlovian Fear Conditioning, which is simply associating a previously neutral cue. Usually we use an auditory tone, just sort of like a 30 second beep that ends and the racket's a little foot shock from the floor. That association, then the animal begins to be basically afraid of that tone every time it hears it. That's sort of the basic process of what we do to the animals.
Becca Shansky (00:30:51):
Forever, of course this research was mostly done only in male animals, and so the behaviors that we used to judge, Is this animal afraid? Were determined in male animals and there was basically one behavior which is called freezing or the animal basically stops moving. What that means is that any movement that the animal does is basically thrown out of the data analysis. What we started to notice in my lab is that some animals would actually, when that tone comes on, instead of freezing, they start running around the cage like they're trying to escape. We called that behavior darting and we found that it happens more in females than a dozen males here. Here, now suddenly we have this quantifiable behavior that has been essentially thrown into the garbage for decades because people were not studying females or people were focused too much on just freezing.
Becca Shansky (00:31:47):
That's really been the main focus of my lab is trying to understand, What are the neural circuits that cause darting to happen in this subset of female animals? Why is it only happen… or not only, but mostly happen in females? What can that tell us about the range of behavioral responses individuals might have when they experience a traumatic event and how does that lead to potentially things that we can predict about long term outcomes after a traumatic event?
Rachel Murray (00:32:17):
Here's Karina Becerra, Director of Customer Advocacy at Podium in Utah. Karina is a longtime member of the She Geeks Out community and recently stepped into a role expanding the customer success team at Podium. She told us about modeling healthy boundaries for her team and also how she supports a team of folks who have very different backgrounds than her own.
Karina Becerra (00:32:36):
Oh goodness. I mean I think for most of us it's recognizing that the early days of COVID were incredibly stressful. We were all so… Oh gosh, it was such a different time, but now that we have had a couple of years to evolve, because I think all of us have had to evolve, sort take a tally of what's important, What is it that we want to do with our lives? How is it that we want to conduct our lives? I think that I have a new appreciation of doing work that makes me happy, that I'm passionate about and that I say no to things. I don't have time. If it doesn't build me, if it doesn't make me happy, if it doesn't challenge me, I'm not really going to take it on. I think that it's definitely given me an opportunity to re-tally and prioritize what's really important.
Karina Becerra (00:33:28):
I have a really great ability to translate how making these kind of changes and these priorities really impact our bottom line. If people are happy, if people have a balanced worked life, there is no burnout. It will show in the work that they do. They're going to show up. They're going to do it well. We're going to be able to serve our customers as best as we can. It actually hasn't been as tough of a road. I think that once you start seeing the impact of not making changes, attrition, customers deciding to leave you all together because they haven't received the support that they got, but they were expecting because you weren't able to do proper training because somebody was remote and you weren't thinking about how they would ingest information, you can sort pinpoint and draw that line back to: these are important things that we need to consider.
Karina Becerra (00:34:22):
The market out here right now, people are looking for opportunities that fulfill them in ways apart from just a paycheck and if you don't come to them with both growth opportunities, learning and development opportunities and make their wellness a priority, they're going to leave.
Rachel Murray (00:34:39):
Next is Melanie Ho, author of "Beyond Leaning In".
Melanie Ho (00:34:42):
So much about workplaces today that are stifling, that are frustrating, that don't allow people to be their best selves or their best selves as employees, that it's not just this sense of disengagement, it's also that the business in this book is in trouble because of the way that culture and leadership and good practices there are ignored. I do think that that's driving a lot of the great resignation.
Rachel Murray (00:35:08):
Well, I would like to switch a little bit and talk about, since we're kind of talking sort of dancing around the toxic environment, we haven't actually named that word, but I think we do talk a lot about what that looks like and I've been like, "2022 is the year of setting boundaries." It's just so important. You wrote around psychological abuse, bullying, gaslighting in the workplace. If you can just talk a little bit about that and also how that maybe can show up and maybe that's part of the concerns around the hybrid environment and maybe we can dream up some solutions.
