39 - Put Your Own Oxygen Mask On First

Tyson and Alexa are joined by Michelle E. Dickinson, a workplace mental health strategist and author. Michelle shares actionable ways to address mental health in the workplace, and guess what? It doesn't include a pizza party!

Her simple approach to minimizing bias and having open conversations about mental health will give leaders more confidence to help without breaking any boundaries.

Release Date: March 30, 2022

[00:00:00] IVR: Morning. This podcast is about the realities of working in people operations. This is not a stuck-up PC compliance-based or employment law podcast about stuffy outdated HR practices. Sit, we get real here and we assume no responsibility.


[00:00:18] Alexa: There's nothing better than like a bunch of people that work in the targeting around the table and sharing these stories. We have this like out-of-body experience in HR where you're like that getting here's [crosstalk]. It's not. Come hang out with Tyson and I on this podcast. We'll make you laugh.

[00:00:32] Speaker 3: This is the People Problems Podcast with Alexa Boggio and Tyson McKenzie.

[00:00:40] Alexa: Okay, guys, really quick housekeeping. Before we get this episode started, we have alluded to this a few times but Tyson and I are going on the road together this fall at PERKSCon. We are gonna do some in-person live recordings for you guys. And in the meantime, I'm actually gonna be doing a live recording at PERKSCon Boston with our prior guest Elizabeth Meir, talking about Ted Lasso's leadership. It's gonna be a lot of fun. So in partnership with PERKSCon, we are giving away free PERKSCon tickets.

So if you listen to this up to one of the upcoming events, you can use the code PEOPLE PROBS. People, P-R-O-B-S. So the code PEOPLE PROBS at perkscon.com for a free ticket to any of the events this year to come see Tyson and I do our thing. I'm sure you're gonna enjoy it, but if you would like to join us, please do so. Perkscon.com. PEOPLE PROBS is the code. And, uh, we'd love to see you there. Without further ado, here is the episode. What's up Tyson?

[00:01:28] Tyson: Not too much. I feel like I'm like defrosting like the world is opening-up--

[00:01:33] Alexa: Fingers and toes are like your soul.

[00:01:35] Tyson: My soul, my soul is defrosting. Like [crosstalk] positives is so nice after in the -40 for what felt like months. And it's just like things are finally starting to like open back up and

[00:01:52] Alexa: Yes, [crosstalk] like savings time.

[00:01:53] Tyson: it just feels like normal, it's light, it's bright, it's-it's-it's nice.

[00:01:57] Alexa: Yeah. The birds were chirping this morning. I feel like we've really turned a corner here. We're like [crosstalk]

[00:02:01] Tyson: I think so.

[00:02:01] Alexa: I don't think the actual Equinox is till the 20th but this-this episode will have dropped by then. So we will be in, we will be in the official springtime.

[00:02:09] Tyson: This feels good.

[00:02:11] Alexa: It feels like a metaphor because the last two years have been a long winter [laughs] basically. This is everyone's reemergence. So, good. I'm glad you're feeling it, and it's not just me. You're looking chipper. So now I know why. Awesome. Well, any other news, everything else is good, north of the border.

[00:02:28] Tyson: Yep. Everything else is good. We are filling up our social calendars up in here, me and Rosie. So we, uh, started swim lessons.

[00:02:36] Alexa: She's got, she's gotta go on tour, man [crosstalk]. No more being [crosstalk].

[00:02:41] Tyson: Yeah. Yeah. So it's been- it's been nice.

[00:02:44] Alexa: It's gonna get all the daycare germs. I'm excited for you. [laughs]. All the little kid germs. Awesome. Well, without further ado, I will move us to pops in the news.


So our episode for this week is [laughs] a fun one. This will have been out for a week or so by the time we talk about this publicly but better.com is reportedly set to lay another 4,000 or so workers. And this may have actually just happened. But this is a-a sort of part 2 of an article we had spoken about in a previous episode where the better.com, for those people who don't know better.com is basically a mortgage, an online mortgage broker where you can go online and kind of do the process online which needs to happen but they laid off.

They sort of, infamously, the CEO laid off 900 employees over a Zoom call that took approximately six minutes [laughs]. I'm sorry, I shouldn't laugh. But we-we kind of roasted him for that. And now we're back with part 2 which is, so he-he went away for the people that don't remember. He went away, he took like a-- we think like a-- it was like a two-week vacation or the board basically sent him out of the limelight for like a month. And he came back and now basically--

[00:03:54] Tyson: He was supposed to be doing some sort of training. [crosstalk] I would love to know what that training looks like but, okay, proceed.

[00:03:59] Alexa: We feel like we-we never got any real closure on that but yeah. He was supposed to be doing something useful for bettering his person. And anyway, in the meantime, they're back, and basically less than three months later, they're about to lay off almost 50% of their workforce. So this is-- a couple of things. So a couple of things are noted in the article. The article's not very long, it's in Business Insider. If you're interested. The title is literally better.com is reportedly set to lay off 4,000 more workers this week. That is literally the title of the article.

But they talk a little bit about how because-- so they raised a ton of money from SoftBank. They're one of these like VC-backed, you know, internet-based companies that's got tech behind it that just in the pandemic grew like wildfire. And they're citing basically that interest rates are tightening.m It's a competitive home market. There's been an insane amount of purchasing over the last two years. It's starting to slow down and basically they just overhired. So like they cannot afford the workforce that they have which I do wanna talk about in a second.

And then they also talk about basically how this is just absolutely crushing employee morale. Like people are walking around like their head is on a chopping block. And so it says, one person told the Insider, the mood is grim. Everyone is nervous. And so, you know, basically, he was supposed to come back after his first round of layoffs and, "Build a long-term, sustainable and positive culture at Better." And then basically three weeks, three months later, they are laying off a bunch of people. And it sounds like a few executives have resigned because of the way this is being handled. So round two of shit show at Better.com. Tyson, go.

[00:05:27] Tyson: Okay, I'm gonna say something controversial.

[00:05:29] Alexa: I love when you say something controversial.

[00:05:31] Tyson: If you are in a position where you have to lay off 4,000 people probably gonna wanna do a group layoff.


You're gonna, you're gonna--

[00:05:40] Alexa: You don't wanna do that one at a time?

[00:05:41] Tyson: We're not doing that one at a time I'm sorry but like [crosstalk].

[00:05:44] Alexa: What about 900?

[00:05:45] Tyson: Well, the 900 was different. And I think when we spoke on this, I didn't actually think about the fact that so 4,000 is half of their workforce.

[00:05:53] Alexa: It's basically. Yeah. Yep. At least. They-they don't, they don't say exactly how many employees they have but they insinuate that it's basically half of the population.

[00:05:59] Tyson: Right. So it's-it's-it's, that's a lot. What are you gonna keep the-the other 4,000, your HR folks [laughs], right? Like, like how-- like the planning and logistics that would go into firing half of your workforce. Like, unfortunately, when it's that big of a thing, I would do a group layoff. I might do pockets of people. Like I wouldn't get all 4,000 people. I don't even know if Zoom can take that but I would do maybe like smaller groups but like that's gonna be, that's gotta be a group layoff. And I wonder now because he got burned the first time he did this if it's gonna be like that.

[00:06:32] Alexa: They're gonna be a little more bespoke about it this time.

