In this episode, Jason and Jordan further explore the concept of wellbeing in the workplace and how it is a collaborative effort between employers and employees. They discuss the importance of establishing boundaries and responsibilities for employees to experience wellbeing. Furthermore, they delve into the influence of our childhood experiences on our relationships with responsibility in the workplace and share personal stories from their childhood.
Creating an environment where individuals can thrive is crucial, as it allows employees to bring their authentic selves to work. As companies grow, we discuss strategies for scaling wellbeing initiatives to ensure continued success. We also emphasize the connection between a sense of acceptance and having responsibilities within the organization.
A company’s ideals for its employees should be rooted in its core values, aligning the organization’s mission with the individual’s sense of purpose.
Lastly, we emphasize that when choosing a company to work for, factors such as salary and benefits should not be the sole determining factors. Instead, it is essential to consider the overall culture, values, and support for employee wellbeing.
Key ideas and highlights
- There is so much more to work than a transaction.
- Wellbeing is the responsibility of both the employee and employer.
- We are messy, complicated, flawed individuals. Employers must allow employees to bring their full selves to work.
- A company’s expectations for their employees should stem from their values.
Word of the day
- Carouse — said 29:59 ✅
- 0:00 Intro
- 2:35 Wellbeing is a coordinated effort between employer and employee
- 6:53 Employees need two things to experience wellbeing: boundaries and responsibilities
- 9:11 How our childhood affects our responsibility relationships in the workplace
- 15:33 An environment where people can thrive allows them to bring their whole selves to work
- 17:33 How companies can scale wellbeing as their teams grow
- 19:26 A feeling of acceptance comes with responsibility
- 21:20 A company’s ideals for their employees should stem from their values
- 23:10 The difference between humility and arrogance
- 25:56 Choose companies based off values not salaries
- 26:35 Work is more than transactional
How many hours and years of our lives do we spend on work? For nearly all of us, we spend 30 plus years and one third of our days in our vocation, more time perhaps, than we spend at rest or at play. But this isn’t a problem. Why? Because work is good. Work needs to be integrated deeply into our lives and must be in line with our most important goals and values. And if it is, we have a far more complete and fulfilling life experience. Welcome to the How People Work podcast, where we explore the intersection of how humans think and act and how they apply themselves to their work. When you understand both of these things, you’ll be equipped to be insightful, compassionate, and compelling leaders.
Welcome back to How People Work. This is a co-host of yours, Jordan Pease. I’m sitting here with Jason Murray. I hesitate to say this is your host, because I used to be the only host. I mean, you can be the host. I’m not sure what to say anymore. Welcome to episode 15 today, shocker. We’re going to be talking a little bit more about wellbeing. I think we’ve explored what wellbeing isn’t and maybe, hopefully, broken down some myths and some barriers around what that word means and how it’s applied in the workplace in particular. And then we studied a few, we studied a few studies, if you will, and what others are saying, Deloitte in particular, which was, I think, really well done. And I think today we want to, we’ll see where it goes, but we kind of wanted to get into our own personal thoughts about what wellbeing is, how it ought to be defined, what it should look like, maybe some examples from our leadership with Fringe, et cetera, et cetera.
And I think build on some of the ideas that we’ve talked about in previous episodes around just this kind of work life balance and sort of deconstructing that myth. And so when I was thinking about this episode in particular, I felt like we’ve sort of spent a bunch of time deconstructing wellness and wellbeing and what it isn’t, or maybe conventional thinking about it. But I thought, well, it would probably be helpful to maybe start constructing back something positive. And I think we’ve done that in some ways, but it feels like it’s a pretty multifaceted topic: wellbeing. And so there’s probably not just a single definition, but we could probably start triangulating onto something that’s a helpful, maybe working concept for people as they’re thinking about applying it within their organizations.
