Burnout. Like a particularly unforgettable destination, those of us who’ve paid a visit nod knowingly to one another. No matter how long ago it was, we recall the familiar landmarks of our journey with easy clarity. And we never want to go back.
And yet, earlier this year I found myself retracing my steps along the route to burnout. The déjà vu gave way to a gnawing anger at myself. I was older, even a little wiser! How could I let this happen again?
I was at SHRM’s Annual Conference in Chicago last week, speaking about how HR can support effective remote work. I’ve given different versions of this talk in a few contexts, but one of my core messages is always that remote work (in any form, be it fully remote teams or roles, or a ‘work from home’ policy) cannot succeed if it is layered over a low-trust work environment.
When I speak about this topic, I share a few symptoms of low-trust as it relates to remote work, and one of them is an organization in which managers are free to treat ‘work from home’ as a reward, rather than understanding and applying a clearly defined business reason for committing to remote work/’work from home’ as an organization.
Recently, an employee from an organization I worked at several years ago reached out on LinkedIN. They wanted to share their experience of a project I led back then to introduce SMART goals as part of the performance planning and assessment process. They were not a fan. I don’t blame them.
I leave for Whistler, British Columbia first thing tomorrow morning for Actionable’s annual Consulting Partner Summit, and while I generally pride myself on packing light, I had to level up this time since I’m bringing a bunch of print materials for the event, as well as planning for both warm days and cold nights.
I always loved the show Arrested Development. In fact, after the last US election I vowed to only comment on US politics on Facebook using gifs from the show, to avoid contributing to the vitriolic, overwhelming, and (in my opinion) futile, political debates going on in my feed (as a Canadian I’m truly just yelling into the void about this stuff). Turns out this Jason Bateman gif works for more recent events too.
This week’s Google Duplex demo raised important and provocative ethical questions about human-machine interactions. It also offered a glimmer of hope that the long-ago promise that technology would free us from mental and physical grunt work to enjoy lives of leisure might yet live.
The work that Duplex would do, book appointments, schedule reservations, is work that, to date, most of us have done for ourselves.
It’s called shadow work, and it’s become so ubiquitous that we barely notice it anymore. Our collective anxieties about automation and AI make it easy to overlook the less dramatic ways that work is being shifted away from workers.
I am not good at sleeping. I used to be, but as I’ve gotten older I seem to have forgotten how. That is one reason that I was captivated when I heard Jocelyn Glei’s interview with Rubin Naiman, a sleep psychologist and professor, on her podcast Hurry Slowly. A combination of the subject matter, Naiman’s earnestness, and his soothing tone makes the episode a sort of ‘meta’ experience. I get calm and sleepy every time I hear it, and so I’ve listened to it a lot.
If you read this blog with any regularity, you’ll know that I’ve been hip deep in a research project of my own making since last year, with the goal to deepen my understanding of workplace sexual harassment as a systemic problem, how HR is implicated in that system, and what we can do to influence it differently.
That project has continued to pick up steam, and I am so grateful to the many, many people who have generously shared their time and thoughts. These include HR professionals at all levels, survivors and targets of sexual harassment, leaders, lawyers, advocates, and even a couple of scientists. When I waded into this I had no idea that this would lead to the array of incredible, humbling conversations it has, and honestly, I’m just getting started…more on that in the weeks to come.
I’ve been breaking a lot of my rules lately, and I paid for it this week.
No coffee after 1pm
Log off Twitter an hour before bed
Only skip the gym if you’re sick or in (non-DOMS) pain
Bring your own lunch
These are small things. They sound pretty easy. Inconsequential even. Breaking one does not result in immediate calamity. But I know through trial and error that ignoring one or more of these for even a week or two leads to quick fraying of the cord that tethers me to my capacity as a functioning human being.
“He’s a rockstar” “She’s brilliant” “He’s a good guy”
Whether we’re dividing people into INTJs and ENFPs, High Ds or Cs, or placing them on a 9-box grid, we love our categories. I’ve been reflecting on this over the last week, sparked by a presentation delivered by Mathieu Baril of DDI at HR Leaders Summit West. Baril’s presentation challenged traditional thinking on High Potential programs, suggesting that we need to broaden our definition of potential and recognize the individual bias at work when we go about identifying so-called Hi-Pos:
“We tend to underestimate the role of context in performance. Performance is less portable then we think.”