[00:06:34] Tyson: Now they've gotta do like one on ones with all the 4,000 at [crosstalk]. Cause even 900, like it's a lot. Like there, there are definitely like better ways to do it. Like again, not having all 900 people on the same call and maybe they-- I think that that's how it went down the first time. This, again, this is like not a situation where it's like, you're being fired because of something you did personally. Like this is like the company's going down. I used to work in consulting and it's just the nature of that beast.

So like I would often-- we'd be boomer bust, right? So massive projects hire all sorts of people. That project, as those projects would wrap up, things would slow down without more work coming in. And we'd be in that like on a smaller scale obviously but in a situation where people are devastated to have to like see all their friends leave and like see-seeing all these layoffs and what would happen is we would do, let's say again much smaller scale, let's say 30. And we'd think that everything was fine. And then only like a month or so later, the big dogs would swoop down and say, "We need to see another 30."

So that's when it really and that's what sucks like you wanna be able to just do one foul swoop. This is it. And be able to say, "Hey, we're done," but you never can, right? Especially in this volatile like what they're going through at Better.com, right? The-the market is so volatile for them.

[00:07:52] Alexa: Yeah. So I have a couple-- so yes, I agree with you. However, I look at-- so-so services business like consulting, I understand, right? Because your, your product is literally bodies. It's literally people working on projects. So if you lose projects, you have to- you have to staff down or staff up, right? Like that's a services model, full stop. You make margins on people. The difference here is that this is a tech company. And so these guys raise like $500 million and they grew like wildfire. And I would argue that this is the part of like hiring and layoffs that nobody talks about. This feels borderline irresponsible. If you grew so fast that a blip in the market means you have to lay off half of your workforce, what the fuck are you doing over there? Like you can't-- like 50% is not a small number.

Like, that's not like, oh, we overhired a little in the- in the sales department or like, oh, the product team got a little ahead of itself. Like, this is like we as a company fundamentally misstepped here. And yes, I get that the market changes and yes, I get but like this is a tech business. Like it's not like better.com's website gets like significantly different on a daily basis because there's 8,000 people there. Maybe, look, it's a mortgage business. So this could be people that are employed for mortgages, you know, licenses or-or sort of real estate-based things that I'm, we're not aware of because the article doesn't go into it.

But 4,000 people is like, and I don't know exactly which is-is sort of the point of today's episode. I don't know how you do that without, one, people losing severe faith in the CEO and, two, just-just crushing morale. Because I would say like, how did we misstep so hard that one in every two-- we can run this business without one of every two people. That's crazy.

[00:09:37] Tyson: I think the problem though is that like when people are making those decisions to hire so many, their thought at that moment is like scaling. And in order for them to scale their business, they have to first hire more people. So it's kind of like what came first, the chicken or the egg, right? Like to do more, you need more people. And then, unfortunately, it just has gotten to a point where like it crushed boom, like right down, like immediately.

[00:10:02] Alexa: Well, this is-- but this is like this is what I wanna talk about. Like this is the toxic downside of VC-backed tech growth. Like this is like the blitz scale model where it's like, we're just gonna go to the fucking moon with this. We're gonna hire and throw as many bodies at this problem to get market share as humanly possible cause we promised our VCs we were gonna be a billion-dollar unicorn. And now it's like 4,000 people in the- in the span of a week are just gonna be back on the job market because that's kind of the collateral damage of how these companies have to grow. And it's crazy.

[00:10:32] Tyson: And it's not just them though, right? Like we saw again, the same kind of thing happened with Peloton.

[00:10:37] Alexa: Well, Peloton's actually mentioned in, I mean, it's sort of these like tech-enabled groups that are like hot on the stock market. They actually mentioned Peloton in the article.

[00:10:44] Tyson: Yeah.

[00:10:45] Alexa: I put them in the same boat like their VC backed like they've gotta grow like fucking wildfire. I just think it creates a lot of like toxic volatility like this that's just like-- I don't-- I just dunno how culture recovers from that, but maybe that's what we're gonna talk about today. So spoiler.

[00:10:58] Tyson: Absolutely.

[00:10:59] Alexa: All right. Any other closing thoughts on better.com before I introduce our guest? Good, good sort- sort of segue

[00:11:05] Tyson: Yeah.

[00:11:06] Alexa: Wasn't my- wasn't my smoothest transition, but that's all right. All right. I'm very excited to introduce our guest today. Michelle Dickinson, Michelle is, uh, a passionate mental health advocate, a Ted speaker, and a published offer-- author of a memoir entitled Breaking Into My Life. After years of playing the role of a child caregiver, Michelle embarked on her own healing journey of self-discovery. Her memoir offers a rare glimpse into a young girl's experience living with and loving her bipolar mother. Michelle is a workplace health strategist and consultant at Trifecta mental health, where she normalizes the mental health narrative in the workplace and works to prevent employee burnout by teaching resilience in mental health workshops. She doesn't wanna think about someone's suffering in silence. That is her mission. Michelle, welcome to People Problems.

[00:11:45] Michelle: Thank you guys so much for having me. I'm thrilled to be here.

[00:11:48] Alexa: Awesome to have you. So what do you think about-- what do you think about morale after you lay off half the team? What do we think about burnout?

[00:11:55] Michelle: Right. Like burnout is inevitable, right? Because the work's gonna fall on their shoulders.

[00:11:58] Alexa: Exactly.

[00:12:00] Michelle: Not-- it's not an ideal situation, right? You're-you're creating, it's like recovery from a layoff is one thing, but then you have this whole compounded effect of the pandemic and people's mental health already being compromised and then you're introducing additional work. It just is not a good format.

[00:12:17] Alexa: Yeah. And then you're like, "Hey, everything you had to do double it."

[00:12:21] Tyson: Exactly.

[00:12:22] Alexa: So we just cut half of your colleagues.

[00:12:24] Michelle: Yeah.

[00:12:25] Alexa: Yeah. It's insane, cause not like the shareholders are like, oh it's cool. We'll give you a quarter off. Like nobody says that that's not how that works. All right. Michelle, tell us a little bit about how you got into this crazy and wild and wonderful world of mental health strategist for organizations.

[00:12:40] Michelle: I was minding my own business in a corporate job, true story, minding my own business thinking I'm just gonna retire one day and, you know, live the life. But then someone actually nominated me to give a Ted talk about the story of my mother, something I never really ever spoken about. And so I stood on the Ted stage and told the story of my mom who was bipolar.

And I grew up caring for her, as you mentioned in the introduction, and what that experience was like. And the response to that was amazing. People came out of the darkness, wanted to talk to me about what they had dealt with, people they loved, suffering that they were experiencing. And so we started to normalize the conversation. And that inspired me to go on and write my memoir. I was a- I was a young girl who was riddled with insecurity.

I mean, my mom, wasn't the kind of mom reassuring me that I was capable of whatever. So I actually found my voice when I gave the Ted talk, and then I found the confidence to write my memoir and the memoir took about four years was very, very cathartic. I relived a lot of the abuse from my mom, but the goal was to humanize mental health. If I could take people on a journey with me to experience what I experienced, maybe they'd understand it and judge it less.

So the book in hand, the Ted talk behind me, I became a very outspoken mental health advocate. I wanted to do my part by sharing my story. And before I knew it, I was in a situation where my position was about to be eliminated in my company, and I had a choice. It was like, do I go back into another corporate job or do I take this passion and go out and make a difference? And that was when I-I created my company Trifecta Mental Health.