Melanie Ho (00:35:44):
Yeah. I think these are things that we need to name. There are so many things that go on at work that actually are emotional or psychological abuse, that are bullying, that are gaslighting, that are people being told that what they said or what they did, did not happen. For example, I can't tell you how many times I'll hear stories from women who are saying, "I can't believe this thing that happened to me. This coworker of mine said I did X, Y, Z and I did not. When I questioned them on it, they said, they never said that before," and it's on record, there's an email, there's a trail. Or psychological abuse which gaslighting I think is part of, because all of these behaviors that get written off as difficult men, how often also we see these dynamics that are actually pretty similar to the more commonly discussed also terrible forms of abuse such as in family or in romantic relationships where you'll see for example, a boss who's incredibly toxic, who might be always yelling, who might be always questioning an employee, often a woman, making her question herself worth and then will the next day apologize or give her special assignment or give her a shout out, then two days later is back to the original behaviors.
Melanie Ho (00:37:02):
It is really the equivalent of the toxic buy-you-flowers, abuse, buy you flowers. I just think we have to start naming these things because they happen every day. They happen in every single workplace and they're just written off as, "Oh, that's not ideal, but he means well." What we don't talk about is the lasting mental health impact.
Felicia Jadczak (00:37:25):
Yeah, no, it's so true. I think especially nowadays, going back to pulling the thread we were discussing around hybrid workspaces and what happens when this really toxic behavior is happening and you are literally sitting at home in your home and you don't even have then the luxury of stepping outside your office and going to go bitch about it in the cafeteria with your team members who are also dealing with the same issues. I think about this too because as we're also seeing more younger people come into the workforce and we have all of these different distinct generations, How can we make sure that we're not perpetuating these terrible behaviors? My very first job out of college, I had an incredibly verbally and emotionally abusive boss who was teetering on the verge of also being physically abusive too. It was horrific. It just really shaped a lot of how I thought about work and how I thought about myself and my entire life.
Felicia Jadczak (00:38:29):
I would have nightmares about work. Thankfully that was just a year and a half of my life and then I got out of it, but it was such an eye-opener because I remember thinking to myself at age, whatever I was, 22, 23 thinking, "Oh wow, I never understood how people don't leave abusive relationships," because to me I always was like, "Walk out the door, just leave. Why would you stick around?" Then I was like, "Oh, I get it. I really get it." It was such an eye opener for me that I've really never forgotten.
Melanie Ho (00:38:58):
I mean one of the things I talk about in this blog piece is that we think of jobs as pro and con lists. It's hard to leave these abuse situations if there are also good things in the job that you can make the con list which are emotionally abusive, almost physically abusive boss, toxic environment, crying after I get home for work. People will make these con lists and then they'll make these pro lists which are like, I love my coworkers and my job is meaningful and I just got a promotion and it looks like they're even and they're not even. I think what a lot of folks don't understand is there are some things if they're on the con list, throw out the list. This isn't about counting the number of things, just some things are not acceptable.
Rachel Murray (00:39:49):
Of course just want to acknowledge that obviously some folks don't have a choice, but the same reason why people say these abusive relationships too, which is just, it makes it even worse. That's why this changing the systems is what is so important versus, and this is why the "Beyond" part of "Leaning In" is so important because you can advocate for yourself, you can lean in all you want, but if there isn't a system in place, if you don't have the people who are in positions of power to actually hear you and empathize with you, then it just falls on deaf ears.
Melanie Ho (00:40:25):
There's a concept I found really helpful and actually, so this is interesting. I have a Medium blog that has 20 followers or something like it, but, and then I go in look at my metrics to see which posts are the most read. The most read posts are this one on psychological abuse, bullying, and a parallel one on institutional betrayal. That's a phrase I hadn't heard before, but it was developed by psychologists originally around the idea of sexual abuse and assault and what it looks like in the military or at colleges and universities versus anywhere else, and that the lasting impact on mental health is much worse if it takes place in the military or college or a university where somebody feels like they're not listened to because the initial abuse then has this cumulative effect of being gaslight by your institution.
