Why Diversity Initiatives Fail

Diversity has become a top priority for organizations. But despite being in the spotlight, real diversity and inclusion success is mixed.

Diversity works when different people with different perspectives are able to engage and share ideas openly and safely. To openly and safely share ideas, people must feel respected, valued, and appreciated. For organizations to benefit from diversity, they must create an inclusive culture.

So, why aren’t diversity training programs and initiatives more successful?

Companies that attempt D&I initiatives are often left feeling frustrated and alone. Their attempts at re-writing mission statements, re-defining HR hiring practices, and providing diversity training sessions leave them wondering what went wrong. Why can’t we create the culture we want?

Traditional Approaches are Often Insufficient

Traditional diversity and inclusion initiatives don’t address the underlying thinking and behaviors that created the existing company culture. Culture is made of things like unwritten rules, norms, expectations, ideologies, language usage, and symbolic gestures. These components are often taken for granted and contribute to maintaining the status quo.

Traditional programs also often fail to address the social dynamics at play in groups. What one person will say and do in isolation may be very different from what they will say and do in a group. Group dynamics have a significant impact on behavior and feelings of inclusion.

In addition, many trainings don’t address the buy-in variable. Buy-in impacts follow-through, or lack thereof, of initiatives by management and key players. Success is not guaranteed. But it is much more likely to happen if people are brought on board early, if communication is transparent, and adequate time and resources are put towards making diversity and inclusion a priority.

Diversity only really works when people feel included.

Feelings of Inclusion come from being respected, appreciated, and needed. Inclusion breeds trust. Trust breeds safety. Safety enables people to bring their whole self to work, including their diverse perspectives. Therefore, inclusive environments help organizations benefit from diversity.

Traditional Diversity Initiatives Focus on Logistics

Logistics are those checklist items that tend to be the most monitored and measured in organizations. These benchmarks help maintain a sense of fairness and frame policies and practices. However, logistics alone cannot create inclusive cultures. Diversity isn’t a numbers game. The numbers only tell a piece of the story.

The Most Measured and Monitored items are:

  • Recruitment and Hiring. However, bringing in people from diverse backgrounds doesn’t guarantee that they will share their diverse perspectives. Lack of inclusion inhibits the likelihood that people will speak up. It also increases the likelihood that they will leave. What good is having a diverse population if the organization doesn’t benefit from the assets the diversity brings?
  • Do’s and Don’ts Diversity Training: Even I, as an adjunct faculty member at a state university, still have to participate in these online training seminars where we watch videos and are assessed on our responses. These types of programs are more about checking a box than creating any real sustainable change. Do’s and Don’ts Training focus on scenarios and how to handle them. These programs may have some value in conjunction with other platforms, but as stand-alone program, research has shown us that they create very little, if any, change.
  • Monitoring Pay Distributions. Yes, pay equity matters, but paying people equitably does not build diversity and inclusivity. It can help build a perception of fairness within the organization. But very few companies publish salaries, and it violates our cultural norms to discuss compensation with co-workers, so ambiguity and uncertainty of pay often remain.
  • HR Policies and Mission Statements: When was the last time you saw a policy or rule radically change behaviors? Organizations are where they are for a reason – the social and institutional dynamics and the people behind them. Policies and statements are important to set the tone and the expectations, but unless people model inclusive behavior and embrace the integration of difference, little will actually change.
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Creating Diverse and Inclusive Cultures

  • Assess and diagnose the reality of your organization to formulate a plan that will create real sustainable change. There is no one size fits all fix to create inclusive cultures. Start by assessing who feels included and who doesn’t within your own organization.
  • Work with professionals that can help your organization uncover the unconscious bias preventing you from reaching your diversity goals. Real change comes from building social awareness and shifting the lens people use to see and interact in the world.
  • Actively and proactively create opportunities for team members to develop psychological safety and trust. Have open and honest discussions about the reality of what is.
  • Create a culture that embraces authenticity and difference. This isn’t a policy statement. This is about really getting to know one another and accepting and appreciating differences. This requires self-awareness, social awareness, buy-in and follow-through.
  • Develop metrics to hold people accountable for increasing diversity. Bring everyone on board early with open conversations and transparency.

Diversity and Inclusion Pays Dividends

Organizations with inclusive environments thrive because their team members work together for mutual benefit. They thrive because employees trust one another and feel like they are a valued member of the team.

It is not surprising that research shows us that organizations with diverse and inclusive environments outperform their competitors. They are more innovative, responsive, and creative.

Are you ready to shyft the status quo?

