Workplace Whiplash


The last time we brought Tracey Lovejoy and Shannon Lucas - authors of "Move Fast. Break Shit. Burn Out." - on the podcast sparks flew and listeners couldn't get enough. So we're adding to the Move Fast and Break Shit hits with COVID Workplace Whiplash!


Check out more information and their free e-book at catalystconstellations.com


PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by:

Disability Solutions is your sourcing and recruiting partner for people with disabilities.


Tracy Lovejoy (0s):

For emotional whiplash in the workplace. The number one thing that we see helps is when you really have a space for connection and in true communication,


INTRO (9s):

Hide your kids! Lock the doors! You're listening to HR’s most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where it hurts! Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark, buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.


Joel (29s):

Oh yeah. What's up everybody. It's your favorite podcast the Chad and Cheese podcast. I'm your co-host Joel Cheesman joined as always by my partner in crime Chad Soash and today, we are just giddy, giddy to have Tracy Lovejoy and Shannon Lucas, back on the show.


sfx (50s):

cheers and applause


Chad (51s):

Again?!


Joel (51s):

Again, again, again, they're the authors of Move Fast. Break Shit. Burn Out: The Catalyst’s Guide to Working Well. Probably our favorite book title of the year. They're also with Catalyst Constellations, Tracy and Shannon, you came back! Have you had your mental health checks?


Chad (1m 7s):

There's so much feedback. So much feedback from our first conversation we had to have you back!


Joel (1m 11s):

Literally. Oh my God. It's so much love. Are you kidding me?


Chad (1m 18s):

It's sexy kind of love


Joel (1m 21s):

So much love.


Chad (1m 22s):

I literally had half a dozen calls where your book was in the background and I was like, what? What's going on? They're like, oh yeah, dude. I loved that episode. They were talking about me! Seriously. That's how my brain works. Right? So there are all these people who listen to podcasts actually bought the book. They enjoyed it and I was like, shit, we've got to have you guys back. So thanks for coming back.


Tracy Lovejoy (1m 44s):

Thank you for the ego stroke. Wow. That was amazing.


Joel (1m 48s):

What's got you guys all juiced up these days or since we last talked,


Tracy Lovejoy (1m 52s):

The thing that has us the most wound up lately we just gave a talk last week when we did a summit, we call it emotional whiplash, right? Certainly in the US we've seen this, this crazy time where in June, the Gallup organization put out these statistics about how Americans felt like they were thriving for the first time, certainly since pre-pandemic, but it's the highest that they have recorded in 13 years of checking this as a statistic. And then in July, we had all these headlines begin to hit, right? That Delta across Africa was unstoppable. That organizations like Apple and Asana and Amazon and Google were all delaying their returned to the office from fall till a little bit later, even into 2022, we begin to see lockdowns in Australia.


Tracy Lovejoy (2m 42s):

We're seeing the CDC go back and forth with, you know, mask regulations and so there's this emotional whiplash that starts happening for us. And by the end of July, Gallop did a different poll. And they said, you know, do you feel like COVID is getting better? And they had asked that same question in June and 3% of American adults that were, you know, the population sample said, we think 97% of us think it's getting better. And then by July only 50% feel like it's getting better. So we see this huge gap.


Chad (3m 14s):

Yes. Yes. It's horrible.


Tracy Lovejoy (3m 16s):

It's horrible.


Chad (3m 16s):

Let's throw back real quick for all those listeners who didn't get a chance to, yet to listen to the first podcast. Tell us a little bit about yourself, the company in the book, because when you say we were talking about everybody, but also we want to talk about how it's affecting catalysts, right? So go ahead.


Tracy Lovejoy (3m 34s):

Perfect. So, Hey, I am Tracy Lovejoy. The very proud co-CEO with Shannon Lucas, who is also here with us. And we really focus on people who are natural change-makers in the world that we call catalysts. We published our first book, as you mentioned in October of last year, move fast break shift burnout, which is our ode to catalysts, to the firestarters out there in the world. And it's the depth of understanding from the research we've done of what is it that makes us tick and how can we be more effective in this world where we really see all these opportunities to make positive change. One of the big challenges we face as a population are really frequent cycles of burnout because we're running so hard all the time at these things that we see.