Melanie Ho (00:41:19):
Even though the research is originally on that context, they've expanded that research to really look at any situation where we feel like our institutions betray our health and wellbeing. For example, if in COVID-19 people felt like their employers were putting their selves at danger, that's the kind of institutional betray. Once I heard that phrase, it just explained so much about why these situations feel so bad because it's not just like, oh, these awful things that so many women have these stories about, but how they feel when their institutions look the other way.
Naomi Seddon (00:42:00):
I now have four year old twins, they're about to turn five, but my journey to become a parent was so, so incredibly difficult. I met my husband over here in the US, although he is Australian, and had no idea at the time that I had any type of medical issues that were going to cause me problems having children. We both decided that we wanted to try and create a family fairly quickly being both older and it was something that we really wanted. Over the space of about a two year period, I ended up, I lost four babies, one at five months. I then went through about a hundred tests I was in and out of hospitals, specialists. I ended up having nine surgeries in 18 months including a hysterectomy. Then I went through a journey to have our children via surrogacy. Now you would think that that sort of would be the end of the story and it was all happy sailing from there, but unfortunately that wasn't the case.
Naomi Seddon (00:43:04):
Our surrogate went into labor very early. Our children were born at 28 weeks and they spent almost four months in the hospital fighting for their lives. As if all of that wasn't bad enough though, I then went through a very public legal battle to gain parental rights for my children in Australia because it was something that was incredibly important to both my husband and I. I was not going to let anybody tell me that after what I had been through that those little girls were not ours. Well unfortunately, commercial surrogacy is illegal in Australia. It's actually a crime in three states and altruistic surrogacy, which is where no money is exchanged with the surrogate is incredibly difficult. While all this was happening, I obviously had a very busy legal career and I made partner in the firm, but honestly I did all of that at a cost.
Naomi Seddon (00:44:02):
I would have surgeries or go through procedures and then I would literally be on calls with clients and I was working ridiculous hours. I was continuing to push through to crazy levels. I had surgeries and I'd be on calls in the afternoon and I continued to push and push and push and it impacted every area of my life. It impacted my health. I continued to have, I've got endometriosis and two rare blood conditions, which is why I ultimately wasn't able to have children myself, but I continued to push through and I continued to have endometriosis flare ups, I continued to have issues with my health and I realized that there definitely is a better way than simply pushing through. I also realized about myself that it impacted the way that I managed other people as well. As a female leader, I really think that we have an obligation in all of this, in gender equality, in workplace equality to lead by example and to support other women through their journey as well.
Naomi Seddon (00:45:14):
I did a poor job of that at times and so one of the things that I wanted to do through my book was really talk about the things that I did wrong and to try and educate other women going through similar processes that we all need to do better. We need to be mentoring and supporting other women through the journey and leading by example. It's so important. I have to tell you that once I finally implemented changes in my life and I started prioritizing my wellness and my health, I ended up being more profitable than any other year of my career and more productive, so there definitely are better ways than simply pushing through.
Felicia Jadczak (00:45:56):
What you just said really resonated with me because it's something I know that personally I've been thinking a lot about and as an organization we've been thinking a lot about, but we talk about things like work life boundaries and balance. I think what we're collectively seeing in this day and age, two years plus into a pandemic and all sorts of other stuff happening in the world is that it doesn't have to be an either/or. We can take care of ourselves and actually that translates into so many other areas of our life. I'm really interested to hear a bit further from you around how some of these experiences that you've just shared have translated into your actual work because as you were sharing to me, the word that immediately popped up in my mind was trauma. There was just so much trauma there. I think that collectively we're all experiencing collective trauma and then there's of course the individual experiences that all of us bring to the table. I'm curious if that's informed the work that you do, the way you manage. You touched on it a little bit, but I'd love to dig into that a little bit further.
