My #MentalHealth Moment of Truth

mentalhealthIf you follow me on social media – and you should – you know that I am a fierce advocate for mental wellness in general, but particularly in the workplace, which is where many of us spend the bulk of our time. Too many people are dealing with the physical and mental effects of stress and burnout while too many employers stay too focused on the work and not focused enough on the person. In addition to that, many people are living with a mental health condition that, while not necessarily making it impossible for them to work (at the moment) can impact them at work in various ways.

Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, PTSD… all of these and more can affect someone’s work style, preferred working hours or environment, etc. Employers need to commit to understanding how various mental health conditions can impact their people AND how they can support people who are in the midst of a mental health crisis, may be at risk for one, or who may just need some minor accommodations to perform at their best.

at-Work-Section-3

As I mentioned, most people who follow me on social media know I speak frequently about mental health & wellbeing, but it wasn’t until recently that someone actually asked me why this topic is so important to me. I was contacted to participate in a SHRM article on mental health in the workplace and of course I jumped at the chance. I started the interview by saying this topic is near & dear to me so of course the interviewer asked why that is. So now it was time for my ‘moment of truth.’ Do I give some generic “because I care about the quality of life for all people” reply or do I share my truth? I decided to share my truth. I figured it’s pretty hypocritical to advocate for destigmatizing mental illness while remaining quiet about my own. So I told the interviewer, with full knowledge that this article was going on the SHRM website, that I live with Major Depressive Disorder. Did I have more than a smidge of anxiety about it? Of course. But I weighed the pros & cons and believed the pros outweighed the cons. Tell the truth and shame the devil as the old folks say. (Not meant to be an ageist comment. It’s just something usually said by older individuals.)

Kaiser-Permanente-Why-We-Need-to-End-the-Stigma-Around-Mental-Illness

When the article came out, I was preparing to attend the WorkHuman Live conference so I didn’t pay too much attention to it. No one said anything to me about it so I kept it moving. I already had enough anxiety about traveling and having to be ‘ON’ for four days straight at a conference. But now I’m back and after four days of listening to practitioners and celebrities espouse the importance of humanity in the workplace and being your whole self, I’m ready to get back to this.

So yes; I have Major Depressive Disorder. What does that mean for me? In part – Some days it’s a struggle to get out of bed, let alone go to work or socialize. I can become incredibly sad or be in a bad mood for no apparent reason. I can become overwhelmed by negative thoughts. I have severe insomnia. My motivation can lag at times. I have a tendency to procrastinate. These are some of the ways the disorder manifests for me but every person is different. None of this makes me any less amazing or effective as an HR professional but it does factor into who I am and therefore how I work and how I work best. And I’m not the only one. Not by a long shot. 

OCT+in+the+US

Many employers would easily understand why someone with cancer or even a broken leg might need support at work but are far less understanding when it comes to mental illnesses (or other invisible illnesses, but that’s a topic for another day.) To be fair, some of it is a lack of education. Mental illness is so stigmatized that no one wants to talk about it. So no one talks about it. I believe it is incumbent upon us as HR professionals to open up these conversations as part of building inclusive workplaces.

In addition to talking about mental health, we need to educate our employees on how to support those dealing with a mental health condition, especially if we know they’re dealing with one, but even if we don’t know for sure. For example, if someone’s personality or productivity changes, it could be for a number of reasons including that they may be dealing with a mental health condition. Several of the things managers are quick to complain about could be due to mental health conditions. For example,

  • Someone dealing with an anxiety disorder may find working in an open workspace overwhelming and thus it may take them a bit longer to finish projects.
  • Someone who is frequently “late” to work could be dealing with depression so it takes them longer to get going in the morning.
  • Someone dealing with OCD may take longer to leave the house.
  • Someone with PTSD may be triggered in certain environments or situations.

When you start viewing and treating people as human beings, not just cogs in the machine, you develop a better understanding of who they are and how you can best help them succeed. 

mhwork2

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we need to deal with horrible attitudes or subpar performance on a constant basis. We still have work to do and some people are just jackasses or poor performers. It happens.  What I AM saying is, we’re ALL dealing with something. It may be a mental health condition. It may be a physical health condition. It may be the loss of a loved one, a divorce, family problems, financial issues… We don’t shut off those parts of our life when we cross the threshold of the office. Know your people. Understand your people. Get educated on how to best support your people. And if support looks like telework or flexible work hours, change in desk location or some other fix that isn’t a hardship on the organization – DO IT.