Tracy Lovejoy (4m 19s):

And so in the book we're talking about, how can you continue to do these things that feel you're born to do without the depth of burnout and without the frequency? So it's a little bit about us.


Joel (4m 31s):

But enough about you. Let's talk about Chad, our favorite topic us. So you mentioned the head fake, and I think that's super, super interesting because for me, I was, I was talking about the summer of love on the show, right? I was like, we're all going to be Vaxxed. It's going to be a party. It's going to be concerts again, sporting events and lo and behold, not so much. So now I'm dealing with, and I'm sure everyone else is that thought the same of like, eh, maybe not so fast. And I fear the day if the world goes back into lockdown, cause I think there may be pitchforks. And you know, like I,


Tracy Lovejoy (5m 8s):

I agree. I thought that too.


Joel (5m 10s):

Dogs and cats living together, I'm really fearful for that. I'm sure you guys are too.


Tracy Lovejoy (5m 14s):

That's been happening for the last 18 months.


Shannon (5m 16s):

Totally and Australia is really struggling. I mean, their lockdowns have been intense and you know, I have family there and it's really intense. I think more so psychologically what they're going through. I did go to one outdoor concert and that's what I was thinking, Joel, I was just like, we needed some release valve and we may have to, you know, like Tracy was saying, you know, what we thought might unfold in the fall? Sounds like it might not. But at least we had this little reprieve. I think one of the interesting things that this means in terms of the workforce though, is, you know, when we first entered the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about, well, we've been talking about the future of work for a long time and remote working and digital transformation and all of that stuff.


Shannon (5m 56s):

And why weren't companies more ready for that? And you know, this last year has been companies having to grapple with some of just the basics, right? Like, do we have the technology in place? Do we have the management practices in place to enable remote working all of that stuff? I think one of the things that we're seeing now is we're like, okay, there is no known end in sight. I was just reading something today that said, this might be our new normal for five years. Right. So we just don't know. And so as we're getting brought in to talk with leaders about how to navigate this, I think there's this super interesting thread about the future of work. Yeah. All of those sort of basic technological and managerial practices have to be in place, but really now it's about which companies are going to be the most human or humane.


Shannon (6m 39s):

And you know, we're getting brought in to talk to this leadership group and that's what we're focusing on with them. It's like if you guys can't support each other as whole humans showing up as a leadership team and dealing with each other's burnout and dealing with this emotional whiplash, like, it's tough to set a strategy and then have to change it six weeks after you set this strategy when you're the one holding the bag for the whole company, right?


Chad (7m 3s):

Isn't it really hard though, because we say leadership and really we've been leading, like it's still the 1930s, 1950s, right. We haven't changed and that's all leading toward profit. It's not leading people. It's not focusing on the people it's focusing on the bottom line.


Shannon (7m 21s):

A hundred percent.


Chad (7m 22s):

So is this finally an opportunity where we can start to surface the conversations that we've needed to have for decades to change this fucking vehicle that we've been in, which has been a horse and buggy and jump into a goddamn Tesla? I mean, this is, to me, it's ridiculous.


Shannon (7m 39s):

I think you're right. And what's really interesting, in addition to all of this, which all sort of like economic science would never have predicted there's some as great resignation from, you know, the sort of bottom of the, you know, economic scale to the top of the economic scale. Blue collar workers to senior executives are saying, I refuse to work under these conditions anymore, even though the unemployment rate is ridiculous. And so there's this huge pause as people are like, okay, life is short, the pandemic has taught us that I want to have meaning and impact. And so to your point, the leaders that are going to win the talent or are the ones that are going to do this pivot fastest, which is say, we need to show up as human beings.