[00:14:20] Alexa: Awesome. So let's for a second lay, because I know Tyson is gonna dig in here very shortly. So I-I get a very short intro here to get this all out for everybody before Tyson step her way in, cause I know she's gonna do it and I want her to, but before we get too far into this, Michelle, just so that we have sort of some boundaries and a level playing field for the conversation, will you talk to us a little bit about how you are identifying mental health and how like sort of what behaviors you are talking about and the general realm with which we're discussing this, just so that people-- so that we're, we're not talking about everything all at once. Let's sort of define-- let's define the lanes here and talk a little bit about when we talk about mental health specifically, you know, for this conversation, you know, more mental health in the workplace, what-what kind of stuff are we talking about?

[00:15:05] Michelle: Yeah, I mean, so there-there's a couple different perspectives, right? First, you have the employee, who's the primary be-- breadwinner for the family working and caring for someone at home. You have the caregiver role. Then you have, you know, employees who are dealing with major depression, who have PTSD from past trauma, who have anxiety. These are all things that people can navigate life in the face of if they manage it. So I'm not talking about like, you know, like severe schizophrenia, like severe cases. It's more of common diagnosis that we can- we can navigate life with.

[00:15:45] Alexa: Right. Functioning adults with unforeseen issues. Gotcha. And how do you start to talk a little bit about identifying those things and working with the population like?

[00:15:56] Michelle: And so the one thing I wanna be really clear about is I'm not a clinician. My role and how I see my role is to normalize the conversation, right? A lot of organizations offer great benefits, an Employee Assistance Program, but the reality is the stigma in the workplace and in our society prevents people from having, uh, the courage to tap into those resources, get the care they need before they hit a crisis.

So I call myself the bridge because I really want to normalize that conversation. So people relate to their brain as just another organ and, oh, well, everyone's dealing with something because this pandemic, well, why am I not getting support? Like I deserve support too. So I really want people to recognize it's more common than you think, and care is available, but you just have to have the courage to reach out and-and step over the stigma. And-and let's try to like remove the stigma in the workplace.

[00:16:48] Alexa: And how do you start having that conversation at the workplace? Like where do you begin?

[00:16:54] Michelle: It's so interesting cause I get these questions all the time and it's like are simple things that organizations can do. The first thing I would say is have a senior leader go first and tell their story. You know you have a leader in your company, who's maybe navigated depression, anxiety, some type of challenge in their life. If they tell their story, they humanize it for the rest of the people in the organization to be like, if anything, talk about the fact that the person had the courage to speak up and tell us, they become relatable and it sort of normalize the conversation. But having policies in place, are you gonna be a stigma-free culture? What does that look like? What does that mean?

Are you gonna listen when you hear their barriers in your- in your health provider, that people can't access a psychiatrist? Are you gonna listen to that? Are you gonna refine that? Are you gonna make it available for people? And then are you gonna maybe even consider-- and if you're a large enough an employee resource group for mental health. I was one of the leaders of my former company creating an employee resource group because we brought people together to support one another, whether they were struggling or they were caring for someone at home that was a safe space where people could relate to another, uh, strategize come together and not feel so, you know, alien to their other colleagues.

[00:18:06] Alexa: And how does, how-how have you seen your work change recently being that most people are working remote and sometimes, you know, signals that someone might be struggling. You might not see them, right? We're not seeing amongst each other. We might not see certain, you know, changes to-to people. Often, I know people that would work the full week without seeing another person, cause they have a heads-down job, right? Like I-I'm in meetings all day long, but a lot of people don't work like that. So can we talk about that? And, you know, how do we sort of have that conversation as maybe folks in HR or leaders to touch base on like how people are doing?

[00:18:42] Michelle: One of the things I'm really keen about because I felt it myself, and that is empowering leaders to do their part, to cultivate trust so that when they're having conversations with their staff, their staff is feeling comfortable enough to tell them, "Hey, you know what? Like I'm having an off day." That doesn't happen overnight. That takes like a garden. You have to cultivate that you have to put in the effort, build the trust, build a rapport.

In a lot of cases, it's just identifying people's difference in-in their behavior, right? It's -t's this black and white, like I know you to be this bubbly person or this, you know, charismatic person, but not seeing that. Are you okay? Like just, are you okay? Is there anything I can do to support you? People instead will look the other way and assume someone else is checking in on them, but we can do more just by asking, "Are you okay? Is there anything that you need?" Right?

So it's checking in and believe it or not during this pandemic, I had a lot of clients saying to me, "My employees are feeling very, very lonely. What can we do around loneliness?" So a lot of people were struggling with that. Isolation, you know, extroverts were struggling. They were in their home office, not able to connect like the love. So I mean, you have that piece as well. So-- And it's recognizing the prevalence. If you look at the data, it's like 42% of the global workforce has experienced the decline in their mental health since the beginning of the pandemic, right? And before the pandemic, NAMI said that one in five Americans would deal with a imbalance in their mental health in their lifetime. Now one in three Americans are either dealing with depression or anxiety.

[00:20:24] Alexa: Whoa.

[00:20:25] Michelle: It's huge. So you've gotta look at your people and say, the majority of them are-are struggling. Like we have to talk about this.

[00:20:33] Alexa: Right. I heard a stat somewhere like long ago that loneliness is more of-- is more deathly than an unhealthy diet.

[00:20:40] Michelle: Wow.

[00:20:41] Alexa: Yeah. Wow. Makes sense. Because you don't-- if you don't have your brain, right?

[00:20:46] Michelle: Right.

[00:20:47] Alexa: Yeah. I mean, human connection, like that's a-- that's basically like a Maslow level need.

[00:20:51] Michelle: Yeah.

[00:20:51] Alexa: I actually think that might be on Maslow's hierarchy. I should have that memorized at this point [crosstalk] sense of belonging. There you go. See.

[00:20:58] Michelle: It's my psych degree. Woo.

[00:21:00] Alexa: Yeah, there you go. My-my org theory degrade didn't get me much sadly.

[00:21:04] Michelle: Well, that's-that's-that's like insane. Those, some of those statistics are really sad.

[00:21:10] Alexa: Yeah. So-so I think, Michelle, one of the things you bring up that's interesting is, you know, this ability for people to just talk about this stuff. But I think one of the problems with this conversation, especially as it sort of comes to the forefront of the organizational conversation is this concept of where is the boundary, right? Because, you know, we're sort of in the middle of a weird pendulum swing between, you know, you never brought yourself to work, and then it was like, bring everything to work. And now everybody's like, maybe don't bring just everything to work.

Like, I-I want most of yourself, I want you to be authentic, but like, I don't need all your bullshit on the table, but you, you know, I think employers, especially who don't have cultures of really any of this and I-I, as an employer, I agree like I, there is a boundary here and it's a very fine line between, I need to be seen as supporting you and taking care of you and giving you an appropriate outlet to express when something serious, like you are at home, taking home, taking care of a, of a sick parent or, you know, something that's big and meaningful and really affecting the context of how you perform, can be known and be understood and be supported.

And this, like, I think the way this conversation tends to get characterized in sort of the news and sort of maybe some of the-the more executive circles, which is like, I don't of wanna know all your feelings. I don't need to know every time you feel anxious, I don't have to tiptoe around you as your employer. And so how do we like, how do we scale the conversation back from the sort of gremlins that are the people that tend to talk about this? Like, I don't need all your, like, I don't want all your crap at work. I don't need all your emotions and actually have a conversation about like the things that actually matter here, right?