Do your best FOR your people so you can get the best FROM your people.

P.S. – I feel compelled to make a special note of the mental and emotional toll current events and lived experiences can take on people. A person may not have a diagnosed mental health disorder, but:

  • If you are a Black person who regularly sees your people getting killed in the street by the folks who are supposed to ‘serve & protect’ us, or getting the police called on them for having the audacity to live & breathe, you’re gonna carry with you – into work – the fear that one day it might be you.
  • If you are Latinx and see how committed the current administration is to deporting people who may be your family, or may be you, you’re gonna carry that with you – into work.
  • If you are transgender and see that transgender individuals are being found dead, particularly transgender women of color, just because someone didn’t like or understand how that person identified, you’re gonna carry that with you – into work. 
  • If you are a person who lives in a crime ridden area and/or lives paycheck to paycheck, you’re gonna carry that fear of safety or instability with you – into work.

The microaggressions members of marginalized groups often experience in the workplace also take a significant mental and emotional toll. Death by 1000 cuts. This is why intentional inclusion is so important.

 micro.PNG

I’ve shared my moment of truth. What’s yours?

2018: My #HR Year in Review

As 2018 comes to a close, I have been mentally reviewing my professional accomplishments. I started the year off with a few goals I wanted to accomplish and I’m happy to report that I accomplished all but one. Maybe in 2019..

My 2018 goals included speaking on a panel, receiving paid writing opportunities, and attending some key industry events. I’d like to share my goals with you and how they were accomplished.

Speaking on a Panel. Due to my strong introvert tendencies, I wanted an opportunity to speak on a topic I care about without ALL of the attention being focused on me. eX Summit to the rescue! In August, I participated on the ‘Diversity in the Workplace’ panel at eX Summit Philadelphia representing the nonprofit perspective. It was a good time! Peep the discussion at the 2:11:15 mark.

 

BONUS: ‘Diversity Means Nothing Without Inclusion’ panel on WorkHuman Radio.

Writing & Thought Sharing. You may not be able to tell from the inconsistency of my blog posts but I enjoy writing. Plus I’m pretty good at it.  🙂 This year I was approached by a leading nonprofit consulting firm to write for their newsletter.

I also like to share my thoughts on a variety of HR topics – especially when asked because it makes me feel special.

BambooHR came through with TWO ‘HR Expert Roundtable’ opportunities:

I was also interviewed for HR Magazine (Yes; THE HR Magazine!)

Attending Key Industry Events.

There were four events I wanted to attend this year and luckily I was able to attend all four. I wrote a few blog posts about them but I did A LOT of live tweeting so check the hashtags on Twitter.

Making Connections IRL.

2018 was also a year in which I got to connect (or reconnect) in “real life” with several folks I’ve enjoyed connecting with online. I’m sure I’m missing some pics but life is too short for me to dedicate endless hours to searching for photos. You get the idea.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Last, but most certainly not least, I completed the Cornell University Diversity & Inclusion for HR certificate program. 

cornell

YAY ME!

In just a few hours it will be 2019. I’m looking forward to doing even MORE speaking, writing, event attending and connecting with folks in the new year. I’ll probably come up with some additional goals as well. As for my one professional goal that wasn’t accomplished this year – making more money – I haven’t given up on it. I’ll just have to work harder in 2019 to achieve it. If you have any legitimate, non-scammy ideas on how I can make this happen, feel free to reach out.

See you next year!

P.S. – In 2018, I also had the most engagement I’ve ever had with one of my social media posts. Hopefully the practice of unnecessarily requiring degrees and valuing them over actual experience is on the downturn. So many missed opportunities.

Screenshot_20181231-133105_LinkedIn

Join the Movement! #WorkHuman

PrintWe’ve all heard the oft-spoken directive “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” The words are usually attributed to Gandhi but my friend Google tells me this is not actually a direct, verifiable, Gandhi quote. Sounds good though, so let’s go with the sentiment.