Shannon (8m 19s):

We need to provide the support and recognize they're not just cogs in the wheel, they're not human resources. They are actually people in our organization that are making up these organizations. And interestingly, since we talked, Tracy and I published an ebook where we highlighted 11 different stories of companies that thrived actually during the pandemic, didn't just survive but thrived. And this is where we go back to the catalyst part of the story, because there were catalytic leaders in these organizations and pretty universally, one of the sort of C-level takeaways that of each of those stories is how they were meeting their employees, where they were as people and supporting them. Because if you don't have that sort of sense of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, right?


Shannon (9m 1s):

Like if you don't have those bottom things taken care of you certainly can't help your company navigate this crazy transition we're going through.


Joel (9m 8s):

And who do you guys think is sort of hurting the most? I mean, we're going back to school. So I automatically think about, you know, working mothers and parents, particularly single mothers, where this was a huge issue. And if they have to go back into lock down or back to homeschool learning, that's one group that I think of is being really challenged right now. What are some other groups that you guys are seeing are sort of extra challenge right now?


Tracy Lovejoy (9m 33s):

Statistically, you can see that folks that don't have college educations are struggling the most, that even though there's a large number of jobs, there's still a population that struggles to find work because of the jobs that are available. So that's really present. That's not the emotional whiplash necessarily. That's a persistent problem.


Shannon (9m 52s):

But I think that's the right vein. And the other thing that I would add too, I'm on the advisory board for the Barbara Bush Family Foundation for Literacy. And before the pandemic, I was helping them with their tech strategy about how do you cross the digital divide to address really systemic literacy issues that we have in this country. And as you all know, when you can no longer go to school and that's an option that digital divide actually has, like, you know, 10X, a hundred X implications, depending on how you slice and dice it.


Chad (10m 22s):

Yeah. So let's talk about the whole conversation cause there's whiplash, but then there's also the conversations that companies aren't having about coming back into the office being hybrid. It's almost like, you know, the communication of these major organizations are just total shit. And then they change their mind because they made a bad decision. I mean, how does that actually affect the workforce?


Shannon (10m 46s):

But they made the best decision with the information that they had at the time. And we are guilty of this too, where like, look, things are opening up. And so we were like, we want to do a retreat. We heard that our community really, really needed it now more than ever. And it looked like that was a total reasonable possibility. And then a short six weeks later, you're like, no, we can't reasonably do that. So I just want to give some grace to the leaders because this is tough to navigate through.


Chad (11m 13s):

So, but there were so many jobs before the pandemic that company said, we cannot do these from home. Oh, guess what? We're doing all these fucking jobs from home. Right. So, so overall I think it has a lot to do with the companies, not taking the time to focus on the human, but again, focus on the real estate they've paid for and/or the management style that they have because you got to have a butt in the seat if there's not a butt in the seat I that can't manage that. But, well, aren't you, the worst manager that there is for 2021 or 2022 and beyond?


Tracy Lovejoy (11m 48s):

It's tough. I work with a fair number of CEOs. And to Shannon's point, there's just managing the disruption to everyone's business for some it's positive disruption, right? Depending on the area you're in.


Chad (12m 0s):

Isn't that what we're always looking for though, aren't we always looking for an opportunity to disrupt and there've been great companies who've done, done well.


Tracy Lovejoy (12m 10s):

Absolutely to the ebook. And just the compassion part. The, you know, question you're asking of who's struggling that it's easy to demonize leadership. It is, and yet CEOs are responsible for the running of a business and not having it go under. And so there's kind of two veins that we have to acknowledge. There's how do we keep the ship moving? And how do we do that to your point, recognizing that there's a revolution happening that we have to fundamentally think more about what the work environment is and what the benefit is to the workers, more than a paycheck. And so there's this balance that has to happen and yet in a very finite amount of time. So I don't at all disagree with you. And my favorite leaders are doing this, and this is what you see in the ebook that Shannon's pointing to, that we just published, that the companies that simultaneously we're like, we have to totally rethink who we are as a business, but we know we can't do that without taking care of you and your mental wellbeing and making sure you feel safe in your life and here at work.


