37. Work-Life Boundaries + Life Isn’t Always Fair

Episode 37: Work-Life Boundaries + Life Isn’t Always Fair (Summary)

The concept of work/life balance is dead…and that’s a good thing. We’re talking about what should take its place, and why telling employees that you can’t always be fair may be good boss strategy. We’re starting now on Boss Better Now.

Links:
To learn more about Joe Mull, visit his website ​Joemull.com​.
To hear more from Joe Mull visit his YouTube channel​.
To learn how to invite Joe to speak at an event, visit ​Joemull.com/speaking​.
To check date availability or to get a quote for an event, email ​hello@joemull.com​.
To explore options for coaching from Alyssa Mullet, visit ​Joemull.com/coaching​.
For more information on the BossBetter Leadership Academy, visit Joemull.com/academy.
Email the show at bossbetternow@gmail.com.
To leave comments, ask questions, or to message us visit our Boss Better Now Podcast Facebook Page.
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Transcript – Episode 37: Work-Life Boundaries + Life Isn’t Always Fair

Joe:
The concept of work-life balance is dead. And that’s a good thing. We’re talking about what should take its place, and why telling employees that you can’t always be fair may be good boss strategy. We’re starting now on Boss Better Now.

Alyssa:
You’re listening to Boss Better Now. Please welcome speaker, author, and a guy who still uses two spaces between sentences, Joe Mull.

Joe:
Welcome, BossHeroes. And thanks for stopping by our little corner of the internet and the podcasting world. Yes, it’s true. I still type two spaces between sentences when I type. When you get taught how to type in… in class typing in the 80’s – appropriate style now is one space between sentences. And apparently, it’s been that way for a while, but, but you know, we are the resistance, uh, that’s sort of in there forever – right there. Ain’t no changing that.

Alyssa:
I didn’t … This is how badly regressed I am, I guess, uh, I didn’t know that we shouldn’t be doing that. Is there a thing that we…?

Joe:
Yes, it is. It is no longer considered a proper format by the way. Spoiler alert to our friends who maybe didn’t know that apparently, uh, us Gen X-ers are like, no, I will “two-space” it forever because I cannot re-train my thumbs. Okay.

Alyssa:
No, I, I, I mean, I really, really, really have to concentrate to break myself of that. I don’t, I don’t think it’s going to happen. I mean, I try to be open to change, but sometimes, sometimes you just got to put a hard, hard, line there. Principal big old boundary there. I can’t … you can’t.

Joe:
Well, principal is, is sometimes the reason to do it. In this case, it’s probably not principal. It’s just muscle memory. It’s just never going to be able to overcome the tap-tap, you know. Cause I type fast. I mean, I’ve written a couple books. I write a lot of articles and blog posts and I… I’ve been typing, um, since I was 12, and uh, you know, it is, it’s just – it’s muscle memory. Um, there’s no overcoming that.

Alyssa:
Yeah. Well, I don’t think I’ve been typing since I was 12, but when I was in like… what?… Seventh grade we had that old good old typing class. And I mean, this was before like they had computers on one side of the room and then like typewriters, corrective tape on the other side. And so, I learned to type on an actual typewriter.

Joe:
Yeah. My mom had a typewriter and that’s where I started. And then we had like MS-Dos word processors in, uh, in the “computer lab” at school. Right. Each of those weighed 260 pounds with the monitor. Right?

Alyssa:
And you got to play Oregon Trail after if you were really good.

Joe:
That’s right. That’s right. Oh, such a great game. What a flashback. “You have died of dysentery.” Alright, well friends, the voice you are hearing is my fabulous co-host professional coach extraordinaire, Alyssa Mullet. And we’re so excited that you’re here with us today, whether you’re working out, or commuting to work, or listening in your office, we’re glad you’re here. Uh, and hey, if you’ve been hanging out with us for a while and you like our little show and you keep coming back then, uh, why haven’t you left a glowing review of our show on the Apple Podcast app? I mean, come on, help a guy out. Okay. Um, all right. Well, we actually are going to dive in around something that, uh, related to a word you just used a moment ago, Alyssa. It was like, I teed you up perfectly. I don’t even think you knew it.

Joe:
You talked about boundaries and we’re going to talk about some work-life boundaries because as we’ve been talking about in recent episodes, we’re living in this moment right now where the, the sins of overwork that have been unfolding for a couple of decades now here, especially in the U.S. — Uh, have come due. And as we move through what is being called “The Great Resignation” and it’s becoming harder and harder to fill roles and people were becoming much more selective, uh, to the kinds of work environments they accept and step into. Um, we have to acknowledge that the concept of work-life balance is dead. Uh, we’ve been talking about work-life balance forever during all of these intense work periods, uh, where people were, uh, driving themselves into the ground, both in terms of, of time and schedule and volume of work for years. Uh, and so we have proven that despite our best efforts to champion work-life balance and to prioritize work-life balance, we are not capable of work-life balance.