When I think about the WorkHuman conference, I think about being the change I wish to see in the workplace. Recently a peer asked me a version of “what does your ideal job look like?” Ideally, I would have a role in which I am able to focus on employee experience – to make work a place folks don’t dread going to everyday or drag themselves to just to pay the bills. I want to create environments in which people are able to do their best work because they are free to be their whole, best selves. I want to help develop cultures in which individuals are valued for their unique backgrounds and experiences and recognized for their accomplishments. I want to help people understand what diversity truly is and that it means nothing without inclusion. I want to train managers to coach and encourage their direct reports. I have no idea if this job exists other than in my dreams but that would be the ideal.

That’s what attracted me to WorkHuman. I first heard about it in 2016, after the second conference was held, and immediately committed to attending the 2017 conference. At the time I didn’t know how I was going to make it happen but I knew it was a must because it was the first time I’d heard about a conference that focused on exactly the areas I’m passionate about. I had to be there. Thankfully I was able to attend in 2017 and 2018 and hope to attend forever and ever. In 2018 I was even asked to participate in a Diversity Means Nothing Without Inclusion  panel discussion on WorkHuman radio. 🙂

From the website:

Globoforce pioneered the WorkHuman movement to galvanize leaders worldwide to harness the transformative power of people for the next generation of HR. We celebrate breakthrough organizations building human-centric workplaces where employees achieve their fullest potential – where people feel appreciated, connected, and empowered for who they are and what they do. WorkHuman recognizes businesses that thrive by bringing humanity and crowdsourcing to the employee experience. WorkHuman is the future of the workplace.

Each year, WorkHuman builds on the content offerings and always has a great speaker lineup. The tracks for the 2019 conference are:

  • Applying the Value of Gratitude
  • Bringing Humanity to Performance Management
  • Creating a Culture of Community
  • Elevating Your Employer Brand
  • Empowering through Diversity & Equality
  • Living Your Best Work Life
  • Merging Humanity & Technology
  • Navigating Employee Emotions at Work

I can’t wait to dig deeper into these topics, particularly ‘Empowering through Diversity & Equality’ and ‘Bringing Humanity to Performance Management.’ In addition to the sessions, I look forward to soaking up wisdom and inspiration from the incredible roster of keynote speakers which includes Kat Cole, Cy Wakeman, Pamela Puryear and Eric Bailey.

Join me in Nashville March 18-21, 2019, as we discuss creating workplaces that focus on the whole human being. It’s going to be an amazing time!

Use code WH19INF-TRA for $100 off. Don’t say I never gave you anything. 🙂

Hope to see you there!

nashville

 

Be the Change… You Belong at #WorkHuman

betheWe’ve all heard the oft-spoken directive “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” The words are usually attributed to Gandhi but my friend Google tells me this is not actually a direct, verifiable, Gandhi quote. Sounds good though, so let’s go with the sentiment.

When I think about the WorkHuman conference, I think about being the change I wish to see in the workplace. Recently a peer asked me a version of “what does your ideal job look like?” Ideally, I would have a role in which I am able to focus on employee experience – to make work a place folks don’t dread going to everyday or drag themselves to just to pay the bills. I want to create environments in which people are able to do their best work because they are free to be their whole, best selves. I want to help develop cultures in which individuals are valued for their unique backgrounds and experiences and recognized for their accomplishments. I want to help people understand what diversity truly is and that it means nothing without inclusion. I want to train managers to coach and encourage their direct reports. I have no idea if this job exists other than in my dreams but that would be the ideal.

That’s what attracted me to WorkHuman. I first heard about it in 2016, after the second conference was held, and immediately committed to attending the 2017 conference. At the time I didn’t know how I was going to make it happen but I knew it was a must because it was the first time I’d heard about a conference that focused on exactly the areas I’m passionate about. I had to be there.

From the website:

Globoforce pioneered the WorkHuman movement to galvanize leaders worldwide to harness the transformative power of people for the next generation of HR. We celebrate breakthrough organizations building human-centric workplaces where employees achieve their fullest potential – where people feel appreciated, connected, and empowered for who they are and what they do. WorkHuman recognizes businesses that thrive by bringing humanity and crowdsourcing to the employee experience. WorkHuman is the future of the workplace.