Are you ready to embrace real change by creating inclusive environments where everyone thrives?

It is time to build leadership and organizational awareness of shyfting social dynamics to uncover and overcome the unconscious bias preventing the success of diversity and inclusion initiatives.

By Kristin Heck Sajadi, Founder and CEO at Shyft Strategies, LLC Sajadi is a sociologist, entrepreneur and developer of the Shyft5 TM program – helping individuals and organizations build social awareness as a business asset to shyft the status quo.

Shyft5 TM program tackles challenges and builds awareness—the benchmark for effective communication, productive interaction, and thriving cultures in today’s organizations.

At Shyft Strategies, we help you uncover the obstacles and barriers preventing you from reaching your goals. We help you navigate today’s new business and human capital reality. The first step to moving forward is increasing awareness. Awareness isn’t just learning a new fact or statistic. It is connecting the dots between the reality of what is and why, so that we can consciously and cognitively shyft to what can be and how.

Find the Right Path, Right Now

It is Time to Get Unstuck

In the early stages of my adult life, I thought I knew what I wanted and how I was going to get there. I had a plan. Ironically, my plan only held out for about the first decade post-college. Then something called ‘life’ happened.

I got married; I had a child (and then another); I lost my mother; I left jobs as my husband’s career relocated us four times in seven years. During all this change, something happened that I never anticipated. I got lost. Not just the kind of lost that happens when you get off an interstate exit and you miss a turn. The kind of lost that happens when you are on a hike and go off trail and lose sight of north, south, east, and west – you are surrounded by a sea of trees that all look alike and you have no clue which way to turn or which direction to go in.

When we take on careers and roles that drain us, it is easy to get lost. To exist on autopilot. To stop dreaming. To feel stuck.

Lost and Stuck

It is not uncommon to hear people say that they feel lost. Life sidetracks many of us in many ways. I knew I felt lost. I knew I wanted something different, but I didn’t know what it was.

The first step to getting what you want is letting go of what you don’t

So How do You Start to Break Free?

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Start Saying No to Things that Don’t Excite You

(and that you can afford to give up)

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Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

To start to get unstuck, you must come to the realization that just because you can do something does not mean you should. Once I started relinquishing roles that I did not want and started saying ‘No’ to work opportunities that didn’t mesh with my goals, I started finding the time to think and reconnect with myself.

Start Reconnecting with What Really Matters to You

You must start reconnecting with who you really are and what you are meant to be doing. At first, I had no idea, but my gut did. I started paying attention to how I felt when I did different things. I started paying attention to the gut feelings that spoke to me when I talked about what I was doing to other people. Our positive and negative feelings creep out in the words we use and in the tone of our voices – listen.

Stop Listening to the Monsters in Your Head

This is the tricky part. So much of what we do daily is influenced by what we think we should be doing. We are influenced by social norms, by role expectations, by family, by social standards, by societal level influences – like how we define success.

I really struggled with that last one, and to be perfectly honest, I still do. Our society tends to view success in terms of status and money. But I knew that I wasn’t going to find myself in some socially defined position or with money.

Our culture places a high value on the roles that we take on at work. This valuation causes many of us to tie our identities to the careers we choose. But what happens when the career pathway or the roles we occupy, no longer mesh with who we are?

It can cause a great deal of role conflict and role strain that permeate other areas of our lives. I struggled with multiple roles and it left me feeling burned out, depressed, and alone.

I had to let go of how I thought success was defined and redefine it for myself. I had to quiet the voices of outside influence. No one else was going to be able to uncover what was keeping me stuck or define what I needed to move forward but me.

The Voices that Saved Me

Even though my Mom had died almost ten years prior, I still heard her voice in my head – “Do something you love.” She didn’t tell me this about work, but she did tell me this when she and my father dropped me off at college my freshman year. She told me to major in something that I loved. Those were profound words for me then and they still are now.

When I reconnected with this memory twenty years later, it struck a chord. It became clear that so much of what I enjoyed in life and at work centered around applying sociological thinking, learning , growing, and building social awareness.

I started acknowledging to myself and others that I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home-mom and that I wasn’t meant to run a corporation 250 miles from my home. I started listening to myself and I began to hear the whispers that led me to the path that I am on today.

Start listening to yourself.

  • What negative voices are whispering in your ear that are preventing you from saying no to things that you don’t want to do?
  • What roles feel more like an obligation than an opportunity? (Which ones can you reduce (share) or eliminate?)
  • What things make your heart sing and make you excited to get up in the morning?
  • What is your gut trying to tell you? Are you listening?