Cause when you talk about depression and anxiety, for example, like everybody experiences those like everyone has a-- the experience of depression sometimes, or the experience of anxiety, right? That's very different than having an anxiety disorder, right? I know people who are-- who have anxiety disorders and it is a-- it is like a way of functioning in the world that is, makes certain things very hard for them. So how do we- how do we create a conversation that's like about this and is not about all the little crap that people sort of talk about? Like how do we create like a healthy conversation?

[00:23:15] Alexa: I-I think, you know, I-I have to go back to like, I'm unconscious bias and-and, you know, the-the leaders that are not comfortable, you know, I-I get it. You're-you're trying to, you know, create sort of a line in the sand, right?

[00:23:28] Michelle: Well, you're also not trying to like encourage victimization either, right? Like everybody is got shit, everybody is got shit, everybody is got shit.

[00:23:35] Alexa: But I also think that we can like, devil's advocate to that. Like we could acknowledge that everybody has shit. Like, I might not identify as someone who has an anxiety disorder, but one day, if I'm, I don't know, maybe [crosstalk]

[00:23:46] Michelle: Feeling anxious.

[00:23:47] Alexa: Something comes up and I'm feeling anxious. Like I'm dealing with shit. Like there should still be the same flexibility for me to say like, "Hey boss, I'm not-- I'm really not feeling up to work today. Like, I'm just gonna take a day."

[00:23:59] Michelle: Yeah.

[00:23:59] Alexa: And use [crosstalk] sick day or mental health day, whatever, for the same as if I had a doctor's appointment or if I was, you know, if I had COVID or something, right? Like, yeah, you gotta use those days and-and be able to have those conversations all around, right? Like not just one person or-or the other.

[00:24:14] Michelle: Uh, yeah, I go back to, um, I'm just playing, you know, I go back to why-why it's uncomfortable for some leaders to not allow people to be fully authentically themselves. And-and for me, what I've discovered in the work that I do is that a lot of our leaders are not self-aware. They're-they're not even present to how they take care of their mental health, how they relate to mental health. So how could these possibly support someone who's struggling or someone who's having a bad day?

That's part of the issue here. Our leaders could probably benefit from more self-awareness and understanding of mental health so that they can show up for their people. I mean, and-and I might be a little biased because had my own experience with a leader who said to me, you know, "You're just not bringing your bubbly, upbeat self to work every day," after I disclosed six months earlier that I was navigating depression. That's kinda insensitive- insensitivity that I've encountered. But I also had a conversation with a guy who wants to partner with me who was like, you know, "I've never dealt with mental illness before, or, um, but you know, I'm tougher than most," alluding to the fact that whoever has a mental illness is not tough. Like-

[00:25:29] Alexa: So that's, so that, but that, so that's still, so that's so, but this is, but this is what I mean, this is the bound it's right here. This is we've come exactly to the boundary I was trying to walk up to, which is, there is a difference between feelings and mental health. There are not always the same thing, right? So dealing with a serious issue, like a like bipolar disorder to-to-to speak to your- to your memoir or clinical depression or clinical anxiety, like that is very different than like, you know, I'm tough and I don't get my feelings hurt that often.

Like that's not, that's not mental health. That's not what we're talking about. That's like an that's emotion and it comes and it goes, and everybody has 'em throughout the day. This is like, when there are patterns in your emotion that you cannot regulate yourself or that are beyond your sort of ability to just be tough about it.

[00:26:16] Michelle: I'm gonna challenge you again though, because-

[00:26:18] Alexa: Please.

[00:26:18] Michelle: I don't think, and this is, so I work as a, as a HR business partner. So part of my job is advising managers on how to have these conversations. And one of the first things that I will say to them is, "You are not a psychiatrist, you are not a psychologist. It's not your job to diagnose anybody. So whether it's one feeling, or if it's a whole shitload of feelings. It's not our job in the workplace to diagnose people, we're not trained to do so, but we do have the duty to make sure that we are adjusting the workplace so that they can, you know, work effectively and sending them to the experts. So for example, you know, how are you? Are you okay? It seems to me like you're not your typical self, and I'm worried about you. Have you, you know, considered reaching out to our Employee Assistance Program, that sort of thing.

[00:27:04] Alexa: Nobody uses EAPs.

[00:27:06] Michelle: Nobody uses the EAP, but every single time I've had conversations with people. Who've used the EAP, it's been a positive experience. So like, if anyone takes anything from this conversation-

[00:27:16] Tyson: Use your EAP.

[00:27:17] Alexa: Use the EAP. I feel like we said that in a previous episode. So that's my perspective. I don't know Michelle, like, I'd love to hear from- from your side as well.

[00:27:25] Michelle: Well, I was, when-when Alexa, when you were saying that, I'm thinking to myself, when I was talking to the guy who said, "I'm tougher than most," he wasn't talking about managing his emotions. He was labeling it as people who are dealing with a mental illness are not tough. I'm tough. I've never had to deal with that. And like, that's sort of an arrogance. And I was like-

[00:27:47] Alexa: The microaggression almost.

[00:27:48] Michelle: Like, you don't get it. Yeah. Like you don't get it because you didn't- you didn't experience it. So [crosstalk]

[00:27:53] Alexa: You guys are lucky, you didn't get through on that hand.

[00:27:55] Michelle: Yeah. Like that's level of ignorance have to squelch, that's the-the issue. But I mean, I-I do agree. I tell people all the time, you don't have to be a clinician to make a difference. What you do have to be is someone who's willing to be generous with your listening, hear what is going on, and then connect people to support because you have experts willing to do that.

[00:28:17] Alexa: All right. Yeah. And, and look, I-I'm poking to best sort of intentionally here, but I would say like Tyson, I think your response is awesome. And I-I-I also think it's true that it's like, the workplace is not the place to air most of this out, right? But if someone is expressing something to you or you're noticing like a meaningful, fundamental change, I mean, I just had this happen with an employee. I was like, what? I was like, "I'm not-- this meeting is not about what I said it's about. What is going on with you? Are you okay? What's up?" Like, and just-- she just had a moment where she's like, "You know what? I'm having an off day. I'm not feeling myself. I'm not feeling super confident. I've got all this shit going on in my head about my friend group," and this like just I like just, I wouldn't be aware of cause we work in different places and you know, we just don't, that's not- that's not part of our regular overlap.

And I-I think it was just meaningful for her to be heard. But if that continues to happen or continued to happen, you'd have to say, "Okay, I just need to make sure that you have access to the help that you need. It is not actually my responsibility as your manager or your boss or your colleague, your HR VP to-to-to-to hear all of this from you or get it all out of you. I don't need to know the whole situation. I don't need to know all those causes. I need to make sure that you have help."

And then there's the next trigger, which is, I think we spoke about this on a previous episode Tyson, but correct me if I'm wrong, which is what do you do when it-it affects performance beyond whoof? Beyond that. Cause that's when this gets tricky is people are like, "I'm listening cause I wanna help and I wanna fix it. And I gave them help and I tried to get them to the EAP or I tried to get them to counseling." Like, and this is not that situation with my employee at all. But like, this was just a bad day. But like what do you do when it's affecting performance is where this starts to get real sticky with people. And it's like, and then you worry about, you know, bias and discrimination and all kinds of other things and-and I don't even have a question here. I just

[00:30:00] Alexa: I'm gonna vomit that you guys and let you guys talk about it.

[00:30:02] Tyson: [laughs].

[00:30:03] Alexa: Yeah, I'd love to hear Michelle, your thoughts.