I want to be part of that future! That’s why I’m looking forward to attending the conference again this year and in perpetuity. The tracks for the 2018 conference are:

  • Crowdsourcing and the Performance Revolution
  • The Business Case for Social Recognition
  • Thriving through Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging
  • Your Whole Self
  • Humanizing Your Employer Brand
  • HR Leaders as Culture Facilitators
  • The Human Workplace

It’s perfect for me! In addition to the sessions, I look forward to soaking up wisdom and inspiration from the incredible roster of keynote speakers which includes Tarana Burke, Brené Brown, Shawn Achor, Salma Hayek Pinault, Simon Sinek, Amal Clooney and Adam Grant.

Join me in Austin as we discuss creating workplaces that focus on people as human beings, not just as workers. We are only two weeks out from the conference (April 2-5) but there is still time to register. Through April 1, you can save $200 off the onsite registration fee. Use code WH18INF-TRA for an additional $100 off. Don’t say I never gave you anything. 🙂

Hope to see you there!

Previous posts on WorkHuman:

WorkHuman 2017 – Bring Your Whole Self

WorkHuman? How Else Are We Gonna Work?

The Happiness Advantage (I Just Wanna Be Successful)

All I really want, is to be happy...” 

When the Queen of Hip-hop Soul, Mary J. Blige, sang those words in 1994 (when I was but a wee babe,)  she was referring to a romantic relationship but as it turns out happiness also gives us an advantage when it comes to being successful. And who doesn’t want that? Everybody wants that!

“I just wanna be, I just wanna be successful.. – Drake & Trey Songz, 2009

I recently watched Shawn Achor‘s TEDTalk on the happiness advantage (specifically the connection between happiness and success) in preparation for seeing him at the WorkHuman conference in April. He was super engaging and funny and made me really look forward to his keynote address.  I enjoy when people use humor to provoke thought.

You may not know this about me, but I’m lowkey obsessed with psychology. Why we are how we are. Why we do what we do. Why we think how we think. That type of thing. Mental illness, personality types.. the list goes on. I’ve also suffered from a major depressive disorder for the majority of my life. So, while it sounds good, I’ve never really been a fan of the whole “thinking happy thoughts will make you happy” mantra. However, this talk on positive psychology spoke to me. This piece in particular stood out:

“It’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us but the lens through which your brain views the world shapes your reality. 90% of long term happiness is predicted by the way your brain processes the world.” 

Well, damn. 90%!

Of course I’ve heard some variation on this theme before but, maybe it was his delivery, maybe I was more receptive because I was sleep deprived, I don’t know but suddenly it felt like a weight had been lifted and a light bulb had been illuminated. This little nugget nearly took me over the edge:

“The absence of disease is not health.”

It was like free therapy!

Achor posits, based on research, that by doing the following every day for 21 days we can create lasting positive change:

  • 3 Gratitudes – new ones each day
  • Journaling – 1 positive thing
  • Exercise – teaches us our behavior matters
  • Meditation – calms down our brains
  • Random (or Conscious) Acts of Kindness – suggests sending a positive email to one person in your network daily

If you follow me on Twitter, and you should, you already know I’m a huge proponent of the WorkHuman conference and movement. I planned  to attend even before the speakers were announced. Knowing there will be speakers of this caliber makes it that much better. If you’re not there, you’ll wish you were and life is too short for regrets.

Join me in Austin, TX this April! I guarantee you’ll leave uplifted and inspired to not only be your best self but to share what you’ve learned at work and with others so they will feel inspired and empowered to be their best, whole selves as well. Registration rates increase February 1 so don’t wait. Use code WH18INF-TRA for $100 off your registration fee. Happiness, success AND money savings – don’t say I never gave you anything. 🙂

#NotAThoughtLeader

*DISCLAIMER: To be clear, I am in no way, shape or form, saying, indicating or otherwise implying that positive thinking “cures” depression or anything of that nature. I only mentioned it for context.

Doing the Right Thing: Being a Good (#HR) Person

michael j fox

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fine, sometimes blurry, line between maintaining confidentiality and being a decent, genuine, HONEST, person in the world of human resources.  I’m not talking about not sharing personal information such as health issues, employee relations matters or pay (although a very strong  argument can certainly be made for pay transparency.) I’m talking about not being at liberty to speak on something that will impact an employee because it would be frowned upon from a business perspective even though from a human perspective it would be the right thing to do. In other words, if it was me, I would want to know. Wait. It IS me. I’m an employee too!