Stop listening to the negative voices in your life and start listening to you. Your voice matters and it is the one that will get you unstuck!

P.S. This isn’t an overnight fix for most people. It took me almost nine years of taking on a series of roles and opportunities, hoping that something would stick, before I finally started really listening to me and redefining my life to create a career and a life I love. I hope that you don’t have to wait as long as I did, but even if you do, I guarantee it is worth it. We only get to live one life, so embrace who you are today and seize it!

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By Kristin Heck Sajadi, Founder and CEO of Shyft Strategies, LLC. Sajadi is a business leader, a sociologist, and a social awareness entrepreneur. She has been synthesizing the study of society and social dynamics with business practices for over twenty-five years. She founded Shyft to inspire individuals and organizations to build social awareness as an asset and tool to seize the opportunity to positively impact their own lives and their organizations and communities.

Shyft the Status Quo

Society is changing and so should we – Part One

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Ask yourself

How would it feel to reach outside the confines of the status quo to have a positive impact at work and in your community? How would it feel to stay ahead of the curve and to set the standard for your organization? How would it feel to develop more meaning and purpose at work for you and your team?

Society is changing.

We don’t have to look far to see that individual’s interactions and expectations are evolving inside and outside the work environment. Change is accelerating. Signs of opportunities are everywhere, but so are signs of a crisis of trust. It can seem daunting to know which way to turn. How do you help your organization stay relevant and not succumb to the crises of trust? How do you deal with shyfting social dynamics?

Today, more than ever, organizations must make a concerted effort to build social awareness within their organizations. It is one of the most important skills leaders and organizations can possess and develop today. We are all in this together. What goes on outside the four-walls of our organizations impacts what transpires within them. To innovate and propel our organizations forward, we must engage, learn to navigate the shyft, and capitalize on the reality of what is.  

Signs of Crises

Signs of crises within American businesses are everywhere. Stories of deception and abuse by social media giants, car manufacturers, airline industries, and pharmaceutical companies are plaguing headlines. Individual actions within organizations are bringing corporations to their knees with lawsuits and PR nightmares.

People are losing faith in corporate America to do the right thing at the right time. Organizations are in crises for lack of social competencies – dealing with sexual harassment, toxic work environments, privacy rights, and overcoming biases and gaps in social awareness. The status quo is no longer tenable. The tides are shyfting – and we must shyft with them to thrive.

Leaders of Industry are Shyfting the Status Quo

Leaders of industry are shyfting the status quo – they are innovating in ways to embrace social change, to build social awareness, and to leave a legacy of positive impact in their organizations and in the communities in which they do business.  

Leaders of industry like Marc Benioff of SalesforceTM and Hamdi Ulukaya of ChobaniTM Yogurt have committed their companies to improving the lives of their workers and to building more equitable environments. Benioff is committed to eliminating pay gaps for women and minorities. Ulukaya challenges CEOs to create a new CEO playbook. He challenges leaders to take care of their employees and the communities in which they do business.

As Leaders We Possess the Capacity to Shyft

As leaders, we possess the intellectual capacity, expertise, and innovative capabilities to shyft the trajectory of business. We have the collective ability to create environments where everyone thrives, to lead our organizations into the future, and to build up the communities in which we do business.

Innovative leaders recognize that they must look for new ways to navigate and embrace today’s social dynamics. They must become more responsive to new challenges and new opportunities. Today’s best leaders are monitoring the fiscal health of their organizations while also participating in the development of a civil society, a healthy planet, engaged workforces, inclusive cultures, and strong communities.

How do you challenge the status quo?

The best way to start is to lead by example – start building social awareness from within. Social awareness is an understanding of why different people think, act, and respond they way that they do in different social situations. It is about patterns and trends. Social awareness is built on connecting the dots between what is and why, so that your organization can shyft to what can be and how.

Shyfting is built on uncovering the lens in which people use to view the world and developing an understanding of how our lens impacts our interpretation of events and the world around us. There is a constant feedback loop between what we think, what we expect, how we act, and the results that we experience.

To shyft the status quo, we must create spaces for learning, developing, and growing. We must have open and honest conversations about the reality of what is so that we can shyft to the possibilities of what can be.

It is time to ….

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By Kristin Heck Sajadi, Founder and CEO, Shyft Strategies, LLC Sajadi is a sociologist, entrepreneur and developer of the Shyft5 program – helping individuals and organizations build social awareness as a business asset to shyft the status quo.

Why the Words We Choose Matter – Bias and Barriers

Why the Words We Choose Matter

Bias and Barriers

Gendered Speech, Expectations, and Performance Reviews.