I think one of the things that stuck out to me in that Deloitte study that I think was really useful that I never had put into words very well, was the idea that creating wellbeing is a coordinated effort between employer and employee. It’s neither’s full responsibility, at least at work, at least in the work context. And being that work is such a huge part of people’s lives, and those two things are integrated, there is a responsibility on the employer to create an environment where people can thrive and experience wellbeing. Now, we as employers, of course, can’t impact every single area of someone’s life. We don’t always know everything that’s going on at home, for example, and so forth. But you can create a space in which it’s safe for people to bring the hardships that they’re experiencing into the workplace, in certain contexts, ask intentional questions and help just create that environment.
But I think I made this point last time, but what gets lost is, okay, my employer’s going to take care of wellbeing for me. They’re going to check that box, and I’m going to go feel well every single day because this parental figure in my life is going to cover that for me. And I think that’s a mistake. So there’s two mistakes that can be made. The employer can make the mistake of going, not my responsibility just do your job. Right? And the employee can make the mistake of thinking, this is something that is being provided for me. Similar to I think a discussion you and I had recently, which was behind closed doors, which is now not behind closed doors, cause I’m saying it on a podcast. But the way we felt about when we put our Fringe values out there in the world and what they were intended to be was a set of norms and expectations that, hey, we are all going to adopt and abide by these values. And I think for some, they turned into promises that leadership is going to treat me with these values. That’s that’s what I’m going to be given. Right? And I think that was, that’s a lesson learned from me as a leader. And I think for the whole executive team that we need to communicate values in such a way, no, this is normative. This is all of us. These are expectations we’re going to put on each and every one of us. This isn’t an advertisement of what it’s going to be like to work here. Right?
So there’s that. Again, it’s that mutual responsibility of employer and employee to generate the environment that we’re looking to generate. Yeah. So I think ther’s some overlap there.
Yeah, I think it’s great overlap. It makes me think about families, and I know we shy away generally from analogizing work to family because -
Well, we try to shy away from it, but I think we often get back to it because we’re sitting here with eight kids under 12 between the two of us.
Well, and I think it’s safe to say work is not a family. The conditions of the relationships are very different. But there’s things that I think we can infer from
Kids don’t get fired as much as we might exactly want to occasionally,
But, well, where I was going with that, cause something you said just a minute ago made me think of this was we also are very annoyed by kids who are freeloading and not carrying any weight. And so when you were talking about values being something that are done for somebody versus this kind of collective participation in a set of values that we all hold, that’s kind of the expectation within a family is we teach our kids like, Hey, there’s jobs that you’re going to start doing around the house as you’re old enough and able to contribute to what we’re trying to build here, because that is a value that we have as a family. And so if you don’t, then it’s actually frustrating. And there’s even discipline that comes into play in those scenarios where it’s like, Hey, there’s certain things that you need to have true about how you go about your business and life in order to be a productive human being and contribute maybe fairly or equitably to the communities that you’re a part of, which in this case would be your family.
Yeah. Well, I think it’s coming from a loving place as well with children. And then if you apply it to the workplace, it’s the same idea. Kids are not going to, and employees are not going to feel a sense of wellbeing if they don’t have two things: if they don’t have boundaries and they don’t have responsibility. Right. I just, well forget employees for a second. Just thinking about children. If children have no boundaries, they live in a sense of chaos, right? They don’t know who the authority is, they don’t know what the rules are. They don’t know what’s okay. And so they actually live in fear. They don’t understand.
There’s a lot of anxiety that comes with that.
Constant anxiety. Cause they don’t know what’s expected of them and what to do. And so any action might be met by any reaction from their parents, right? Because they don’t understand cause and effect, right? Because there’s not enough discipline there. And then without responsibility, they never really mature into a place where they see their own kind of contribution in the world and start to form a sense of purpose. And here’s my role and here’s what I’m good at, and here’s what I can contribute. That’s how they start to feel grown up. That’s how they start to feel like real people and not just kind of freeloading toddlers, which is fine. Toddlers can freeload. That’s acceptable. They’re two. They’re two. It’s fine.