Joe:
Uh, if the, you know, “Workplace 1.0” if we call everything that happened before the pandemic, uh, would be allowed to continue. And so, uh, what I’m arguing right now in conversations with others and what I thought would be fun for us to talk about today is what we need in its place. And it’s something that I’m calling work-life boundaries. So, work-life balance, I think, left people to their own devices. Uh, you know, uh, companies could pay quite a bit of time and attention to championing work-life balance, but that didn’t actually play out in reality. Did it? People were, were, uh, unable to keep up with the pace of their work and the volume of their work and to separate and actually create true separation between their work and their life. There was no balance. There was this kind of total blending. And so, we’ve proven that we’re not capable of it.

Joe:
And any conversations that organizations have had about it for years really have amounted to lip service in a lot of ways. And so, I think what we need to do instead is create work-life boundaries. You know, a boundary is a hard border, it’s a fence. And so, what I’m interested in is what goes on that list. If we want to see stronger work-life boundaries, a healthier separation between work and life, which we know is crucial right now, it’s what people want and are looking for, uh, in, in the workplace world, maybe 2.0 that we’ll call it that exists after the pandemic landed. What goes on the list? What are the hardline fences that need to be built and supported by organizations who want to find and attract talent?

Alyssa:
Wow. I, you know, #1, yes to everything you just said, you know, I don’t even want to say rest in peace, this concept of, you know, work-life balance because it was always a myth. We always were delusional and trying to, to believe ourselves capable of, oh, there’s these two things and we’re balancing them, you know, we just have to find the right balance. Bull crap. There wasn’t ever about — because that’s landed us right here where we’re all at, which is burnout. Burned the heck out. So, when we talk about boundaries, this question of what do we, what does that look like? What do they, what, how do we shape those boundaries? And the first things that come up for me, um, are around the concepts of time and space, right? And we’ve talked about, um, a couple of these kinds of very specifically — in prior episodes, where, what is the new space of work going to look like, feel like, and the responsibility as leaders to build in so much flexibility. Right? And so, I think that the first concept of understanding, um, what boundaries we need to shape is to see what is broken the most. And, um, what has been most, um, effectively blurring the heck out of those lines between work and life. Right? So, looking for the pressure points of, okay, what, you know, what made us as a whole, or me specifically as a leader, blur those lines. What made me be up until midnight reading emails, what, you know, uh, allowed me to blur those boundaries for myself until I burned out.

Joe:
So, there’s an evaluation that needs to take place. You’re absolutely right. There, there is some internal work that organizations need to do where they evaluate what the demands are on their folks- I think, and we’ve been talking about this lately in a couple of different ways. But an examination of what are our expectations for what one person can reasonably accomplish in their jobs and have those expectations become so bloated as to now be unreasonable, or it is our, you know, perception of reasonable, completely skewed. Cause it probably is, especially if we’re seeing that kind of burnout in the blurring of the lines that you’re talking about. So absolutely organizations need to take an inventory. They need to go through a sort of internal review process to better understand what are the demands our folks are facing, experiencing both relative to time, to workload, to stress, to pressure, to communication. All of these are, are, um, itemized parts of the list when it comes to what that evaluation should look like.

Alyssa:
You know, when you’re talking about that, forgive me. But I hearkened back to my HR days and job descriptions and how many times I went through freaking job descriptions, and it was always this hellish project, but I thought, oh, essential functions, essential functions of the job. Right. And wouldn’t that be a lovely place to discern the true amount of bloat that we have put into every single level of our organization to be able to look at job descriptions across the spectrum, including our own, and say, these are the essential functions. These are the expectations of the essential functions of this job, right. And if there’s more than like, I mean – five essential functions of that job, that’s somebody else’s job too, right. You better have another person and there needs to be more than one. And so, I think that trying to blow it all up, but in a way that, um, we have some basis for how to blow that up, there are still structures and analysis and assessments that you can use from what has and hasn’t worked for us in the past. And so, for me, it’s like, okay, let me go start at those essential functions of the job descriptions of each of the roles that I’m responsible for supervising.