One of the foundational characteristics of organizations is communication. The way an organization communicates tells us a lot about its culture, its character, and the relationships within it. Organizational communication styles are influenced and created by the people within it, by their beliefs, by their ideologies, and by their individual histories and biographies.

Seeing the Hidden Meaning Within Our Words

Have you ever thought about the words you use when you communicate? Have you ever stopped to think about the context within which you use those words and whether they convey meaning beyond your initial intent? Have you thought about the implicit bias embedded in common phrases and comments frequently used?

How we communicate conveys meaning beyond the confines of the specific words we choose, and the impact can be significant.

I recently visited a friend’s house on a trip back home. It was a great mini reunion. We have been friends for over thirty years, and we hadn’t seen each other in several, so we had a lot of catching up to do. Her husband is an amazing cook, so while he worked the kitchen, we enjoyed catching up over a glass of wine. I glanced at the refrigerator, and I saw the tell-tale proud parent monikers – magnets and school papers. I glanced at the one with A+ 100% written in large bold letters across the top. A perfect spelling test. The A+ 100% is what caught my eye, but it was the teacher’s comment that struck me.

Underneath the grade was the comment “Beautiful Handwriting.” As a sociologist and businesswoman that knows all too well the gendered nature of language descriptors and the long-term ramifications, I took notice. I couldn’t help but turn to my friend and say…

“I just have to tell you that you need to watch the comments that are coming back from this teacher and others. Research shows that girls tend to be praised for being nice, neat, quiet, communal, rule-followers, while boys are praised for effort, accomplishments, and achievements. This may be a one-time event, but if it isn’t, you should address it with your daughter for sure and maybe the teacher. Let your daughter know that you are proud of the effort she took to learn all the words correctly and to top it off, she wrote in a way that easily conveyed her knowledge (legible handwriting).”

Ok, I can hear it now – “Are you kidding me? Is this person really getting worked up over a simple comment like ‘Beautiful Handwriting’ on a spelling test?” – I get it. If it is a one-off, a onetime incident, then I agree, it is ‘no big deal.’ But I am trained to look for patterns that have systemic consequences. One simple comment on one spelling test is inconsequential, but if that comment is representative of a larger trend, then we have something that warrants attention. Trends in communication and in society create patterns in outcomes. And we can measure and quantify those patterns, correlations, and outcomes.

My friend’s daughter did have perfect penmanship for a six-year-old. I agree with the teacher. But I challenge you to think outside the box.

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Do you think that “Beautiful handwriting” is a common comment on papers? Do you think the teacher would have put that same comment on a boy’s paper in the class? What other comments could a teacher put on a perfect spelling test? Think about it this way, if you have a child that does well on a test or an assignment, what do you want praised? Why?

In a capitalistic society like ours, meritocratic ideals permeate our culture. We learn from an early age that achievement and success is valued, praised, and pays dividends. We learn through a systemic process of socialization in major institutions, like school, that if we work hard, we will be rewarded with praise and typically good grades. This same ideology correlates with our culture’s love of individualism—success and failure are tied to the actions of the individual. If we are successful, it is because we worked hard; if we aren’t successful, it is because we didn’t work hard enough—we didn’t show enough resilience, persistence, or grit.

Back to my friend’s daughter’s school paper…the words chosen matter.

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The words chosen convey meaning. The words “beautiful handwriting” tells the student what is valued by the teacher. They tell the student what she needs to focus on to continue to get praise in the future. Would any different meaning be conveyed if the teacher had written “Great Job! I am proud of your effort!”? Would this leave the student with a different message? The meaning of words and the context in which they are spoken or written have real impact.

Kindergarten to Performance Reviews

Jump ahead twenty years. Women are still more likely to be praised at work for appearance, for being nice, for being agreeable, conciliatory, and communal.

How do you think this translates on performance reviews?

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Research consistently shows that gender bias still influences performance reviews and they tend to favor men and the socially constructed characteristics believed to be associated with being male – assertive, decisive, analytical, etc. Masculine characteristics that tend to be socially associated with men are defined as leadership characteristics. Feminine characteristics that tend to be socially associated with women are not. Women have made major in-roads into the high-skilled occupations over the past half century, but pay, hiring, and promotion disparity still exist. Women are held to higher standards of competence and exhibiting ‘warmth’ relative to men (American Sociological Review 84(2) p 250). They must go above and beyond to prove worthiness of attainment of higher-level positions.  Men are given more leeway, in performance reviews, to be assertive and to speak up and to dominate the conversation than women. Men are still more likely to be praised for effort and contributions that directly correlate to the bottom-line while women are more likely to be praised for working well with others and for fostering a nice work environment. Stereotypes, often based on race, class, and gender, still impact a great deal of decision-making going on within our organizations.