Karina Becerra (00:46:54):
Yeah, I mean definitely. I think there are so many aspects to this issue, but one of the things that is really key is around bias in all of this. I think that so much of this is driven by the way we're brought up, the culture, the experiences and influences that we have as young people, and then growing up and becoming adults into the workplace. We bring with us certain ideas and with that certain biases. It's unfortunate. We do all hold certain views and ideas whether we realize it or not. Some of us, we have views or biases about things that we don't even realize. For me, one of the things that I obviously realized about myself was that I was unconsciously judgemental of other women who didn't push through and keep going like I did. If an employee said they were sick and they needed time off for something like the flu, I would silently think to myself, "For goodness sake, it's just the flu. I've had surgery in the morning and been back at my laptop by the afternoon," but I was very, very wrong in that.
Karina Becerra (00:47:59):
I was unfairly judgemental and I was probably also jealous because I really did want to take time off to rest and to heal. I think the first step towards change for all of us is recognizing the areas where we might have these types of biases and then start to work on implementing change in how we perceive others. The only way to do that is to really first recognize where we're we might be wrong and most importantly why we are wrong and then work out ways to actively change our thinking around some of this stuff. Working out the "why" is an incredibly important part of this process because without understanding it, why we have certain views and why they may be outdated perhaps and not applicable to everyone or every situation, it's difficult for us to find purpose and ultimately commit to change.
Karina Becerra (00:48:49):
As someone that suffers from a pretty serious health condition, it got to a point where I realized that I had to make some changes or I don't know what was going to happen to me, but also I think becoming a parent really does change you. It changes your priorities. All of a sudden you're thinking about, well, in my case, two little girls and they are absolutely my priority. It's not just about them as individuals though. For me to be the best mother that I can be, I have to be looking after myself. I'm no good to anybody if I'm sick, if I'm not able to perform at my peak and that translates into the workplace as well, which is evident by this journey that I've been on. I want to be the best attorney, the best board member to the organizations that I'm part of and I can't do that unless I'm looking after myself as well.
Karina Becerra (00:49:45):
I think that's something, as women, we tend to do a very poor job of prioritizing our own health and wellness and feeling guilty about it when we do take that time. We've simply got to stop that because we know the research and the data out there shows us that direct diverse organizations outperform every single time as far as profitability, productivity, lower share price, volatility. We need more women within organizations. We need more women on boards. To be successful in those roles, we need to start looking at women in the workplace a little differently and recognizing that as women, we do have different experiences because we predominantly have more responsibility around childcare, around care responsibilities for elderly parents. We also suffer a lot of health conditions. Not every woman has my story, not every woman will go through the issues that we do, but we absolutely know that statistically there are so many women that will experience things like endometriosis.
Karina Becerra (00:50:53):
We know that there are a lot of women that will experience fertility issues and every single one of us goes through menopause and experiences certain issues or health issues relating to menopause, which by the way, I do want to just mention something around menopause because I think it's really important. Even 10 years ago, menopause in the workplace was not something that we actively talked about, but the workforce has changed. There are now more women over 50 than ever before in the workforce and so we are seeing a changing workforce and the needs of women within the workplace are changing as a result and employers simply must adapt.
Rachel Murray (00:51:34):
That was Naomi Seddon, international lawyer, non-executive director of Megaport Limited, Endometriosis Australia and Surrogacy Australia, and the author of Milk and Margaritas. Here's Dr. Victoria Verlezza.
Dr. Victoria Verlezza (00:51:47):
Supporting a healthy work environment can show up in a multitude of ways and I think the first piece of it is how do my lenses, my patterns, my own unconscious bias, how does that play into my daily interactions? And then, How might I be perpetuating ableism, sizes, sexism, racism, without necessarily knowing it? What kind of language am I using? What are my job descriptions looking like? What are my rubrics? Or do I have rubrics for hiring decisions? How am I thinking about hiring? For example, am I thinking about culture fit or am I thinking about culture add? When we're supporting a healthy work environment, we want to consider how the systems, so ableism, sexism, racism, et cetera, are playing into our daily interactions and the way that we think about our work, but also, How are we thinking about productivity, for example? How are we expecting a certain level of production and producing during times like these when we are experiencing global crisis after global crisis? Can we consider people as whole people and not just cogs in a wheel?