[00:30:05] Michelle: But yeah, but listen, the old school mentality is regardless of what's going on with the employee, I'm just gonna manage them for performance and ignore wha-what's going on. Because-

[00:30:15] Alexa: Right there, it's over there.

[00:30:16] Mitchelle: -and-and-and that doesn't work. What is that gonna do? Further exacerbate the situation for everybody involved. It's just gonna exacerbate it, right? They're gonna be more stressed out, they're gonna be more struggling. They're gonna, you know, it's gonna be an environment that they're already, you know, anxious about. The leader is not gonna know, you know, okay, what can they handle, what can't they handle, it just really makes sense to address the situation and try to support them from what they need, instead of look the other way and manage for performance?

[00:30:46] Tyson: Yeah, a-and so, typically, how I've seen this done is, and I've- I've provided this advice on this podcast before, but anytime you have sort of an entangled mix of issues, let's say, separate them out as much as possible. So, we address first and foremost, that person's mental health. So again, I'm here for you, what can we do in the workplace to like help you again, usually you work in tandem with their doctor to make sure any accommodations provided are realistic to like, what their actual needs are.

So like, if they, you know, we don't wanna be giving them a s- a standing desk if they [chuckles] need time off, right? Like, tha-that's a crazy example. But so, we wanna make sure that we're providing the accommodation, you know, we're giving them the time off. Sometimes it means that they actually do need to take an extended leave, like short term disability-

[00:31:33] Alexa: Yeah, I was gonna say short-term disability.

[00:31:34] Tyson: -yeah, and that's fine, too. My only thoughts with leaves is like, "Okay, but when you come back, we're gonna be in the same situation. So again, how do we address the actual work to make sure that we don't end up in this situation again?" But anyway, so we-we-we separate that out, we peel it apart, and if you can do it with two separate people, that's even better.

So, for example, maybe somebody from HR wants to have the conversations about mental health and helping them find the Employee Assistance Program, et cetera, accommodations, et cetera, and then we can work somewhat separately on the performance issues as well, and try to just disentangle those things and sort of work-work through them separately, b-but at the same time, to avoid those potential biases, right? And also like, is the performance issue because that person has, isn't able to focus for long periods of time, or, you know, wha-wha-whatever it might be.

[00:32:21] Alexa: Michelle, anything to add there?

[00:32:22] Mitchelle: No, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, you know, I've heard similar way, people handling it similarly, you know, you-you have to- you have to be willing. So, I-I it's interesting, because I-I did an interview with an employment attorney, we spoke about, you know, disclosing and-and feeling safe. And I- I think it's all about, you know, employees feeling safe with a specific person to disclose, to talk about that, and then working within a- to get the accommodation and, you know, having the doctor's notes to support that, and, you know, and-and all things can be resolved through communication. That's what I believe, fundamentally.

If we communicate, if there's trust present, if an employee feels comfortable, if they don't feel comfortable talking to their boss, but they feel comfortable talking to HR, that's who they should talk to.

[00:33:06] Tyson: So, also Michelle, I'd also love like going back like, let's think about now let's put ourselves in the leaders' position., and we put, you know, this ask on them to always be looking out for the people, which shouldn't be, too out there, right? Like, it's- it's a common expectation of leaders. But let's now imagine as that leader, like, what if they are going through some of their own stuff and sort of this idea of like putting your own oxygen mask on first, and like, do you have any sort of advice or thoughts in-in that realm?

[00:33:33] Mitchelle: Absolutely. And so, this is one of the things that I do highlight when I'm talking to leaders in-in the programs I deliver. It's like, you have such a great opportunity to lead by example, you have such a great opportunity.

I'm not saying air your dirty laundry, or air everything that you're dealing with, but I think that if you could start normalizing the conversation in your own team, you know, "Hey, you know what, I'm gonna take the hour at lunchtime because I know, for me, I'm gonna need to hit that- hit the trail for an hour and come back because that's just gonna help me regroup." You're- you're subtly giving permission for people to nurture themselves and take care of themselves, without like, "Hey, I'm dealing with major depression or I'm struggling with anxiety myself."

Instead, you're just creating a conversation and demonstrating what good mental health hygiene looks like for the team and giving them that subtle permission. And the other thing is setting-setting those parameters where you're not adding stress to their lives by, you know, the norms of I'm gonna text that person at eight o'clock at night and they've got to get back to me. It's really allowing those boundaries to be in place and-and leading through that example.

[00:34:40] Alexa: Boundaries is my favorite word.

[00:34:42] Tyson: Yes.

[00:34:42] Alexa: I don't know if we are gonna talk about this, but as someone who's recently single, it's like my new favorite word. I'm like, oh, what are these? These are great. I love these, I love boundaries.


Nothing like a good set of boundaries. It sounds ridiculous, but it's true and it's actually really funny. Because once you start to have this conversation and I- and I actually, Mitchelle, I wonder if you would have some comments that-that would be similar along the sort of the s- the spectrum of burnout as we were gonna sort of get to anyway.

[00:35:08] Tyson: Yeah.

[00:35:09] Alexa: Which is, you know, one of the things that I think that has done a disservice to this conversation was this idea of like, "Oh, bring your whole self to work." It was like, yeah, bring your whole self to work with some healthy boundaries, [laughs] right? So like, again, I don't want you to like come into my office crying every two days, because you're bringing your whole self to work. If that's happening, we need to get you the support that you need to stop doing that-

[00:35:33] Tyson: Yeah.

[00:35:33] Alexa: -and that's not my job as we just covered, but we want you to bring your whole self to work. Again, like-like Netflix says, like, we're not a family, we're a team because families are just all kinds of fucked up and dysfunctional but have some [laughs] awesome great boundaries sometimes. But, you know, I think it's a thing that-that sometimes companies but also largely, I-I see it in sort of early managers fail to set, right?

They fail to set that like, "Hey, my expectation is like, I'm only gonna text you." I tell my students all the time, like, "I- if I text you, it's like the fucking house is on fire." Otherwise, it stays in Slack, it stays on email. Like, if it's nine o'clock at night and I'm texting you, it is like, I'm gonna lose an investor cheque or something if you don't write me back right now, but otherwise, like, I'm not gonna invade your space.

And if you see me Slack on Sundays because I work on the weekends as my catch up time, like, I'm gonna either try to send those automatically the next day, or I'm gonna- I'm gonna literally start my message with like, please ignore until Monday, because I wanna set the boundary that I'm working, you don't have to be.

And that's a silly example, but it's an easy one because people cross those boundaries all the time. And, yeah, and so my question for you would be like, how do you think about setting boundaries from a mental health perspective in the workplace? And like, what are ones that you think are really important and healthy as you work with organizations?

[00:36:43] Mitchelle: Yeah, I mean, uh, well, I mean, you-you also alluded to burnout and I think burnout is-is one of the results I'm working a lot-

[00:36:52] Alexa: [crosstalk] yeah.

[00:36:53] Mitchelle: -a-a-a-a lot, a lot of us working from home and being remote and working around the clock at night.

[00:36:58] Alexa: Like not having boundaries.

[00:36:59] Mitchelle: Right, exactly. Like we used to have bookings of the day, like, you-you know, early morning, we get in our car, we drive, and we come home, you know, those are the bookends, there are no bookends, people are working around the clock. So it's like, people need to have structures. But one of the things that I-I teach resiliency all day long, and like, you know, you have to have those structures in place, you have to have like the opportunity to leave your home office and shut the door and you got to take care of you.

