October 17, 2021

EPISODE 3: WOKE @ WORK

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hello, good people and welcome to rework rewriting our kids education podcast. My name is Michelle person and we are on a journey. People. We are rethinking re-examining and re-educating ourselves and our children. On today’s episode, we will be talking about being woke at work. I know what you’re thinking woke at work. Michelle, what does that have to do with educating our kids? Everything we have to get rid of the do, as I say, and not as I do mentality, if we are going to teach our children to advocate for themselves for woke educational spaces at school, we have to learn how to create those spaces for ourselves at work and the words of our guests, organizational health and team specialists, faith Clark it’s bumpy work, but it’s the right kind of work are you woke?

Speaker 0 00:01:20 We can’t pour into an advocate for our children. If we are emotionally drained and nothing can drain you faster than getting up every morning and going to a job that you hate for a lot of people of color, normal job gripes are often compounded by daily microaggressions, comments, and policies that constantly make it harder for us to experience success at work. And they just pile on to our already normal frustrations and make us feel frustrated with the whole system. How can we advocate for ourselves? How can we create spaces that make us feel included? So we can be in the right emotional space to get all of ourselves to our chosen career. Our guest today specializes in working with organizations who care about their social impact and building systematic approaches to building strong teams, which has helped our clients improve operations, maximize productivity, and ultimately doubling their revenue phase. Clark, thank you so much for being here with us today while we spend a little bit of time focusing on us, ourselves, the adults, and what it means to create positive and inclusive workspaces woke spaces for us, um, at work in our environments. And so thank you for coming to talk to us about this. Um, and thank you so much for being here.

Speaker 2 00:02:44 Hi Michelle, it’s a pleasure to be here in this conversation with you. I think so true that we need to cultivate the health environment that we want because so much more is caught than taught. Yes. Just learning by breathing in the air that we’re helping create. Right. So how do we be more intentional about that?
Speaker 0 00:03:03 Awesome. So can you give the viewers listeners a little bit of information about your background and how you came to start doing this type of work? Sure.

Speaker 2 00:03:12 So I background wise, I was an engineer. I taught in the college setting for many years and when I found out my first child had autism, um, it challenged everything. I understood about my role as a parent, my role as a teacher and, and life. And after several years in that journey, I realized that there is this entire alternate world of learners and families that have to do like life differently, that don’t fit in to the stream of typical life and church and community and recreation. And so as I started to work with my own family and advocates for our own needs, and it became clear that we need to challenge how communities are created and sustained how spaces are nourished. And for me right now in my current work, the business spaces that we’re in, because I acknowledged that the business world didn’t fit to me, part of the reason I run my own business is because I have to create space for myself because the business world was not going to tolerate what I needed as a mom that needed to be able to jump at the drop of a hat, to go to school.

Speaker 2 00:04:27 If the nurse called and said, you know, he has a fever, he’s having a tantrum. The day is a hard day. And so many, especially maternal caregivers deal with such high levels of anxiety and stress, um, who have kids with disabilities and then have difficulty integrating into the workplace because people aren’t supporting the life that we have to live. So right now in the, in my current iteration was my son, who’s now 22. I’m like, okay, how would he find meaningful work? And yes, I’ll integrate them into my business. Right. And lots of families create businesses that for their kids, with ultra different learning styles and so on. But I do think that there is a challenge for us 2021 to create workspaces that feel healthy to all the ways that we’re human, not just to kind of some monolith of normal, whatever that means. So that’s some of the work that’s right.

Speaker 0 00:05:20 I mean, that’s amazing. So a lot of us get up every day and we go to these workspaces that are not, you know, create it for, that are created for the societal norms. Um, but not the real authentic in practice. What, what real life is. Um, so what does it mean to you to create that space at work? What does it mean for a company and organization to embrace the fact that we need to embrace our humanness? How, how do people go about doing that? What does that mean to you in your work?