When they’re four. I mean, it’s a totally different story.
A gray area -
You tie your own shoes.
- how this grows over the course of time. And different parents approach it at different paces, I think, right? But setting aside kids and thinking about employees, it’s kind of the same thing when you think about wellbeing. People are not going to experience wellbeing with those same, without the same two attributes. If they don’t know the rules of the game, then they live in a constant state of anxiety. Am I doing a good job because I’m not sure what my job description is. I’m not sure what’s expected of me. And then without a sense of, Hey, you need to take ownership over your own life and your own choices and be responsible if you do too much of that for employees and sort of coddle, which I think I’m guilty of. I’m a coddler when it comes to the employe- employee relationship, then you rob people of the opportunity for some growth and to kind of find within themselves their best contribution and what they can be in the workplace.
So I don’t know where this is going to go, but I’m interested because this topic has me thinking that our experiences that we have maybe in relation to our families or our parents, seemingly have an impact on how we approach responsibility relationships at work. And so I’m curious totally for you,
Totally, impact on everything in your life.
What do you feel like are maybe expectations or experiences that you kind of carry from how you grew up that apply to the way that you’ve thought about responsibility at work or how you interact in that setting?
Is this the Jordan Cries episode? You want me to, it can be, you want me to go all the way there? Gosh, I don’t mind sharing some personal things here. So this, but for the sake of the audience, I grew up in a household really loving, wonderful household, me and had a older brother still do. And I think when I was, gosh, I’ve lost the plot now. 10 years old, maybe 10 years old. I think as my mom got diagnosed with cancer for the first time, she experienced several different cancers. But the point of the story is that was a central kind of theme in our family, was like, we’re going to battle together this disease. And we had successes and we had some losses, and we had more successes. And it was actually a really back and forth thing for an entire decade.
And one of the things I learned, a learned behavior that I had was, Hey, I’m a kid. I’m not a doctor. There’s not a whole lot I can do medically. There’s not a whole lot I can facilitate in terms of getting a lot of tasks done, because I’m just not that capable. But what I can do is I can make people laugh. I can raise spirits, raise the spirits of the room. I can be a little lighthearted in heavy moments and so forth, and just get people a little bit out of the fear or the grief or the anxiousness or whatever the case may be. And so I’m still that person. I mean, in the midst of, I’m like, I could be sitting in a funeral and I whisper a joke to somebody. Cause I have this learned behavior of I need to lighten the mood and people need that from me.
And to kind of entertain and so forth. So I mean, it’s what you go through in your childhood. I mean, just impacts your entire personality, your entire thoughts about your mission of life and what you’re all about and so forth. Also, and a lot of folks listening probably won’t be familiar, but there’s a personality assessment called the Enneagram and the personality type of that Enneagram test. That’s a numerical one through nine. And I fall in this number eight category and the number eight, they’re kind of key desire in life is the need to be against, they need an enemy, in other words. They need something to fight. And it’s no surprise, 10 years old, cancer comes into our family. We get into a fight with it jointly. And my whole life, I’m 37 years old, I’m just looking for fights, but I’m looking for fights that I can fight alongside others. So I’m a big recruiter as evidenced by the fact that we have five founders of our startup. I’m a big recruiter. I don’t want to just fight. I want to get my group together and let’s go battle it out, and let’s do something that seems impossible, have a big scary fight, because I don’t really feel like lesser fights are worth fighting. It needs to be incredibly hard for it to feel worthwhile. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, absolutely. I don’t know if I’m getting at your question, but Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. That colored my entire life.