If you don't take care of you, you can't take care of anyone else to the- to the point that, uh, Tyson made about, um, the oxygen mask. Like, it's not selfish to create processes and structures and things that you need to do to nurture you, so that you get to show up for the people you love in your family, but also in your job. So, we forget that there are things we can do. We actually get into routines that are not helpful, or we f- we omit things because we don't think there's time. And I say this all day long. You cannot take six months of compounded stress and go to a spa and unravel that in one day.

[00:37:58] Alexa: It's so true.

[00:37:59] Mitchelle: You just can't.

[00:38:00] Alexa: My brother and sister bought me a seven-hour massage day package for my birthday. I was like, all right guys, I can tell, you know, that I'm a little stressed right now, but it was six, that was like six months ago, I still haven't booked it and I'm like, it's just one day. It's not gonna solve it [laughs].

[00:38:15] Tyson: It doesn't undo and that's what I mean, like even if e look at--

[00:38:17] Alexa: It's a nice gesture, but--

[00:38:18] Tyson: Like when we tell people like oh, just take Friday off or something like, that's nice and it's a good signal or whatever, but what are we gonna do in your day-to-day to make sure that we're integrating good behaviors and practices for your wellbeing, right?

[00:38:34] Alexa: Right.

[00:38:35] Tyson: And those boundaries, the funniest thing.-- So I-I like always make this joke that like as soon as I started working from home, I will Slack in the morning while I'm having my coffee watching The Real Housewives, and then I'll have my lunch break, and I will Slack on my kitchen bar while I'm eating my lunch. And it's like, I leave my desk, I'm not at my desk. I'm just like chillaxing on my like breaks, but like I'm sitting there on Slack, because it's just like, it's so easy to just do that and there's nothing else to do.

Like I'm sitting alone in the woods, like what else am I gonna do on my lunch break? I'm a major loser, I guess [chuckles]. But like, it's- it is hard to sort of like set those boundaries at-at home and it's weird cause I never used to be like that in the office. But it's like something changed when we went to remote that like, makes you feel like you have to do that all the time.

[00:39:23] Mitchelle: Yeah, I know you gotta step away and clear your head. And-and that's something I really want people to get is like, those small micro-changes, those little changes along the way can make such a big difference, they really, really can. I mean--

[00:39:36] Alexa: What are some of the big ones, like-like little things that make a big difference that you're a fan of?

[00:39:39] Mitchelle: Well, okay, so gratitude, a gratitude, practice, meditation, even if it's five minutes at lunchtime, close your eyes and do a meditation. Get present to your breath, clear your head, little things like that, sleep hygiene, making sure that you're going to bed consistently every night and getting up consistently at the same time, but making sure that you have good quality sleep. Like, "I don't know, get Fitbit, get something." So, you're measuring, "Am I getting good quality sleep?" Because if you're not getting good quality sleep, you're gonna compromise your brain balance. And that's gonna have you not able to deal with stressful situations as well as you could. So, sleep is one of the biggest things that I really try to hit home to people, like making sure your bedroom it's optimal for a good night's sleep. Don't underestimate the power of that.

[00:40:25] Tyson: I don't know a good night sleep anymore. I have a newborn. [laughs]

[00:40:28] Mitchelle: Yeah. You're-you're-you're not allowed to have one for the next few years, but--

[00:40:32] Tyson: Right.

[00:40:33] Michelle: Yeah.

[00:40:33] Alexa: I do wanna-- I do wanna go back and I feel like we could have an entire episode on this, but you did use a word resiliency and resilience. I'm super interested in resilience, specifically because I have a newborn and I'm trying to figure out like how to make a resilient child. But, now, if we zoom out and talk about this in the workplace, we obviously have just experienced a huge amount of trauma. Like, the world has gone through trauma over the past two years, and I'm interested in, like what sort of your outlook is like, what is like-- how do we move forward now? Like, let's just say that COVID is not coming back. And like, "What do we do now," right? From a resilient--

[00:41:09] Tyson: Spring has sprung.

[00:41:11] Michelle: Yeah. [chuckles] Just go with that.

[00:41:13] Tyson: Yes.

[00:41:14] Michelle: Yeah. I mean, it's-it's very interesting. We don't know what the impact of this pandemic is gonna have on-on us mentally. We don't know the, you know, we think about our children with masks. Like we don't know. We don't know what the PTSD is gonna even look like from this, but I will say, I think we're all really present to what matters, right? This is why we see the great resignation, people getting really present to what matters or what makes them happy, that does matter, it's not just about paycheck. But we also are recognizing that we hold a lot of the cards around our health, right? So, what does that mean?

Like, only, and I say this all the time, only you can protect your-your brain health and your physical health. Only you can protect what you're allowing your brain to consume. And only you can dictate where your boundaries are so that you're taking care of yourself, regularly. So, I think, you know, the people that I come in contact with are saying, "I'm really present to the fact that, you know, I need to be healthier." You know, I watched so many people lose their lives to COVID. I watched so many people get unhealthy. I watched people grab onto addiction, grab onto alcoholism because we didn't-- because we were dealing with so much.

I think a lot of people are present to the fact that they-they really do wanna take care of themselves. And there's so many great resources out there to be able to do that. And having boundaries in terms of what you're allowing your brain to consume is even more important.

[00:42:37] Alexa: I was just gonna say, I think-- I think this is, you know, these- it-- it's easy to compartmentalize this conversation and then also not to compartmentalize it, cause like it clearly bleeds into everything. But this is one of those things that, like when you're doing those-- I've had to learn this lesson running-running, you know, business for the last few years. That's like, ”No, no, no, Alexa, it's not okay to just work till ten o'clock at night every night." Like, you have to lead by example. So, like put it on your calendar that you are taking a run break at 9:00 AM and you're gonna go for a run because everyone else will do it. And-and it's true.

Like people do follow the lead. And I work with HR teams all the time that are like, "Oh, we really wish our like, you know, our lawyer population would engage more with our wellness, like platform or whatever." And I'm like, "Well, do you guys use it?" And they're like, "No, no, we don't." We're like, "That's not really the culture around here." Like, "You know, you're not supposed to use the stuff." I'm like, "So, then what-- why do you have a different expectation for like your lawyers, that doesn't make any sense?" It there's a lot of contradictions in-in HR, especially in the benefit space.

But, what I was gonna say is I-I think it's, it's something where I think people-- It's very easy to stop this conversation and say, "Oh well, it's just, you know, it's just sleep quality. It's just these things." It's like, those are like foundational habits to just good health in general. But, I think you realize, and one of the things that's also I think happening right now, aside from, you know, from all the sort of like obvious economic shifts in the labor market is that, once you start to do those things, you start to be able to recognize like, "Wait a minute, I'm gonna put my foot down on this-this boss or this manager or this person that is not-not letting me take the space I need, or not giving me the boundary I deserve, or not respecting the boundary I asked for, or, "Hey, I never put that-- I never asked for that boundary. And now I'm noticing as I'm trying to go to bed earlier and take care of myself, that that asshole is always Slacking me at 9:30."

Like I need to set Slack notifications to stop buzzing me at a certain time. And if that person doesn't respect, so then you start to cascade into this idea of like, "Oh, I-I actually need to set other boundaries and do other things a little bit differently to actually create an environment that overall is more healthy," but you can't do it all at once. And you can't-- you certainly can't do like a fucking overhaul, you know? Like it's like-- it's like trying to diet or trying to get back in shape, like it don't happen overnight. You gotta put just like one foot in front of the other, you know, two degrees at a time as Tony Robbins says.