Speaker 2 00:05:53 I think the first thing is that the company, the organization has to actually that I’ve, you know, when, uh, when I was younger, I would try to convince people like, yes, you know, this is important. I think right now I’m like, if you don’t believe this already, we don’t have the time. There are a bunch of humans, ones that need healthy workspaces. So number one, believe that that’s what’s needed when people are actually have that as a value proposition. Then I right. To go in and say, what does this mean in the day-to-day and in the micro. Right. And I think that means thinking about all the ways that we adopted an industrial and maybe colonial model that had humans as commodities, like spare parts, you know, that you use them and then they die out or whatever,

Speaker 0 00:06:40 And you just get a new one. Right. And the thing

Speaker 2 00:06:42 When, if we were to switch that to how do we help humans be healthy and really trust that healthy humans do good work. And of course the data supports that the actually, when we build an environment of belonging and inclusion in the workplace, productivity, doubles, engagement, double as retention, double is right. So the numbers are actually there, but yeah, even if we didn’t have numbers, I tend to say to people it’s a moral and ethical mandate because like putting bathrooms in like putting the wheelchair ramp in there is a mandate to treat humans in ways that help them thrive. So if that becomes clear, it becomes, um, part of what this organization is about when we start to look at it on the micro level. And I love looking at it from the point of view of a team, there are lots of practitioners who go in and, and, um, support policy-making.

Speaker 2 00:07:38 So I, I don’t feel like I need to, I will help support policy, but I think that often people have policies and statements in place that don’t show up in behavior to behavior interactions. So then I start to, what does it mean to help people, these four people feel like they really belong, and that has to be an individual leave focused conversation, notice the individual, and to say that individual is different. Why have I perceived that person as different? What does that difference mean to me? Do I have a judgment about that difference? These are now some micro understandings that we need to have about ourselves and about our colleagues that if we don’t build in that awareness and then the behaviors that say, how do I understand that difference more? How do I work on my own acceptance and non-judgment or different, um, uh, judgment of that difference? And then what does this mean in terms of how we work together? So if we don’t slow this down on a day to day basis and, and devote our time to what we’re saying, we really value, which is building these spaces of belonging. Then we don’t end up with the behaviors, translating from the values, get

Speaker 0 00:08:55 What I’m saying. So what I’m actually hearing is what I heard was the policies aren’t as nearly as important as one might think so you can work someplace and they might not have a D E I M person, a diversity equity and inclusion department. There’s no whole department necessary to make sure this work gets done. What’s more important is that we evaluate how we interact with each other and consciously and purposefully create interactions that support our humanness. So my question to you is how do you go about doing that work? Because a lot of people think that you have to start with the policies and the policies transform the actions. But what I’m hearing is the it’s actually the most, as long as your action focused policies are almost irrelevant. Is that a fair synopsis?

Speaker 2 00:09:44 I tend to say that it’s easy to write the policy. It’s hard to change behavior. If you have an, and you know, culture change is difficult. When we already have a culture that says it’s important to hide, it’s important to be situated around a norm that does not include you. And many of us have lived our lives. People who have been marginalized and people who are in privileged position have all lived their lives around some invisible norm. So this idea of allowing yourself to be seen building spaces where it’s psychologically safe to be seen, expanding our ideas like this, take, for example, this word, professionalism, what does it mean to be professional? A lot of that is, oh, we’ve centered a look and some behaviors around some norm. Well, did, did us as a collective, is that professionalism serving the culture we are creating together? Or is it something that we’ve inherited?

Speaker 2 00:10:47 I use as a small example, my kids sang in a pre-professional chorus. My daughter had long dreads and the chorus uniform and look was to have you hear up in a bun, which is, uh, you know, centered on white hairs and the work we had to do to get the hair in this bun to keep it secure for performance was remarkable. And I thought, what, who agreed to this? Right? But we’ve, we’re so used to, and it’s not a critique even on the course, as much as on how do we human together? How do we sit together as a community and listen to each other and come up with practices and norms that actually serve us?
Speaker 0 00:11:34 How do we begin that work? How do you begin in your job where there might, the norms are centered around the typical norms, um, which are often centered around whiteness. Um, you know, how do we begin those conversations so that we can create these spaces? So we create these spaces that, um, that promote humanists.

Speaker 2 00:11:57 If I’m the business leader in a space, if I’m speaking to the business leader, what I say is give time to the things that you value. So a lot of what we do in team meetings and staff meetings could probably be done in an email and instead give time to the conversations that’s needed because we’re in living in a low trust time, people who are marginalized actually don’t believe that what we’ve said in our policy is what we actually want to do. And it’s going to take time of actually acting on that to show, to help build the trust. So I think begin number one, by dedicating time to calling out the elephant in the room to acknowledging acknowledging privilege and acknowledging places where a particular leader is uncertain of how they have caught. They’ve been complicit in enabling a privilege structure and enabling a center structure that does not include others.