Dr. Victoria Verlezza (00:53:00):
I think that is a huge component of a healthy work environment and it kind of goes into the idea of belonging. Belonging is bringing your full authentic self to work. If we can honor and respect and embrace whatever those things are for someone, we will increase folks' feelings of belonging, which therefore will transfer into diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. To promote a healthy work environment, what we really want to start doing is doing the both/and work. When I say that, I mean the self work, but also the system work. Thinking about ourselves, thinking about the way that we were raised and the concepts that we know or don't know and think about our awareness gaps formerly known as blind spots, and how are we colluding with whatever those systems are at an organizational level, so really taking a good hard look at our policies, our procedures, the way that we think about PTO or vacation time or sick time or any of the policies that we have in place.
Dr. Victoria Verlezza (00:54:06):
If we can start examining those and pulling them out or thinking through them, we can promote that healthy work environment by allowing folks to be whoever they are whenever that is and really encouraging full self and therefore encouraging and promoting belonging. One of the ways that we can start to challenge the systems. For example, when we're thinking about this global crisis and we're thinking about caregiving and how caregiving changes from day to day. Thinking about the folks who have kids or are caregiving for someone else, or we're thinking about folks who are single and living alone and maybe working at home alone, or we're thinking about folks who are neurodivergent and experiencing a mental health crisis in a moment we can institute policies, but we can also model good leadership practice by embracing the unknown. What do I mean by that?
Dr. Victoria Verlezza (00:55:03):
I mean, we really need to embrace what folks tell us. If someone is saying, "I need a break," Take a day. It will be okay. For us as leaders, as managers, as someone supervising other humans and is responsible for other humans' growth, model that behavior. Be okay with taking the sick day. Don't work when you're sick. Don't get on your messaging system and start messaging or don't take a PTO day and troll or be on the back end looking at what's going on. Take the day, model the behavior and show the folks that you're supervising that it's okay to do that. The old model of working and when I say old, I mean the former way of working, was to not honor the fact that we need a break or we're burnt out or we have anxiety or we have other things going on for us, whether it be a mental health concern or we have an invisible or non-apparent disability.
Dr. Victoria Verlezza (00:56:04):
We as managers and employee's, individual contributors and supervisors, CEOs, whoever, we have a duty to show our humanness, but also honor the fact that folks are experiencing things we might never know about. Rather than questioning their loyalty or questioning the way that they're producing, we really need to embrace flexibility. We really need to embrace: your time is your time; whatever that day looks like for you might not be the same for me and that's okay. How can we institute maybe policies or practices or just norms on our team and embrace those norms and really dive into modeling the behavior. For me, I am strong with my boundaries. If I'm out, I'm out, period, the end. I do that to help others do that. I don't happen to be a leader at this moment, but it is a boundary I'm unwilling to flex on because it just shows that I don't have strong boundaries and I'm okay with doing more when I'm not actually working.
Dr. Victoria Verlezza (00:57:18):
Can we embrace taking the time off? I personally think that we can and I think that part of that is encouraging and promoting a healthy work environment. Now also with that, I encourage folks to get rid of those policies or challenges I guess, that encourage getting out and moving or you've heard of those step challenges, right? Like, "Oh, the whole company's going to get X amount of steps." Well, that's exclusive. It could be exclusive for a variety of reasons. It could be that someone is in a larger body and doesn't want to be moving around like that and they're okay that they just want to be whoever they are and they like doing yoga and Pilates rather than walking cause it's better for the joint for them. There could be somebody who's a wheelchair user, How do they participate in this step challenge? Really thinking about the things that we are asking our employees to do as quote/unquote "fun activities" and how are those things feeding into different systems?