Tracy Lovejoy (13m 12s):

Yeah. Then those were the companies that we see thriving, but it's hard. It's hard to do that.


Joel (13m 7s):

Can we dissect the word burnout for just, just a second? I think historically when people hear, burn out, they may be, think, you know, like, oh, what a pussy, like, suck it up and like, you know, rub some dirt on it and get back in the game. Whereas today I think we're reevaluating, like this is a real mental challenge. This is a real thing people deal with.


Tracy Lovejoy (13m 34s):

Oh yeah.


Joel (13m 37s):

So can you talk a little bit about what burnout is in terms of your definition and that it's a real thing and not just a, you know, rub some dirt on it.


Tracy Lovejoy (13m 46s):

Yeah. And that's evolved for us over, over the course of the pandemic because there's a definition that exists, right. And the World Health Organization has classified burnout as a thing, a diagnosable thing in 2018 it was added to their identifiable list of issues that we can experience. And it was tied to work place. It was tied to a feeling of dread in getting up and not wanting to do work. It was tied to a sense of reactivity. It was tied to, you know, not feeling like you have support from your management. There are very specific definitions. When we hit the pandemic what you're pointing to, is we have this more holistic set of things that were impacting our energy, our mental well-being, our physical and emotional energy, things like fear and uncertainty, things like isolation, things like lack of novelty for our brain.


Tracy Lovejoy (14m 35s):

And so it had to expand that we don't necessarily have better new language. And when Shannon and I would do workshops with organizations, we talked about it as burnout plus. Right? even different than how we had it in the book is in the book we were using a more classic definition.


Joel (14m 50s):

Do I get free shipping with burnout plus?


Tracy Lovejoy (14m 52s):

Yeah, no doubt. That's exactly right. And so it's this acknowledgement that there's all these forces that we don't have a lot of control of and that we don't have models, even in psychology to speak to the type of trauma that we're experiencing as a global body. Right? And so companies for the first time, as you're saying, have to move it past the soft Fluffy's of like, oh, you're a little tired too. Not only are my people resigning, but my people can't do their job and everyone's performance is suffering. And therefore my company is suffering, let alone that I'm sick and I'm, you know, actually have COVID and I'm out, but people can't show up and do their jobs. They're breaking down emotionally. Right. Rates of depression and stress are at an all time.


Tracy Lovejoy (15m 34s):

High is reported from psychologists, suicide rates have been going up across all populations, especially young people. So we can't ignore it.


Shannon (15m 41s):

Gun violence.


Tracy Lovejoy (15m 42s):

Yeah. Violence and aggression across the board. Absolutely.


Chad (15m 46s):

Yeah. And we see that on airlines.


Shannon (15m 50s):

Airlines right. Right!


Joel (15m 50s):

OMGod.


Chad (15m 50s):

Can you talk about the Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka?


Tracey (15m 55s):

Yes!


Chad (15m 55s):

I mean, Naomi Osaka pulled out of the French open because of, it seemed like burnout, right. Also the same thing with Simone Biles and both of them were looked at as again, Joel had said, rub some dirt on it. Can't you just do your job? And I think this has brought a new, I don't know.


Joel (16m 18s):

Spotlight.


Chad (16m 18s):

Yeah. It's not just a spotlight. It is really accelerated conversation in this COVID time. Right?


Joel (16m 22s):

Right.


Tracy Lovejoy (16m 22s):

And it's interesting with Simone Biles that what we saw across the week after she pulled out of the first event, that she then was talking about the physical impacts that she was experiencing related to this? Right. That she wasn't able to physically land. She wasn't able to physically keep her balance and that's not part of the burnout definition. And yet we see increasingly the physical manifestations and the health impacts that are tied to burn out, but usually we separate. Because if someone has pneumonia, we give them all the grace in the world to recuperate.