But, you know, I-I think it's an important lesson for people to realize that while these sound like personal-personal habits and personal things and only you can control you and that's all true, but it really will bleed into all these other parts that I think create a much healthier organizational overall, right? If everybody is doing these things for themselves and being more respectful of everybody's boundaries, 'cause they're now articulated like that has-- I have to assume that has to create overall improvement across an organization. Have you seen anything like that happen, Michelle? Like from-from org-organizations you've worked with, like any anecdotes?

[00:45:18] Michelle: Yeah. I mean, it's-it's been amazing that organizations have shared back with me that like, you know, people are just more conscientious about asks. They're just more aware they're-they're actually leaning into the resources companies have been paying for that people have been ignoring all day long. So, EAP. [laughs]

[00:45:36] Alexa: The EAP. Use your EAP guys, use-- this is a PSA for your EAP. [laughs]

[00:45:41] Michelle: No, I'm thinking too about like, you know, organizations that are like, "We're gonna create meditation circles," but yet no one-- no one was joining them. So, like I walk 'em through with three-minute meditation. They're like, "Holy crap. That was only three minutes. I need this line up." So, you know, you have to force people to try these things a little bit, you know? Um, but one of the biggest things I wanted to mention when you talk about resilience is, a lot of people they get up in the morning and they rush into their day. And the only thing that cause-- that causes them to pause is like, if they have a physical ailment, right? Like, "I twist my ankle," for example. So, in the morning I'm like, "Oh, there-- there's the ankle."

But a lot of people are not doing that self-audit on how they're doing emotionally and mentally, and they're just rushing into their day, and that's slowly starting to deteriorate. So, one of the things that I'm a real big advocate about is getting present to how you're feeling every morning, emotionally, mentally, because if you can say to yourself, "Boy, I feel like crap today," then you have a toolbox of, "Well, what helps me not feel like crap? Well, I need to go for a run or I need to call my sister and have a cup of coffee with her and talk it out with her."

Then you do those things and you quickly-- you quickly get yourself back to where you know you can be and you don't slowly escalate out. People ignore their well-being. They ignore it until they hit a wall. And then they're like, "Holy crap." So, one of the key things with resiliency is the power of the self-audit and getting really present to how you're doing, mentally and physically

[00:47:03] Alexa: That's-that's awesome. I-I have a-- I have a rule where-- and I didn't use to have this rule. I used to be the person that popped outta bed and ran smack into the brick wall. That was my day and usually came to the day like "blaaah" and now I just have a ritual and it's like-- it's just my ritual. And I don't look at my phone before I've had coffee. If I sit down, I have a cup of coffee, I listen to this, you know, a podcast or a couple podcasts, whatever it is.

And then I, you know, I set a time where I'm like, "This is where my day starts and it usually starts with a workout." And once I'm working out, it's like, "The day has begun." And it's nice to not start your day with a meeting sometimes. But that's like my sanctuary, is like, I used to go and I-- sometimes I meditate just depends on in the day. I'm not a perfect person. I don't meditate every days, although I wish I did.

[00:47:42] Michelle: I so wish I could meditate. I'm-I'm always-- I'm like always [crosstalk] meditating.

[00:47:47] Alexa: I-- so, nobody can meditate to be clear. It's like an oxymoron. [chuckles]

[00:47:51] Michelle: And go-go to YouTube and look up Sarah Blondin. She's a Canadian meditation teacher. You hear her voice, you will- you will try meditation.

[00:48:00] Alexa: Those soothing Os.

[00:48:02] Michelle: She's so good. It's her message. Her message is so good. I'm telling you.

[00:48:08] Tyson: It's funny. The only time I meditated was when I was pregnant, and I was like practicing hypnobirthing. And, like, if I have a-- 'cause I'm like-- I'm a-a, go-getter. Like, if I like set my mind to something, I need to be able to do it. So, I was working towards something, right? Which was birth. So, I'm like, "All right. I'm gonna do this. I'm gonna train. I'm practicing. I've gotta be the best at this." So, I was hypnobirthing all the time [crosstalk] meditating all the time.

[00:48:29] Michelle: So shocking you're not an athlete. Shocked, fucking shocked.

[00:48:34] Tyson: But- And so, anyways, so like if I have a goal in mind, 'cause like, you know, like an endpoint, but I-I did wanna just tell like-- So, I was told a small anecdote by someone and I wanna tell it now because it stuck with me for so long. And I-- it's kind of-- I think-think is gonna wrap this conversation a little bit to call it some of the things that you guys have both sort of been talking about, which is like really looking out for yourself. And when I was in university, our compensation prof on the very last class, the very last thing he told us was that, "You always need to be looking out for yourself and always taking care of yourself."

And the story that he shared with us is that one of their colleagues was in a car accident on a really dangerous highway in Canada. And he was actually airlifted out of there. It was so bad that he almost died. So, the next day, everybody was so upset about this poor-poor man. Like they almost lost a friend, a colleague. It was devastating. And they didn't know what to do, right? The workplace, all of a sudden, "Who's gonna take his classes. Who's gonna cover him-- for him, blah, blah, blah."

So, it was devastating. But within three days, work had gone back to normal, and although he didn't come back, 'cause he was obviously recovering, everything went back to normal, and people got on with it, and work continued, and classes continued to be taught. So, when you're thinking about, you know, "Do you wanna stay up and commit your whole evening to work and not spending it with your family, or your friends, or whatever, doing something that you love, or, you know, skipping a lunch break because you need to get that last email out, like really-really-really think about that. And the fact that work will move on without you, and they're gonna get over it real fast because the workplace is resilient. So it's super important that we do like look out for ourselves. Um,

[00:50:17] Alexa: Yeah, it has to be. And also, like, I think that's-that's a great anecdote for like also, don't forget like you have the ability to speak up and be autonomous in these situations, well before, to Michelle's point, well before, they get to catastrophe so well before you're experiencing regular days where you're like, I need a mental health day. Maybe you need to talk to your manager about like, I have too many, you've given me too many projects or I own too many parts of too many layers or these goals are unattainable.

Like you have to remember, like you have to do this stuff kind of always in the long term and in the short term, at the same time, you can't just do the short term and always be like crisis managing. And then, you know, or only do the long term and then not take care of yourself in the day today. Like it's-it's gotta be both. And I think that's what good healthy organizations do well, there's always a push and a pull between what's being asked of the person what's realistic and what the organization needs to do. And it's gotta be malleable, right? If you're in a situation where things are really unmalleable or really unrealistic like that's a recipe for burnout, disaster, et cetera. All right. Michelle, any other things you wanna add before we jump to our People Problem?

[00:51:20] Michelle: No, I think-- God, this has been such a great conversation. I mean, no, absolutely. I think-I think we get it, you know, it's-it's so important. We have to look out for ourselves.

[00:51:29] Alexa: Yeah. Agreed. And I think-I think the thing that is always fascinating for me is you just never know everyone has shit. We talked about that. Like, everybody's got their shit. I've got shit. You've got shit. Everybody's got their shit. Sometimes you've just never know what someone is actually dealing with until you scratch the surface a little bit and you go, oh, "holy fuck. Like I knew there was something going on there, but like, damn, I did not give you enough credit."

And sometimes you realize that the people you think are not being resilient to use your word, Michelle, are actually significantly more resilient than you realize but we all crack every once in a while, you know, people's context is super important. We've talked about that before. So all right. Tyson, lead us to our People Problem.