A research team at Stanford found that performance reviews for women tended to give vague feedback that gave little information on how to improve or advance, while the men received longer reviews with specific comments on their technical skills and how they contribute to bottom-line. In open-ended questions and comments, traditional gender stereotypes seeped through.

People varied in what criteria was important or valued, and these patterns of variance often followed gendered expectations. The majority of criticisms of women’s personalities were about being too aggressive, where the majority for men’s were about being too soft.

The fluidity of these boundaries is expanding, as they should, but the needle hasn’t moved as far as some think.

Gendered Language in Real Life

Just like the comments on my friend’s daughter’s spelling test, people use terms and phrases in everyday work-life that continue to illustrate gender inequality.

My husband is a surgeon – a field that is still dominated by men. He recently came home from work and told me about a conversation he had with his OR staff. He overhead a group of men referring to their female counterparts and colleagues as girls. He interrupted the conversation and interjected – he told them that the female colleagues that they were referring to were women, not girls.

Once again, I anticipate questions about the significance of a simple word like girl vs woman. And once again, I ask you to step back from your initial response and ask yourself why do you think these statements matter? What does the word girl mean? What do you picture when you hear the word girl? Do the individuals using the word ‘girls’ refer to their male colleagues as ‘boys’?  Do girls and boys typically occupy positions of power, authority, or leadership? Gendered terminology carries meanings well beyond the textbook definition. Words like girl, when talking about an adult, in the context of work and the roles occupied, is demeaning. It conveys hierarchy, value, and power in this context.

Building awareness of gendered language bias is a key asset to combat it.

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We must be open to thinking differently and questioning the words we use when we use them. No organization, leadership team, or individual is immune from the significance of gendered language.

Gendered expectations of behavior impact everyone in work environments. There is no one unilateral fix for our gendered society and gendered language, but it is time to become more aware of the words that we choose and why they matter.

Shyft5 TM is a new way to tackle challenges and build awareness—the benchmark for effective communication, productive interaction, and thriving cultures in today’s organizations.

At Shyft Strategies, we help you uncover the obstacles and barriers preventing open and honest discussions that are necessary for us to effectively navigate today’s new business and human capital reality. The first step to moving forward is increasing awareness. Awareness isn’t just learning a new fact or statistic. It is connecting the dots between what is and why, so that we can consciously and cognitively shyft to what can be and how.

Are You Willing to Pay the High Price of Burnout?

To Shyft beyond Burnout, we must address the culture and the mindset that creates it.

As high-achieving leaders, we set the tone for our organizations and influence our company cultures. We have high expectations for ourselves and for members of our staff. We work hard – we have made many sacrifices to get where we are. Most of us push the limits of work-life balance. When we feel the impingement of Burnout, we often ignore it – pushing through to keep pace with our counterparts and to maintain the status quo.

But is this sustainable?

There is a fine line between excelling, going above and beyond to rise to the top, and creating a culture of expectations that lead to Burnout for everyone (employees, staff and us). This is where we need to reevaluate.

Burnout is much more expensive and costly than most realize.

The reality of work-life culture is under scrutiny and leaders are at the center of the discussion. We are caught between the perception of what is required to succeed, the pressure of success culture, and the reality of the damage, turnover, and decreased productivity of Burnout.

Cost / Benefit Analysis

As leaders, we are not immune to the costs of Burnout and we have heard the benefits that work-life balance brings to engagement, but we rarely create environments that support balance or prevent Burnout. Why? We struggle with the disconnect between what we want and what we feel like we must do to remain competitive. Virtually every organization struggles to create a culture that supports engaged workers that are high-performing and have a life they love outside of work. Unfortunately, we are falling prey to the cultural norms of success culture that feeds Burnout.

Feeding Burnout

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Burnout culture is fostered by corporate culture. Behaviors, language, and symbols within our organizational cultures propagate the pressure to work harder and longer to get ahead and to be the one that appears the most available and the most dedicated. The burden of being available to co-workers, employers, and clients 24/7—the expectation to respond to emails, texts, and phone calls at all hours—is exhausting. It includes sacrificing time as a parent, a spouse, a partner, and as a friend. Burnout culture eats away at our sleep, our willingness to take vacation, our mental well-being, our decision-making, and our enjoyment of life.