Speaker 0 00:12:54 So I have a question not to cut you off whose job is it to call out that elephant in the room, meaning if you are working at a bank and you guys have a monthly meeting, but you’re a teller, is it the teller job to call out that elephant in the room? Or is it the brand, or is it the branch manager’s job to call off the elephant in the room? And let’s be honest, the branch manager might not be aware like whose job is it to do that? I think it’s always the leader’s job.

Speaker 2 00:13:20 I think that what happens when you are not the leader of the question has to be who has influence and what’s the cost to you. So I’m not want to encourage anybody to co to, to point out the elephant in a way that’s not safe. And if safety hasn’t been set up in the environment, the relationships aren’t in place to say, let’s be curious about this thing that we’re missing this place, where our behavior is not aligned with our values. If that’s going to result in some reprimand or some loss of income, I’m not encouraging that people need to work. I do think that we need to negotiate with the people who have influenced, who, who said it, somebody said it this way in every movement, it is the majority and the privilege people that push the movement over. Right? So I put it like my son with autism, I believe in peace in him having voice.

Speaker 2 00:14:16 And I believe in me with my privilege enabling his voice. And that means that there are people are going to have to work with the influential people that they know to kind of tip the basket over. So in a business space, yeah, I call it out. If you have the influence of, and talk to people quietly, if you need to keep your, um, situation stable, but the business leader needs to be the one that shows up vulnerably that shows up with humility. And that technology is the power that they have to create this space for

Speaker 0 00:14:48 Others. Now, once you start doing this work and you know, you figured out who’s going to call out the elephant in the room and that it’s been called out, the space has been created, they’ve carved out time, so they can be able to talk to and talk about these things in a safe space. Um, what happens or how do you make sure that it doesn’t just end and talk? I know that as a building leader, um, as an administrator, one of the things that would frustrate my teachers to no end is the district would decide that we’re going to implement this great program. Right? And so I would get trained in the program and then how would I go to my teachers and train them in this new program? Um, but there were no supports. So the teachers would be like, alright, how do I do this?

Speaker 0 00:15:32 Because basically the first time you tell someone something it’s just an overview, it is just them dipping their toes in it’s, uh, it’s not the concrete boots on the ground day one. Here’s what happens at this. Here’s what happens if this it’s literally the theory. So they got this great new theory and they’re like, and I’m like, all right, the districts that do this, we’re going to operate under this operating theory now, but I’ve given them no support to make it a reality. Um, and so that being said once, and I’m assuming it’s like this in other spaces, once the idea has been put out there, once it’s the ELA, the band-aid has been ripped off, the elephant’s been pointed out what type of supports are needed to make sure that the conversation doesn’t just stop there.

Speaker 2 00:16:15 Number one, giving space for the conversation to be ongoing is part of the support. Number two, I think dividing different people need different supports. So depending on what the elephant is and who needs to be, um, who is, who is the them? Cause this is about othering. This is about the us is under them. Whoever the thems are. I think the support needed say, for example, me as a mom of a child with special needs in the workplace, the support that’s I would need is different from the support that, um, other workers who don’t have my situation would need. And I think that having a strategy has so having, whether it’s a consultant or somebody come in and define what those support needs are by talking to everyone. So do I need flexible work times? Do I need, um, the ability to have half my work done virtually do?

Speaker 2 00:17:05 What’s the different support that I need. It starts with understanding the who that needs to be supported. And then what do people who don’t understand my life need that are going to judge me when I jump up and say, Hey, I got to go, how come faith gets to go? And she’s leaving early on. What’s that say about me? And so there’s a bunch of supports, including education that people who are not, who are already privileged need in a quintessential black whites, um, situation, um, are black associates in an organization, need a different kind of support than the education that the typical white colleagues need. And we shouldn’t require that that be happening at the same time. Right? Cause that’s what the supportive for one isn’t the other thing, the other thing that’s needed is accountability. And so, um, again, sometimes this is really better done by an outsider who is going to in the team meeting, just notice with the leader, that the thing we just agreed on was

Speaker 0 00:18:08 Breached. If there isn’t

Speaker 2 00:18:10 Enough psychological safety, sometimes that’s not the employees yet. And so often that’s a consultant, whether that’s coming in once a month or whatever, just to reflect and say, okay, so how did this go? How did that go? What happened? Here are some ways that these values could be better supported because as you said, it’s one thing like we’re teaching anybody, anything. It’s one thing to teach it, but no, we were we’re in that. How do we build this as a practice of really deeply honoring people in ways that we, we hadn’t honored them before?