Is it just me or do other HR professionals struggle with this as well?

A while ago I saw the tweet below and honestly, I was offended by it. ben watts tweet

The premise being that HR should be outsourced because internal HR lets emotion get in the way. So…emotion is inherently wrong and/or HR consultants should be automatons with no feelings? I’ve been both and while I can understand why internal HR may be somewhat more invested because actions and policies affect them as well, if you’re a consultant that has no feelings, or doesn’t ever let emotion or empathy enter the picture, I wouldn’t want to work with you.

Image result for do the right thing

How do you/we/I balance humanity and transparency with maintaining confidentiality regarding business matters while still feeling like we’re doing the right thing not only as HR professionals but as human beings? I’d like to think I do a pretty good job of obtaining and maintaining that balance, but I’d be lying if I said some scenarios don’t weigh heavy on my heart at times. It’s important to me to be good at my job; but it’s even more important to me to be a good person. I believe part of bringing humanity into the workplace is treating people how you would want to be treated which translates to how and when you communicate with them as well as what you communicate about. After all, ‘do unto others…’ IS the golden rule. Maybe it should be the ONLY rule.

#NotAThoughtLeader

Let’s Start with Decency

Lately I have engaged in several conversations (online and IRL) surrounding race, racism, diversity and inclusion, as I’m sure many of you have, given today’s political and social climate. These conversations have been with friends, colleagues and fellow HR professionals. Thankfully I associate with some pretty intelligent, thoughtful, decent individuals who can discuss heated topics without becoming heated (passionate maybe, but not heated) and/or resorting to insults or name-calling. Thankfully. But for many, these types of conversations can often devolve into a free-for-all that becomes focused on the individual rather than on the topic. Or facts.

decency4During these conversations I’ve heard many stories of “true colors” being shown by folks people considered friends or at least decent associates. It seems this past presidential election and the current White House inhabitant have made vile and divisive words and actions against the “other” (race, gender, physical ability, sexuality, you name it) more acceptable and folks are feeling free to let their bigotry flag fly. Nowhere does that flag fly higher than online where folks develop superhero levels of courage from behind the keyboard. What does this say about us as a society? What does it mean for us in the workplace? What does it mean for HR professionals? More pointedly, what impact do these beliefs, when held by HR professionals, have on the rest of us?

If you’re a recruiter or hiring manager who believes black people are intellectually inferior, or that immigrants don’t deserve to be here, or that homosexuality is a sin, or that people with disabilities are somehow less than capable, or that women should stay home barefoot and pregnant, that has to affect your decisions in the workplace, right? How could it not?

If you’re a speaker who speaks on HR topics at conferences, or a consultant, or write an HR blog, how do your views not seep into your work? And if they don’t what type of a psychopath are you? I jest. But, seriously.

This topic is heavy on my mind. Not just because I’m headed to SHRM’s Diversity & Inclusion Conference next week (yay!) But also because I feel this pattern of hateful thoughts, beliefs and discourse will only get worse before it gets better. On a grand scale. However on a smaller scale, on the scale that is within my own little sphere of influence, I commit to do my part to make the world, the HR profession and the workplace a better place to be. For everyone.

I’m far from perfect but I know I’m a good, decent person and I truly believe all of this starts from there. Decency, empathy, and compassion are the building blocks of humanity. The more we infuse those into HR, it will in turn have an impact on our workplaces (WorkHuman, anyone?) which are composed of individuals who are a part of the world community. It’s all connected.

I know this was a bit of a ramble but thank you for making it this far. More to come!

(Posted on SHRM Blog October 23, 2017)

 

#WorkHuman? How Else Are We Gonna Work?

20170605_014829If you follow me on Twitter (and you should 🙂 ) you know I spent the better part of last week attending the WorkHuman conference in Phoenix, AZ. I expected it to be good but it shattered my expectations. The event was AMAZING and I am very much looking forward to being able to attend WorkHuman 2018.