Dr. Victoria Verlezza (00:58:21):
I think about previous places I've worked where they would have a reimbursement for a gym membership. That's promoting a particular type of culture, and we think we're encouraging healthy behavior, but we could be feeding into people's behavior around maybe eating disorders or disordered eating. We could be feeding into orthorexia and we don't know what we don't know, so we should just start to think these things through a little bit more and how they could be feeding into systems that we don't need to perpetuate.
Rachel Murray (00:58:55):
Finally, here's Elisa Campos-Prator to close us out.
Rachel Murray (00:58:58):
At SGPO, we've been talking a lot about supporting new team members who have trauma from previous workplaces. There's a big change when you come into a healthy workplace where you have that psychological safety that can be a strange adjustment. Is that something that you've addressed during the onboarding process? What does it look like to welcome people onto a team that might be really different from anything that you've ever experienced before?
Elisa Campos-Prator (00:59:19):
Yeah, I love that question. It's something that I've even thought about and talked about with my managers even from before when we start interviewing and seeing these individuals perhaps coming from more formal enterprise backgrounds and seeing that they may never worked remotely or if they have as an effect of COVID, having the conversations about it and being like, "These candidates still meet all the requirements and we want to push them through," and being mindful that maybe their background in remote is pretty different from ours, but being okay with that, being able to have the conversation and talk to them and seeing how they feel and think about it. But on top of that, I love the fact that I call it, I feel like a puppy that was maybe abused and then you see something that's amazing and then you don't want to trust and you don't want to believe it, but it really is the case where you're like, "You know what? This is obviously a place that embraces you as a person living honestly your true life, your true self."
Elisa Campos-Prator (01:00:17):
Scott's also has been pretty good about, in general, during the onboarding, we're also working on this amazing remote policy is how you live your best remote life is something that we're working on where it's going to really showcase A) the asynchronous communication, for example. How to best use Slack, how to use these cloud based tools that basically if you don't have to have a meeting because everything probably lives in somewhere and everybody can kind of come in and then start learning on their own in their own time. I thought that was pretty important, versus throwing everybody into meetings right away and then being like, "Okay, you have to meet everybody." Then it's like the expectation then starts setting up that you're going to have meetings all the time, and you have to be there for them, and you may have to maybe talk in front of others or introduce yourself in front of others or give the fun facts.
Elisa Campos-Prator (01:01:07):
I think, again, if we're able to document everything, talk asynchronously with one another, that is top of mind. Then as we finish up that remote policy, I think it's also going to be really valuable for folks who maybe have bad remote experiences similar to mine. If we're able to be very clear and transparent of how we look at remote work right from the beginning during onboarding and talk about it during onboarding, then to me, that's better than me thinking like, "Is it like this? Is my manager like this?" I really like that my manager, for example, gave me, "This is how I work. I would love to see how you work." Just being very clear and direct and not having it second guess one another. Again, it's documentation just living somewhere so that you're able to go over and just take a peek. You're like, "Cool, this person works till 3:00 PM Mountain Time. I shouldn't be sending them messages." Little things like that, they do matter and they make a difference, especially coming from a less positive work environment.
Rachel Murray (01:02:12):
Thanks so much for listening. Please don't forget to rate, share, and subscribe. It makes a huge difference in the reach of this podcast and by extension, this work. Make sure to tune in next week when we talk about building out a DEI program. If you're looking to further your own knowledge and gain support alongside other incredible people, join our free community. You'll get a welcoming built-in support system grounded in the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. You'll have access to bonus episodes, additional resources, courses, webinars, coaching, and more. Check it out at SheGeeksOut.com/community. This episode was written, produced and edited by Vienna Degiacomo, hosted by Felicia Jadczak and Rachel Murray. The guests featured in this episode were: Belma McCaffrey, Dr. Huong Diep, Dr. Becca Shansky, Karina Becerra, Melanie Ho, Naomi Seddon, and Elisa Campos-Prator. Our facilitators were: Fatima Dainkeh, Rachel Sadler, and Dr. Victoria Verlezza.