Speaker 0 00:18:40 It’s so funny. The, the, what you said about, um, uh, not only looking at the, your, your black and brown colleagues and looking and figuring out what supports they need to be most effective, but also educating the non black and brown colleagues about what it means and why it’s okay that they need these supports, because that’s what happens in education. You know, someone gets put on a very personalized behavior plan. And if the classroom rules are three strikes and you get a detention, but they start, the student starts to notice how come Johnny got bore. And he actually didn’t get a detention. You have to have those conversations. Like not everybody is able to regulate their emotions the same way. Sometimes we have to give extra support. Sometimes, you know, like the, the biggest thing now is with a lot of our ADHD students, we are recognizing that in order for them to be able to sit or focus in class, the way it’s set up, they sometimes need additional supports, a different chair, a leg band, something to play with. So like to look around, uh, every kid is like, well, how come they get? And they look, it’s a toy. Like I want a toy. Like, so you have to have those. You have to educate every single part of the community, every single part of the organization to make sure that everybody gets what they need. And so I liked that. That was that, thank you so much for that.

Speaker 2 00:20:01 And I think that comes down to redefining this word supports or whatever you want to call it. Right? Because I think we have this idea that if you need support, it’s because you’re less than this is back to the othering. This is back to the fact that certain groups of people are valued as less than others. Right? So to make them come up to the norm, the center, again, we give them support. And I think there’s a redefining of support to be whatever you need to help you effectively contribute in the space that you’re in. And like, if you, you know, just before we got on, I had my coffee. And just before we started recording, I had my essential oils and I was smelling them for some reason, some supports are deemed okay. And we don’t call them supports. That’s a function of our privilege.

Speaker 2 00:20:52 And the privilege people then say, well, this supports I need, my phone is not a crutch, but your wheelchair is a crutch. So redefining supports as something all humans needed. And that really is a table of supports that we all choose from. I can choose transcription if I wanted, I can choose to walk up the wheelchair around if I need it, but I give space for others. So that then it’s not about Johnny getting the bone, sea chair it’s that Johnny is using the bone to chair because that’s what he needs to be able to contribute effectively while I’m using the regular chair, because that’s what I need. Because if I sat on the bone to chair, I’d actually be distracted. And building that in from, with kids means in the workplace, we don’t have that rubbish. How come she’s coming in at 10 15, right. That we actually understand that what different humans need, they need to be supported in being able to, to have that so that they can be more effective.

Speaker 0 00:21:52 I think that I love the way, the way that you put that supports our supports for everyone. And we all have supports. It’s just how we look at those supports and whether or not we call them a support. Um, so what would you say for, so I love what we’ve been talking about. We’ve talked about, um, if you, in case you’re just joining us, we’ve talked about, um, uh, you know, making sure that there’s a safe space to have these conversations. The person and power is the person who needs to, um, create the time for these conversations and bring these ideas to the forefront, making sure that we are giving time consistently to make sure these conversations are happening so that we can change these mindsets. And my, my question I’m going to ask today is our, my last one of my last questions is going to be for someone who is not working in an environment where the leadership is, um, is taking time out to address these things, a person who is afraid because of where they are. And like you said, we all need the work. They don’t want to be the one pointing it out because it might not be safe. What did, and what suggestions do you have to a person working in that type of environment who could see the benefit of being able to have some of these conversations, but aren’t in a position to have them, um, how should they go about advocating for themselves? Um, you know, or the people around them?