Shannon (17m 1s):

I do want to bring in too there's an interesting conversation, it was part of this clubhouse conversation and people were talking about, you know, are we going back to work? And what does that mean for us all, et cetera. And there was an African-American woman on the panel who brought up a really good point as people were trying to sort of, you know, universalize, if that's a word, the experience that we have during the pandemic. And she said, actually, and this is her reporting, I haven't seen the research, but she said, statistically black women are actually more interested in working from home because it's, there's just less of the friction that they have to navigate in society in different ways when they're in the workplace or in these different environments. And I don't want to go too far down that rabbit hole, but I do think it's interesting that it's two African-American women who stood up in their power and said, no, I'm not doing this to please anyone else, my mental health trumps all of that.


Shannon (17m 49s):

And just the burden that we carry and, you know, Joel, you were talking about single moms and think it's like we, as leaders, we have to look at, you know, yes, there needs to be equity among how we're treating all of the people, but we also need to meet people where they are in their individual lived experiences. And that's something that no manager is taught to do. Right? I mean, we get some pretty generic management skills about how to make an effective workforce.


Joel (18m 15s):

So where do you think we're going? So in terms of, you know, diversity inclusion, equity, you've been pointed an African-American woman who feels more secure working from home, but you could also argue, right. That everyone being in their own little silo is not necessarily good for all of us getting together and learning to sort of interact with each other. So where does the world, as it is in terms of diversity and inclusion stand in terms of where you guys sit, does the head fake that we're talking about the whiplash impact negatively or positively where that reality is going in terms of where we are.


Shannon (18m 47s):

I connect this back to the leadership conversation that we were just having, which is, I think Chad, you were saying like, is this the time? Is this the time that we get to actually get to where we should be in terms of leadership and organizational structures and how we're showing up as humans? And I hope so. I think we, I think we have to, I don't think there's another choice. And so implicit in that is sort of what you were talking about and sort of building on my last point, you know, you can't treat all employees the same at any given day. Like one of the companies that we highlight in the ebook, they would have regular check-ins with people throughout the company built kind of a feedback system so that, you know, when one person was experiencing their own, you know, their own personal, traumatic experience throughout the pandemic, they would engage with them at that moment right there.


Shannon (19m 33s):

And they would know, oh, that person likes flowers, or that person would like a card or, you know, it's a smaller organization, so they can do that. But it wasn't, you know, LinkedIn did a different version, which is like, everyone gets a week off this week, we're shutting down the whole company. Also good, but it's a different way of the company that I'm highlighting was thinking about meeting people where they are. And I think that feeds into the diversity thing too, like that those are conversations that we haven't been taught or safe to have. Haven't been taught how to have them safely. And so what are the different needs of your different employees? Because we all come from different backgrounds with different challenges.


Joel (20m 9s):

Where does Wall Street fit in, fit into all this or shareholders? Cause I mean, my sense is that they could give a rat's ass as long as, you know, the bottom line is what it is. But is Wall Street coming to grips with a healthier workforce means a better company or could they care less?


Tracy Lovejoy (20m 27s):

I don't know, I don't know at what level. Right, right now I can say that we see good indicators that large organizations, if that's your proxy for Wall Street are recognizing that they have to listen to some of the demands that have existed for a long time, that they've been able to ignore, right? Places like McDonald's beginning to offer childcare, right? Like unheard of things shifting. How long will employees, the power that they do right now? I don't know. Will that really create a larger shift in how, you know, kind of power is distributed in the United States?


Tracy Lovejoy (21m 8s):

It feels unlikely, but I don't know. I don't see evidence right now "we've toppled the man," if that makes sense?


Joel (21m 15s):

I think they're grappling with what companies will be successful based on work from home or technologies that can supply that can support that. But I think they have yet to sort of think about what does that mean to the worker psyche and which companies are supporting that better than others and does it impact the bottom line? I think we're not there yet.