Yeah. So growing up a military kid is a very different experience. So I mean, it’s interesting hearing you talk about it in relationship to work and what that’s meant. And yeah, I mean, I’ve known you long enough that the story of how you gather people together and that sense of we’re going to go fight and be against something and accomplish something big is great. And I think that’s part of what’s made our partnership as friends and in business so good. And it’s funny for me because I feel like my dad, having been a drill sergeant in the Marine Corps, when I was growing up for a couple years alongside of a long career in the military, I just had this sense of do the right thing, responsibility, take care of your business, the buck stops with you. All of this throughout -
Super high accountability. And I’d say that that’s probably not actually extremely natural for my personality in some ways. I mean, maybe in some areas, but I’m not naturally, I think a highly disciplined person as some people might be that you’d go and look at. But I do think that there’s this sense for me as I approach my work, even of it requires responsibility and you do need to own it. And there’s kind of a drive that comes out of that. I mean, as I’ve unpacked with my counselor and stuff like that, yeah, there’s, there’s negative sides to that as well. But I mean, think that’s some of probably what we’ve gotten to a little bit in that individuals have some responsibility themselves, even for understanding, Hey, what are you bringing to the table that’s impacting why work may feel a certain way? It’s not like work, or your experience of work is just objectively good or bad, right? We’re bringing stuff to the table when we go to a work setting or take on a role that is all these years of what we think work should be and healthy mindsets and unhealthy mindsets and strengths and weaknesses and so on.
I think what I was thinking while you were talking, I was listening, I promise, but I was also thinking, everybody listening brings some story, maybe similar may be far different, but they bring that into work every day. And I think part of what, creating an environment where people can thrive, where there’s human flourishing, to use your term, where wellbeing can be a big part of the culture is having a place where you can bring your story in, where you’re allowed to have a past, you’re allowed to have a childhood, you’re allowed to have wounds and pains and preferences and whatever beliefs. And it’s part of, it’s obvious, you could use the word diversity to apply to that, but I think diversity is almost little bit too much of a buzzword to really cover it. I think it’s an acceptance of flawed people with painful pasts, right?
Yeah. That’s more of the expression I would use to describe what this welcoming environment ought to look like. And it’s a tough thing to scale. Intimacy is a tough thing to scale, right? Because when you have 10 people in your organization, you can ask intentional questions, you can get to know them, trust builds. Eventually you begin to hear their story. And of course, there’s going to be a situation where people feel a sense of wellness, right? Yeah. Oh, I brought my whole self. That whole self was accepted. That whole self was, dare I say, loved. And there’s a coordinated effort to take that whole self and to figure out the best contribution and the best work and the best style of work, and the best hours of work and whatever. All you can custom, you can bespoke that, if you will, to use that as a verb, which is not.
But then at scale, how do you do it? How do you create that deeper sense of wellbeing? I think the only way is to replicate that through a managerial process or a leadership process. People are trained to not just tell people what to do and why we’re doing it, which is two very important things, but to also connect on that deeper level and to understand who it is that’s working for them and what their story is. And I think it might be achievable, so long as you don’t have one person leading 20 people, if you keep that kind of span of control, I think you ought to rebrand that span of care maybe, might be, Span of care might be a better term, that it might be achievable. Yeah.
Yeah. You said something that kind of stuck with me, and I want to talk about it a little bit more because you mentioned acceptance as part of this kind of concept of intimacy. And maybe it’s because I’m an introvert and I have only so much capacity for intimacy in my life, but I was also thinking about this concept of psychological safety. And I’m not sure I always understand what people mean when they say it. I’m not sure they do either. Fair. I wonder if sometimes, and this is related to our discussion on what do we bring to the table from our childhood and whatnot, if we put acceptance at the pinnacle of what it means to feel like I belong somewhere. And if that’s right. So if we go back to the analogy of a family, well, what’s, what is one thing that’s true of a family? You’re part of the family, right?
You’re accepted permanently.