No One Can Afford the Burnout Bill $$$

  • Decreased Productivity
  • On the Job Mistakes
  • Lower Levels of Job Satisfaction
  • Decision-Fatigue
  • Higher Levels of Stress and Ailments
  • Turnover

Yet we seem unwilling to modify our work environments to stave off Burnout.

Burnout Percentages are Shocking

In 2015, Deloitte’s Workplace Burnout Survey found

  • 77 percent of workers say they have experienced Burnout
  • 42 percent of workers have consciously left a job, a boss or a culture that created Burnout
  • 70 percent of professionals say employers aren’t doing enough to prevent or alleviate Burnout

Burnout does not discriminate; men and women, young and older, all experience it. Stress, long-hours, and Burnout correlate with high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and dangerous coping mechanisms – drugs, alcohol, and other forms of substance abuse. The World Health Organization now recognizes Burnout as a medical condition, and it is codified in the medical communities ICD-11 code book – the standard for International Classification of Diseases. A group of business management researchers’ attributes over 120,000 deaths per year to “how U.S. companies manage their work forces.”

Ignoring Burnout is Not an Option

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Ignoring Burnout and hoping it goes away or that employees will figure out how to deal with it on their own is not an option. Society is Shyfting in many ways, and as employees become more aware of the dangers of Burnout and experience the negative consequences as a result of it, we, along with our companies will need to adapt to survive.

To Shyft Beyond Burnout

To Shyft beyond Burnout, we, must start reevaluating the cultural expectations that we allow to influence our organizations and Shyft beyond the status quo. We must train ourselves and our leadership teams to connect the dots between expectations and reality – the culture we create and the costs of Burnout our organization is experiencing.

Working harder and longer to be more available while making sacrifices is why we think we are where we are. I get it – this thinking is indoctrinated into American success story. The idea that hard work pays off. We value the appearance of working long-hours because it is an outward representation of commitment that is visible to others. This is why appearing busy is often equated with dedication to the company. We create cultures that define the ideal worker as the one that works the longest hours. Yet, we all know that quantity does not equal quality, so why are we still holding it up as the standard?

No one person or company is responsible for Burnout. It is the culmination of history, capitalism, the explosion of the service industry, gig work, materialism, and socialization—it is a way of thinking that has permeated culture and the minds of workers and leaders alike. It is part of our individualistic meritocratic ideals. These ideologies influence our actions and expectations which reinforces Burnout culture. We are caught in a feedback loop of expectations, perceptions, and reality.

So, how do we Shyft?

We Shyft by addressing the thinking and behaviors creating Burnout. There is no magic bullet or one-size-fits-all approach to beating it. Individual leaders, teams, and organizations need to assess their internal operations and cultures to Shyft – to challenge the feedback loop that perpetuates Burnout.

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First Things First

People want meaning and purpose at work while also having a life they love outside of work. People are starting to recognize the costs of giving up too much for work – cost / benefit analysis impacts what individual employees are willing to do and give. To accommodate a Shyft, we need to reevaluate wearing long-hours at the office as a badge of honor or rite of passage.

To steer clear of Burnout culture, we must think more openly about

  • Innovating – creating cultures that foster success without over taxing staff
  • Setting Limits on after-hours communications like texting, emailing, and phone calls
  • Making sure that everyone takes their Earned Time Off (Vacation),
  • Offering Flexible Work Schedules
  • Leading by Example—showing staff that we value life outside of work

Cultural Shyfts take time, but they are well worth the results.

Photo by timJ on Unsplash

The time to Shyft is now!

Travel is More than a Trip.

Don’t fall prey to burnout culture. Take your vacation.

In today’s burnout culture, 1 out 4 professionals never or almost never takes all their vacation days. 1 in 3 feels uncomfortable requesting vacation time. 77% of professional employees say that they experience burnout and over 40% of workers have left jobs because of it (Deloitte Well-Being and Burnout Surveys). It is time to shyft this thinking. Travel is more than a trip – it is the key to beating burnout and re-connecting with who you are.

Travel promotes rejuvenation. It provides time to process the deep work of deep-thinking — building curiosity and innovation. Travel supports our need to reconnect with ourselves and our core values – our motivation for doing the work that we do.

Risk – Reward

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As a sociologist and entrepreneur, I view travel as an investment. Financial investments insulate us from unexpected events by providing economic capital with which to overcome them. Travel is similar. It is an investment in our mental and physical well-being. It insulates us with social and personal capital that provides resources to combat stress and challenges at work. With 77% of professionals experiencing some sort of burnout, travel should be a priority. Company cultures that discourage vacation run the risk of fostering an environment where loss of purpose and meaning, fatigue, reduced productivity and turnover run rampant. Companies that encourage staff to take time to recharge receive dividends – they are rewarded with a more engaged, energized, and productive workforce.