I chose to attend sessions that focused on communication, authenticity, gratitude, recognition, diversity and inclusion. I took copious notes and tweeted some key takeaways. (See below; I was kind of a big deal. Lol.)

day3wh

I learned too much and gained too much inspiration from WorkHuman to contain it all in one blog post. Consider this compilation of some of my favorite quotes  as part one of a series.

Have the courage to speak softly.Susan Cain, Author & Lecturer

We all want the same things in life, to be seen and appreciated for who we are.Chaz Bono, Actor & Advocate (The title of this post also references a Chaz Bono quote.)20170605_014136

In a culture where people can only bring solutions, you won’t hear about the biggest problems. – Adam Grant, Author & Professor

20170605_014924

 

Have people stay in their lanes if that’s where they show excellence.  –  John Baldino, President, Humareso

At the end of the day we’re all humans. Treat everyone as individuals and the workplace will benefit.Dan Schawbel,  Workplace Expert

At the end of the day people want to have pride in what they do.Chinwe Onyeagoro, President, Great Place to Work

   20170605_014010

More WorkHuman goodness to come!

Life Lesson: Gratitude

happiness-via-gratitude-quote_daily-inspirationI have a wall hanging next to my bed that reads “Start Each Day with a Grateful Heart.” I placed this next to my bed so that I couldn’t help but see it every morning. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day drama of work, family and other responsibilities that we might forget to be grateful for our life experiences, relationships, lessons learned, skills & talents, etc.

At the WorkHuman conference I attended last week, they had an area called the ‘Gratitude Bar.’ The purpose of this was to recognize other people who were in some way helpful to you during the conference. There were four categories in which you could recognize someone: Happiness, Enlightenment, Inclusion and Authenticity. The idea was to show gratitude by recognizing someone in the moment. This concept was designed to replicate social recognition in the workplace.

How often do you take the time show gratitude in either your personal or professional life? It’s important for our own well-being to BE grateful but it’s equally important for our interactions and relationships with others to SHOW gratitude.

In the workplace, employee recognition has a significant impact on employee engagement and happiness as well as retention.  One of the WorkHuman sessions I attended was titled “Isn’t Thank You Enough?” The answer is no. A thank you is better than no thank you but after a while a thank you alone is meaningless.

By implementing gratitude into company culture, employees are more willing to spread their positive feelings with others, whether it’s helping out with a project or taking time to notice and recognizing those that have gone the extra mile. Employee recognition and appreciation can also create unique company culture and strengthen employee relationships.- The Psychological Effects of Workplace Appreciation & Gratitude, O.C. Tanner

Your assignment today folks, is to practice an attitude of gratitude in both word and deed. Let me know how it goes.

#WorkHuman 2017 – Bring Your Whole Self!

workhuman-2017If you follow me on Twitter (and you should 😉 ) you know I’ve been super excited for the past few months about attending the WorkHuman conference (May 30-June 1.) Ever since I first heard it was a thing – a conference dedicated to creating better work environments through culture & engagement – I knew I wanted to be there. Thankfully the opportunity presented itself for me to attend. Now, in just a few days, I’ll be in Phoenix, AZ, in a nice, air-conditioned conference center listening to folks talk about the workplace of the future – a human workplace – the type of workplace I want to cultivate.

For the past few days I’ve been trying to decide which sessions to attend. There are so many intriguing ones to choose from on my favorite topics like culture, engagement, diversity and recognition. I’m still not 100% sure which ones I’ll choose but I know I can’t go wrong with any of them. The keynote speakers alone are enough reason to attend. Among them are Susan Cain, the patron saint of my people aka introverts, Julia-Louis Dreyfus (Elaine, Old Christine, VEEP) and literally last but never, ever least (Former) First Lady Michelle Obama.  It’s gonna be hot in Phoenix, inside and out (triple digit temps)!

whtracks

If any of this sounds interesting to you, there’s still time to attend. You can register onsite! Need more convincing? See below.

“In just three information- and inspiration-packed days, you’ll gain the knowledge and tools you need to unlock the energy of your workforce, increase engagement, and help your company achieve its full business potential. You’ll leave energized and ready to forge a more human work culture in your organization.”

Plus..networking with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other HR and HR-adjacent professionals. And me. What more could you ask for? Join us!

P.S.- If you can’t make it this year, follow the fun on Twitter: @workhuman, @globoforce, #workhuman and be sure to check out my recap afterwards.