Right? Should be. I mean, in a properly functioning family, acceptance should be sort of the operating truth across the board. But then what happens in a healthy family to develop individuals, and I mean, maybe come back to kids, this is a useful way to do this, is we challenge them, right? So it’s not just like, Hey, I love you and you’re accepted, right? I love you. You’re accepted, and there’s responsibility you’re going to need to take on. Yeah. There’s ways that you’re going to need to grow. There’s going to be challenge that you have to take on for things that are hard even. And so I think the question is, are the hard things actually bad? Because the sense I get from interacting with people is sometimes I just want to be accepted. Don’t make me do anything hard, right?
Yeah. Right. Well, I think that’s a child’s perspective to just go, well, I just am. Just accept whatever I am. But I think there’s a dip, a difference between acceptance and approval or acceptance, and no one’s ever done. No one’s finished growing. No one, no one’s arrived, ever. So I think the acceptance is, I’m going to take you into this team, and I’m going to take your past and I’m going to take those wounds and all that pain and all that stuff. But there’s still an expectation that these values and these norms that we put out there as something that you agreed to when you took the job, you, you’re expected to live that out here, right? So there isn’t just like, well, whatever you are relationally, whatever you are socially, whatever, however you act, is okay. Yeah. That’s not true. There has to be a standard. There has to be an idea of what the ideal is, and the ideal should be set forth by a company’s values.
So that’s a really interesting idea because whenever you put forth an ideal, it means that we’re not going to meet it.
Because an ideal, by definition, is something
That necessarily means that
That is to some degree unattainable. And so therefore, I’m measuring myself against an ideal, which means I am always falling short of that ideal. So it’s this funny tension that we have of our need for acceptance as human beings. We’re not perfect. We’ve got our baggage and our stories and so forth, but yet, if we don’t have an ideal to strive for, what are we aiming for? We’ve talked about that. What are we doing? Yeah, we’ve talked about that. Yeah. Actually in previous episodes, it’s like, what are we aiming for? Has a lot to do with how we go about operating in the world.
Yeah. I don’t think I’m okay, you’re okay is love. I don’t think that’s a loving way to treat people in your life. I think you should understand what they want, and you should understand what their goals are, what matters to them and what they’re aiming towards. And if they’re not aiming towards anything, maybe a little coaching would help to, Hey, you should maybe set your sights on something. We talked about purpose and past episodes. But then once you understand the purpose and the purpose they signed up for by taking the job and taking on the values as ascribed, you need to coach ‘em towards that with the knowledge that they will fail. But I mean, they will necessarily fail, and as will the leader, as will everybody in the organization, which I think, I’m just thinking through our own values document. There’s phrases in there like, fail boldly, be flawed, but be flawed and don’t front. Right? That’s the key. That’s the difference between humility and arrogance. Both a humble person and an arrogant person are flawed, but the arrogant person pretends not to be. And the humble person accepts that they are and will tell you that they are flawed. And you cannot coach someone who won’t. Right. You can’t. Well, because they’re not participating in their own wellbeing.
Humility at its core is an acknowledgement that you don’t know everything. So if you don’t -
And you’re not perfect.
And so, yeah, they’re kind of one and the same. And so humility requires that you’re acknowledging, I guess, a deficit you might call it. That’s a deficit that’s universally true about humans. But I mean, coming back to this idea, even though the ideal cause I think that to me, there’s something more profound that maybe gets at our discomfort because an ideal judges you, and we are very uncomfortable with judgment. Who are you to judge me? Right? Yes. I’m a person. I’m a beautiful butterfly. Right? Who are you to judge me by some standard? But what we’re getting to is without a standard, we have no aim. And so we have to have some kind of standard or ideal, because otherwise we have nothing to aim for. But as soon as we have that ideal, it judges us, and that judgment is uncomfortable unless we can maybe be more comfortable with humility.