Quality over Quantity.

It is hard to rejuvenate when a company culture creates and maintains an expectation that we should be available 24/7 to our co-workers, management teams, and clients. We must shyft this thinking. As individuals and companies, we need to embrace the ideology that we will be the best version of ourselves when we grant ourselves time to reboot. In business, we understand that quantity does not equal quality, so stop managing yourself and your staff like it does. We all know people that put in hours, but their work is subpar – long-hours and unused vacation days don’t equal quality performance. Take time to reconnect with who you are and give you and your company the advantage of energy and engagement.

Disconnect to Reconnect

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Traveling abroad used to be my biggest savior. With limited or no cell service, I was unreachable. People understood that being out of the country meant out of touch. With today’s technology, it is virtually impossible to claim to be unreachable. Despite the advent of technology, we all must work to disconnect from the constraints of the daily grind. When we don’t get away from the noise that surrounds us, it is virtually impossible to do the deep work where we think at a level where real innovation and change occurs.

I recently spent a 3 month stretch where I was working 15-hour days 7 days per week. And this wasn’t just clocking hours – this was deep, intellectual work and analysis. This was time researching and crafting hours of talks while also writing and developing the foundation of a new company I was starting. At the end of the three months, I took a 10-day vacation. I was exhausted. My thinking was labored, so the timing of the trip was fortuitous. When I got back from my travels, I tabled several of the projects I was working on for a few more weeks to give myself more time to digest and process – kind of like rebooting a computer.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton


Take Your Turn. No Regrets!

Taking my turn – Kristin Heck Sajadi – Shyft Strategies

When was the last time you actually felt like jumping for joy? Or didn’t hit snooze repeatedly on your morning alarm? For me, it had been years. Over twelve years to be exact…until recently. I decided now is the time to share this story, because I think it is important to find your purpose in life and at work, but I also want you to know that it rarely comes as quickly as the experts pushing purpose say it will.

Ten years ago, I realized that I lost sight of my purpose, my passion, my dreams, and didn’t know how to find them again. I barely had time to go to the bathroom by myself (just ask any stay-at-parent with a baby and a toddler). By default, I went back to what I knew. I knew how to fix things. I knew business. First, I took over managing the finances and guiding the growth strategies of a medical practice. I assumed several executive nonprofit board positions. And finally, I was asked to come into a small printing and marketing corporation as its CEO to turn it around and facilitate its sale. I was a capable leader in all of these roles, but I still hit snooze every morning multiple times. I wasn’t excited about what I was doing. But I was willing to try them all to find more meaning and purpose in my work life. I was buying into the old adage that if you throw enough stuff up against a wall, something is bound to stick. Nevertheless, these experiences made me realize that just because I am capable of doing something, doesn’t mean I should. As a result, I learned the very important art of saying no to opportunities that didn’t excite me. Don’t get me wrong; this wasn’t a swift learning curve. It took me seven years to come to this realization and to start saying no. I was searching for something, but I didn’t know what it was. After I started saying no, I had more time to think and contemplate about what motivated me to get going every day. I had time to pay attention to the things that actually meant something to me. I started trying to rediscover my dream, my goals, my vision for my future. Over the course of a year and a half, I started to piece some things together, but I was still stuck. Looking back, I struggled to find my purpose because I was trying to find the right job, one that had already been defined by someone else. I now realize that that was never going to work for me.

In the fall of 2015, I decided to make a concerted effort to try to identify the right path forward. I enrolled in a multi-week executive program with a career coach. I bought books about creating a new life direction. I journaled a lot. Anytime something sparked an interest or evoked a passionate response, I wrote about it. Personality traits started to emerge. Patterns became more apparent. But let me be completely honest, nothing was sticking. In fact, I couldn’t even get past chapter two when I first started to work through Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction by Laura Berman Fortgang (April 2005). I kept noticing that same pit in my stomach every time I thought of a pre-defined job. I felt like I was trying to squeeze myself into a standard box, and I just couldn’t fit. I had to walk away from the process for a while to gain clarity.