Shannon (21m 31s):

I would love to go down that rabbit hole for a minute because there's a couple of interesting points there. So the business round tables, redefinition basically of, you know, moving to stakeholder capitalism is a first good step. And they include thinking about the employees and their wellbeing, as in part of that conversation. We're sort of, at that moment, you could make the correlation to the sustainability movement 20 years ago, like how much of that is lip service? They, you know, came up with that on their own so there is some external pressure for them to be articulating that at least as a vision, even if they're not moving into it. I do think pretty quickly and giving this sort of talent place that we're at, it will prove out, so like if you looked at companies that had stronger commitments to sustainability reporting, just the reporting alone, they were outperforming their competitors on the Dow sustainability index.


Shannon (22m 22s):

So you start to get the metrics that then justify from the early adopters that then justify, you know, why different companies should be making different investments in that. I would also say the thing that's very alive and present this week is the IPCCs, you know, latest report on "were fucked from a climate perspective." And you can't disconnect this from employee wellbeing. Like I was up all last night thinking about it because in Colorado, I literally can't breathe outside. You know?


Joel (22m 49s):

Just to clarify the fires, the fires?


Shannon (22m 51s):

Yeah. From California, I'm in Colorado.


Joel (22m 54s):

We have a huge global audience. So they may not know what's going on in Colorado.


Shannon (22m 59s):

Yeah.


Chad (22m 59s):

Yeah. Well Greece is burning as well right?


Shannon (23m 1s):

And Turkey. Yeah. I mean, it's bad. And so I think, if you come back full circle, like our wellbeing as a species, businesses can no longer ignore. And so the case is being made like the most adaptive agile leaders are the ones that are going to help, hopefully.


Tracy Lovejoy (23m 16s):

Yeah.


Shannon (23m 16s):

Humanity navigate through all of this.


Tracy Lovejoy (23m 18s):

And this is a distinction, and to your question, Joel, again, I don't know if it's at what level it is, but Shannon and I see this a lot because there's a certain type of leader that brings us in. So there's companies that I can read about that are looking at like, okay, what is it that is going to attract talent? Check, check, check, let me put it in place. And then there's companies that are saying, what do we need to fundamentally shift in our culture to sustain and create a safe environment for constant innovation and to be ready for the next disruption.


Tracy Lovejoy (23m 59s):

So those are two different pathways.


Joel (24m 0s):

Interesting.


Chad (24m 0s):

Yeah. Yeah. So in starting to wrap up, I'd like to get some tips for catalysts that are out there and then the managers of catalysts, because we are, as you would said in a state of whiplash and it was bad enough being locked down in COVID in the first place, but now we're, we don't know where we're at and we're in the state of whiplash. So what are your tips for catalysts? And then what are your tips for people who actually have to manage those individuals?


Shannon (24m 29s):

You want to take one Tracy, and I'll take the other?


Tracy Lovejoy (24m 34s):

Yeah, I'll start a bit broader for humans. That zoom has been a really strange environment to support connection. And so for emotional whiplash in the workplace, the number one thing that we see helps is when you really have a space for connection and true communication. And when you have a, "I have 60 minutes on the calendar and we have this to get done, and then we log off" a lot of those conversations that would happen in the hallway, that would be more casual can't happen. And so ensuring that you are looking at what are ways to connect people is number one. For catalysts in particular that psychological safety, this is of course good for all humans, but you cannot support your people who are going to help create change and support disruption and help you be ready in the now and ready for the future.


Tracy Lovejoy (25m 20s):

Without them being able to feel like they have a space to speak their truth, even if that's, oh my gosh, I'm so tired today. I think I'm going to collapse. And there's not a lot of places that that's allowed to be said back to the point of, you know, brush it off. So for catalyst in particular, if you want the change makers in your organization, if you want to facilitate a place like that, you have to begin this work.


Shannon (25m 44s):