Well, I think to reiterate, I think that’s the mistake that I made with Fringe. One of many mistakes I’ve made with this company that we run, but one of the mistakes I’ve made, again, is not laying those values out as an ideal, as an expectation. It was more, I think it came, and I didn’t mean it this way initially when I wrote it, but it came across more as a recruiting pitch. Come here and here you’re allowed to be flawed, and here you’re allowed to be, right? As opposed to, this is what the ideal is here, be humble, be courageous, be these things. And I think had I done that, we probably would’ve saved ourselves certain amount of pain with folks that came in and thought that they were going to be handed — handed wellness, handed acceptance, handed, whatever, a vision for their life, whatever the case may be, and didn’t really participate in that themselves from the jump, because they never accepted an ideal that was laid out before them.
And I said this before, you should not choose a company to work for based on the salary or the benefits. You should choose based on the values and your perception as to whether or not the executive team actually believes the values that they put out there, or it’s just a bunch of virtue signaling crap, right? Does it really reflect what they believe in their hearts of heart, in their heart of hearts, and are you on board? And if you’re on board, you’re going to have a wonderful experience with that company, but if you’re not aligned from a value standpoint, I mean, I don’t care how much a company pays, it’s going to be a miserable experience.
Yeah. I think to me, this is why I recoil so much at the idea of work being just a transaction between employer, employee transaction of time for wages. I give you time, you give me money, end of story. Yeah. That’s it. And I hear a lot of people talk about it in that way, and it just feels so, it feels shallow, I guess, because I don’t know. You don’t have to go far below the surface to realize it’s just not even true. We might try and put that framework on top of this concept of work, but I mean, we talked about, I think of one of the previous episodes, the World Health Organization calls employment, one of our social determinants of health. So I mean, even in that setting, they’re acknowledging that work has -
I’s not just a paycheck.
There’s something that’s not true deeper to work than just a transaction between an employer of time for money.
But we’re cynical people that are afraid of intimacy, and so what do you, you fall to the lowest common denominator, which is this quote, living the dream attitude. I like to call it.
Nobody means it.
The people that you, just to clarify the people that you ask, Hey, how’s your day going? How you doing? They go living the dream with all this dripping with cynicism. That is the easiest thing. That is the easiest way to communicate. The easiest way to interact with people is just with this cynical, jaded, empty reaction to that question or to any question. I think that is the poison in the water when it comes to this whole concept of work that has led people to, even in 2023, even though I think they know deep down is not true to say, yeah, it’s just a paycheck.
Well, because it literally reduces you to a resource. You are only time.
Is that what you want?
That’s what you are.
You want to be a cog in a wheel? I wonder if that’s a way of just shirking the responsibility of being more. I think that maybe that’s coming from a place of fear as I’m self-protection that, okay, well, if I get into this role and I’m not promoted and I’m not praised, and I’m not the star of the show, well then it’s because I, I’m just a cog in the wheel anyway. Nobody really cares about me. Maybe it’s just this kind of self-protective disclaimer that’s put up front to shy away from the intimacy of actually having to try. The risk of effort, which could be met with failure.
Which should be scary.
Yeah. Right. Yeah. I mean, that’s what we’re all afraid of. We’re all afraid to actually try and then fail. If we fail, and we’re like, well, I just sort of phoned it in anyway. It’s like, it’s not so upsetting, right? When we pour ourselves into something, we expect to win. So anyway, we’ve probably gone well over our allotted time for an episode today. Good topic. Thank you all for listening to episode 15 today. Jason and I are going to continue to hit our tequila glasses hard and carouse with one another throughout this afternoon. Oh, you worked it in right at the end. I got it. Got to give you your new word too. Got it, J? Yeah. Jason, hit us with the word of the day for the next episode. All right. Next episode. Word of the day is going to be rarefied. Okay. Easier than carouse was like, how do we, it’s like this drinking and partying and being like, how does this relate? This is what we do on the podcast. I mean, I guess, yeah, that is some part of wellness. But alright. Thanks for listening to How People Work. We’ll catch you next time. Bye-bye.