So rather than focusing on finding the perfect career to move forward, I started to focus on everything that I have done, and I started to break down what I loved and what I hated about each opportunity. This provided a real breakthrough for me. I was able to move beyond my mindset from failing to find purpose and passion in an ideal career—or in a specific new life direction—to focusing on specific characteristics about jobs that I had loved. Critical qualities like autonomy, impact, inspiration, influence, enlightenment, and growth. Failing to find purpose in a specific job taught me a very important lesson: I couldn’t wait for an opportunity that someone else was creating to give me purpose. I had to identify my own purpose and create the opportunity that would motivate me to jump out of bed everyday by incorporating the components of work that I loved.

Most people, today, want meaning in work. They want more than a paycheck. Sociological research consistently demonstrates that job satisfaction is correlated with intrinsic motivators like meaning, purpose, camaraderie, and feeling like they are part of a team and part of a process that is making the company successful. In a recent article (titled “9 Out of 10 People Are Willing to Earn Less Money to Do More Meaningful Work”) in the Harvard Business Review (November 6, 2018), authors found that employees who find meaning in work:  

 …spend one additional hour per week working, and take two fewer days of paid leave per year…. More importantly, though, employees who find work meaningful experience significantly greater job satisfaction, which is known to correlate with increased productivity.

I believe finding meaning for yourself and your employees at work will be the next great productivity wave of the twenty-first century.

But I have to be honest, simply saying that you want to incorporate meaning in work just doesn’t cut it. The thoughts and ideas on how to do it don’t come out of thin air. Finding the right words to convey your passion and purpose so that you can lead others to meaningful work can be complex. If you are anything like I was, you might not even know what is meaningful to you right now if you are experiencing burnout or stress or lack of joy at work. I had to stop thinking about work and jobs (in the traditional sense) and start thinking about components of my life that gave me joy, meaning, and purpose. I discovered that deep down, I have a tremendous desire to have an impact, to leave my mark on the world. I had to start becoming aware of the things that I did that brought those positive feelings to the forefront. It took me time to find my purpose. In fact, I had a mini-epiphany on a professional development retreat in Belize (@Preparetoroar) when a fellow attendee kept telling me to embrace my purpose and think of jobs that align with it. Every time he said the word “job,” I immediately felt like someone had punched me in the gut, and I wanted to vomit. I could not have had a stronger visceral response! I listened to my gut. (I know that some thought leaders warn about listening to your gut, but as a business professional, I couldn’t imagine not doing a gut check. I think the visceral responses that we have to information and events based on knowledge and experiences can be very telling and should not be ignored.)

My journey to take my turn took a lot longer than I anticipated, but I believe that sometimes things happen for a reason. The additional time gave me the opportunity to gain more business insight and bring my experiences back to students taking sociology courses as an adjunct professor. It gave me the time to become more aware of my passions. It also gave me more time to formulate the right plan to move forward. Just in the past three months, I have branded and named a new company that I will be launching in 2019. The floodgates have opened. Timing is key; my timeline was just longer than most. I wake up excited every day thinking about the possibilities. Brainstorming with fellow writers, business professionals, sociology colleagues, my husband, and friends. I am taking my dreams and turning them into concrete actions.

We all have different dreams, different goals, and different definitions of success, and we all need to take our turn.

How do you plan to take your turn so that you have no regrets? No two paths are the same. We each have our own histories and biographies that shape our lens and the opportunities that we see for ourselves. Nevertheless, we all can start by minding the gap. The gap is the space between where you are and where you want to be. I recommend taking time to really think about where you are and where you think you want to be in order to determine the best route to get there. If you focus on lifting the veil to bring awareness and understanding to your lens, you may be surprised what you find. Sometimes what you think you want actually brings that same gut-wrenching feeling I experienced. I have met a lot of people and students that think they know their goals, but when they actually start to peel back the layers, they find out that they are trying to live up to someone else’s idea of success. Following a structured “90-day” program didn’t work for me in 2015, but when I revisited some of the ideas in the same book in the summer of 2018 at the request of a friend, I started to gain some traction. Timing is key. When you write—especially writing that no one else will see—you are able to uncover opportunities. Writing / journaling gives you insight that you may not have known that you had. It is an active activity that I recommend for everyone. It allows your brain to slow down long enough to process your thoughts. By taking the time to slow down and reflect, ideas become more clear.

Take the time to reflect on what excites you. What motivates you to not hit snooze and to jump out of bed in the morning. Don’t limit yourself. Be truly attuned to those gut responses to opportunities. If you have a negative gut response, don’t ignore it. Start saying no to opportunities that don’t excite you or feel like a good fit.

I finally feel like I am on the right path, creating my own company to live my purpose every day professionally. I am taking my turn. When will you take yours?

—No Regrets, Kristin Heck Sajadi, Sociologist, Entrepreneur, Consultant

If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.