[00:52:20] Tyson: Okay. So this is someone who works in HR and they ask, how do we not get caught up in the constant negativity of our roles specifically

[00:52:29] Alexa: Of-of the role of HR?

[00:52:31] Tyson: Of the role of HR, right? So let's think about those poor HR people at Better.com firing 4,000 people.

[00:52:37] Alexa: oh God bless them. As we've talked about, nobody does this for the glory. What do you think Michelle?

[00:52:43] Michelle: Yeah, they gotta compare themselves. I mean, you know, like to-to that whole story you just shared, Tyson. If they were gone tomorrow, life would go on, work would go on. But the only person that can protect you and preserve your mental health and your wellbeing is you. So you have to do what you need to do so that you can deal with the negativity. The only way you can deal with the negativity is if you are nurturing yourself and taking care of yourself and preserving your own health, and you're getting the workout in and you're getting the downtime and you're filling your thing-- your life with things that you and you're connecting with people that-that fan your flame, like we have to own that so that we can deal with the shit when it comes up at work,

[00:53:28] Tyson: Not taking it all on yourself too. So let's say like, obviously there's not gonna be one person firing 4,000 people at Better.com, but let's.

[00:53:35] Alexa: I don't know, assume there could be,

[00:53:36] Tyson: You never know, but let's say you are dealing with a situation where you're doing quite a number of layoffs, divide and conquer that. I made that mistake early on in my career. I used to just like squirrel all the work. So I would say like, "No, no, I-I can do it. I can do it. I can do it." So I'd go from like office to office, to office firing people like in one day versus like having one HR person in like the three different offices. And then it, as you're doing that, it-it starts to like wear on you, right? Yeah. Like I'm speaking specifically, like with-with terminations and firing, like that shit wears on you. It is hard. It is the hardest part of our job. It sucks. You really need to like protect yourself too in those situations, like, make sure you like are equipped with like how to shut the conversation down before, like they get too emotional

[00:54:23] Alexa: Preparation,

[00:54:24] Tyson: Prep-prepping the managers, prepping yourself, and having a ritual. Like I joke, I always burn Sage in my office afterward. And like, I know it's crazy, but like I'm in my home, like firing people. I don't want that bad Juju out in the open. And then I always tell myself that it's for the person's good and we're not firing just them [crosstalk].

[00:54:41] Alexa: I'm sure you've released a lot of people into better chapters of their lives

[00:54:44] Tyson: It's for their good. Exactly.

[00:54:46] Alexa: I like that. That's a true frame. Hey man, framing stories.

[00:54:48] Tyson: The-the way you frame it.

[00:54:49] Alexa: The story is everything set-set and the story is, is everything. I thin-I think you bring up a really important point, Michelle. I also think the other thing like to bring up this idea of like master missions and stuff, team dynamics can play a huge role in this stuff. So for example, I really hope that two things happen at Better.com. One that that HR team gets together and goes, "All right, guys, this is gonna suck. We're gonna try to divvy this up so that nobody is doing this for more than like an hour a day. And everybody has a regroup with a colleague after it happens, because if there's eight of us, one of us is gonna break down after the first session. One of us is gonna break down after the second, right? So let's set this up as a team so that we've all got each other."

Because we're about to go to war together, right? There's gotta be a togetherness to this. And I don't think that happens enough, uh, especially in HR. Because I feel like people are supposed to be infallible and that's. And two, I would hope that you, if it's not obvious, cause it's not always obvious to people in leadership, they're just humans that someone speaks up and says, "Hey guys, your HR team is about to get flack on another level from 4,000 people. We need to set up a-a resource group for them that they have executives and other people and managers backing them that they can talk to. And that you're you as an organization are taking into account your firing squad and you're sending them to the spa afterward. Like, you know, maybe in an instance, the spa package will work or at least be a nice gesture of like, I understand what we just asked you to do.

Yes, it's part of your job, but that does not make it easier. You're basically bearing the emotional brunt of this for the organization. And that sucks. And so I would hope that-that there's at least to your point, Michelle, as we started this conversation, the ability to have a dialogue about that happening and someone speaking up and if it's not obvious to the leadership team, they're not-- they don't preempt it to say, Hey guys, we're about to get our asses handed to us. Like, can we-can we do some extra things to just make sure everybody feels covered?

So that one that people speak up and two, that the team can do that sort of together because that's when team dynamics really makes a difference is when you are about to do something that sucks, you can do it together. Yeah. And you can spot each other. You have to take care of yourself, but you don't have to do everything alone, I think is the--

[00:57:01] Tyson: Yeah, check in on your HR buddies that are going through terminations too. It's actually funny. Like I--you don't expect like the thanks when, after you fire people like you never expect to thank you or anyone to like acknowledge the fact that you just like fired a bunch of people. But I remember once someone in the business, so it wasn't an HR person, it was a manager you in the business came and was like, "Hey Tyson, like, how are you doing?" And I was like, "I didn't even think of that." Like I didn't even like, wait, how am I doing? You're asking me how I'm doing. Like, it was like a whole thing. Like I'd never been asked that before. Like my HR colleagues, like we're just all in this together kind of thing. So like, but really nice to have someone for the business actually like, come check on me. So that was-that was nice.

[00:57:41] Alexa: And to this person's question about not the spiral of negativity, because negativity is just nothing but a snowball. Like it just, it always will spiral. If you sort of let it-it it's like a, a my-my good friend gave two of my other good friends, the best wedding-- marriage advice I've ever heard before they got married. He said, never let the seed of resentment hit the floor once you do it, it will grow roots. Which I think is fascinating marriage advice. But in a similar way, it's like, it's very poetic. Uh, he's a prophetic guy, but in a similar way, it's-it's sort of like that here. It's like just don't-don't foster that, right? Like just, don't like, you know, it's gonna suck. Everybody knows it. You don't have to talk about it more than that. And like in shitty situations, like don't be fake and don't be overly optimistic, but like don't dwell on it.

Like it sucks. You don't have to talk about how much it sucks all the time. Like just don't-don't let it don't let it fester. And if you find that happening, especially, you know, I think it's pretty easy when you're in shitty situations at a-a job where it's kind of a toxic culture. Just remove yourself from the situation, you know, just get out just, "Hey guys, I gotta go." I think that's usually the best situation you just say like, "Oh, she's not down for the-for the gossip. She's not down for the-the hate-the hate sesh. And I think that's a clear boundary. That's a good boundary to set, cause it really will wear on you. That's sort of true of anybody. So all right, Michelle, fascinating. I can talk about this all day as could Tyson. Where can people find you if they like what you have to say?

[00:58:58] Michelle: Yeah, you can follow me on LinkedIn. That's the best place. I'm doing a lot of podcasts about mental health at work. I'm doing a series on bullying and mental health right now. So LinkedIn is the best place to find me and all my content.

[00:59:09] Alexa: Michelle E. Dickinson.

[00:59:12] Michelle: Yes,

[00:59:13] Alexa: LinkedIn. I love it. Thanks for being here.

[00:59:15] Michelle: Thanks for having me, thank you so much.

[00:59:17] Alexa: This episode was executive produced by me, Alexa Boggio with audio production by [unintelligible 00:59:21] of Fear Harmonies. Our intro music was also done by the wonderful [unintelligible 00:59:25] of Fear Harmonies. You can find more information about us and future episodes F.

[00:59:29] [END OF AUDIO]

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