Speaker 2 00:23:12 I think that’s a tough one. And I would start Y by building, um, building relational support for myself. Um, I think that often we can be in a situation where it’s, it feels so toxic and it removes a, so much of our life force that it almost becomes pointless. Right? And so if you, if that’s a situation that you’re choosing you, you need to stay in it’s work and we rent and food. Um, I think then real through like-minded other individuals, whether those people are at work, other people who see eye to eye with you or others in other spaces coming together to kind of acknowledge what is it. So if the elephant in the room copy acknowledged by the them’s, we have to acknowledge it and create space for ourselves to be able to be honest, be truthful, be fully seen in the, I think it’s magical when people get together and in that collective, then ideas may come forth or there might be synergy, and there might be relationships that other people have that can move this forward more effectively than one person by themselves. So I would definitely start there. Um, I would also say that I found it to be effective to raise this conversation, not about the actual elephant, but about other, perhaps less, um, charged examples of the elephant. So I love it to have leaders notice when they feel authored

Speaker 0 00:24:54 Or, you

Speaker 2 00:24:55 Know, we get to the fact that you were doing, you know, this is what’s happening in your, like, there might be something small that happens that it, then you can kind of align with a person around this idea of you being the thems and just, just offer compassion and build that relationship there and reflect that with each other to then say, this is how sometimes I think about being a woman in the workplace, it’s really similar to what my son with autism probably feels and leave it there. So I think building those bridges from something that feels less charged into the things that are really, really the elephants can also help prepare the ground.

Speaker 0 00:25:31 I think that it, I mean, that’s another, a great piece of advice. I think that a lot of times, and especially when you’re working with younger kids, um, which is where I’m a primarily, um, I spent the bulk of my career. Um, you often have to create an example from their limited schema of life. And then once you can create the example from their schema. So if you can say, well, how do, how did you feel when you fell last week? And so how do you, and then take that to, so how do you think it must have felt it, you know, to, to have someone, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. They can first relate to, oh, this is how it made me feel when this happened. This kind of thing happened to me. So I am assuming that this must be what this person is feeling like, um, in this story that we’re reading or this person that I’ve caused harm to in my classroom, you know, you first have to relate it to something that they can relate to.

Speaker 0 00:26:23 Um, so I, I love that advice. Um, and so for all my people who are not working in the best of environments right now, um, B I a, the other piece of advice that I really, really liked is find your tribe. Your tribe might not be in the organization in which you work. Um, I know there are lots of communities on Facebook, um, you, their meetups and, and, uh, networking groups find your tribe. And in that tribe, talk about your, where you do feel safe, talk about your, your struggles and the things that that are bothering you. And you might find some creative ways to deal with them. You might find a connection with somebody who might be able to help you on your journey. You never know. And definitely when you’re in those spaces, make sure that you’re trying to find a common ground so that you can make those bridges. Thank you so much for those gems. Those are awesome. Um, do you have a way for which people, if they want, are interested in their, like maybe they’re there, they have a small, uh, business and they are thinking we need to have these conversations, um, with my small business, but I need some guidance on how to start these difficult conversations. How can, how can listeners get ahold of it?

Speaker 2 00:27:31 I spend too much time on Facebook. So if you Google, if you go in Facebook and search, you’ll see me, faith Clark, faith card.com is my website and email faith act, melody of autism.com. Uh, and I think that if you send me a message in any of the social spaces that I’m in, we can definitely informally chat just about some simple ways to open the door to the conversation and to see if your team is ready. It’s bumpy. If you’re going to open the door to the real conversation it’s bumpy and you want to layer in, um, your own readiness and just make sure your team is ready for the conversation, but it’s, it’s the right kind of hard work. We are doing a lot of the wrong kind of hard work. It’s the right kind of hard

Speaker 0 00:28:16 Work to do. Awesome. I really thank you so much for being here today, to talk to the listeners about how to figure out, how to pour into themselves before they begin pouring into their children and rewriting their education. Um, I think this is very valuable work. Um, and thank you so much again for being here, Michelle, thank you for having me. It was good. When you fly on a plane, the flight attendant always instructs you to put on your mask before assisting others. You can’t pour from an empty well folks. We need to create the same type of environments for ourselves that we want to see for our children. We deserve to be in safe spaces where we are heard, seen, and valued. How does your workplace rank with its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion? What do they do well? What could they do better?

Speaker 0 00:29:06 Do you have any tips that you can share? Hop on over to our Facebook page, just like me presents, join our group and let us know, show notes and resources to all the fantastic tips that faith mentioned today are on our website@wwwthatjustlikemepresents.com. You can reach out to faith directly@wwwfaithclark.com, share this podcast with other parents and educators and your circle, and be sure to hit the subscribe button. So you never miss an episode now that we’ve gotten our homes in order and our jobs in order next week, we’re going to be looking to get classrooms in order. What should you see when you visit your child’s school and what you should do if you don’t thanks again for listening. And remember if our children can see it.

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