Joe:
And, and you’re absolutely right. And I think one of the devices we can use to get there is a kind of time budgeting exercise, where we actually sit down, and we move through creating a list of everything that a person does in a position. And then we quantify it. How much time does this take? Um, what are the other things that live around this? How much time does that take, right? Um, if you have somebody on your team who is in charge of creating the weekly schedule for your, your clinic, for example, um, you could sit down and say, okay, that usually takes, um, 90-minutes – two hours, depending on how many sites they’ve got and whatnot, um, that might be true, but processing the time off requests and circling back and chasing down the physicians to find out, you know, I’m still waiting to hear from you because you changed your schedule.

Joe:
That’s another hour of time that gets sucked away. So, what we do is we create this big list of all of the different things that eat away at our time. And then we kind of parenthetically, next to each of them, capture the minutes or hours that it takes. And then we add them all up together. And then we look and say, okay, we’ve got a 40-hour workweek, and hey, look at this list. There’s no way this can all fit. Or we’ve already eaten up 32 hours just with this stuff, which means that their capacity is at like 80%. And there’s no additional flexibility in there for them to respond to, um, different kinds of situations that arise or to have ongoing developmental conversations with employees. So, I actually think this kind of time budgeting exercise is something that is really important for organizations to commit to.

Joe:
It’s one of the ways that they create work-life boundaries. They say we’re going to do this inventory once or twice a year. We’re going to review it. And we are going to commit to time budget exchanges. What that means is if you add a responsibility or a project or a set of meetings or something to someone’s plate, you have to ask yourself, what’s coming off. What’s the exchange that we’re making for this. Um, it’s good in practice, but without those commitments to doing these reviews, um, every couple of months, it doesn’t happen. And I know that a lot of the folks who are listening to this, we’re kind of preaching to the choir. They know that their personnel is overworked and that they carry too much. And so sometimes it’s incumbent upon them to go back to the people that supervise them, the, the, the ownership of their company or, or senior executives, and say, let me show you the numbers. Cause it’s hard to make that case, but like, hey, look at this, this position works 40 hours a week, and they’ve got 62 hours a week of responsibilities. Can you understand why we can’t keep anybody here? Can you understand why our workflows are a mess? Can you understand why everybody is stressed to the hilt? This is not sustainable.

Alyssa:
And I think, you know, just as you’re saying, you know, the information has to flow up in turn whenever you are doing these time budget inventories. I think it is an essential part of that process that yes, as the supervisor and the leader of that role, you should have some understanding of the amount of time that each one of those functions takes. Right? And you should be able to jot down at least two bullet points of those, all of those other time eaters, you know, that go into each one of those tasks. However, it is imperative that you are checking in. You’re having that conversation with the people that hold that role, and you’re doing it in the process of, or in the spirit of collaborative effort, wanting to make sure that we’re on track with the amount of FTEs that we have with the responsibilities that we’ve given each of you. So that it’s not this thing of, oh, they’re watching us, they’re trying to see how productive we are, right. Because that’s the way the cuts are coming. Because as an HR person, once again, I can tell you that’s happened to a lot of people.

Joe:
What is the minimum viable amount of, of FTEs we can have? Nearly every decision about staffing is, is made on the threshold of where is the failure line and how can we exist just above it. And I think that there’s this shift that has taken place now where it’s not a failure in terms of we had a catastrophe on a Tuesday because we were understaffed, and we had to close. And I mean, we’re seeing that right now, out there in so many businesses, but that’s just coming to a head as a result of the other kind of failure, which is that we have ground people into the, into the ground …

Joe:
We have. Yeah. You know what I mean? Um, we have overworked people so consistently, and for so long that the failure was spread, stretched out over a long period of time. So, what if the decisions about our staffing patterns and FTEs aren’t made with, what’s the minimum number we need to survive, but instead are made around, what do we think we need consistently? And then how do we add a layer of padding on top of that with an extra position or two in order for us to have a much more manageable workload distribution so that we can allow people to go to conferences — We can understand when people call off because their kids are sick or just so we can have a happier, healthier, not insanely over-stressed workforce. And I know that costs money. I know that affects the bottom line, but the pain that we’re experiencing right now, and the quality of the service that people experience when we run at a skeleton crew actually costs us more than the investment it would take to add a layer or two position-wise for better workload distribution.

Alyssa:
Yeah. Yeah. And, and any HR person out there is going to tell you about the fact that, you know, the recruitment and the retention, the cost analysis that goes along with that is absolutely provable in terms of you’re adding another person versus having to continually recruit, to replace the people that you train really hard. And then they walk out the door because you burnt them the heck out, right. This concept of where we’re going, the benchmark, right. Is the failure line. That is, is really, uh, a pivotal thing for me in terms of my thought pattern. Cause that in instantaneously went, yes, that’s it, we’re constantly, instead of looking towards a boundary, a boundary of a healthy workplace, happy workplace, I..”happy” … we dare to dream, see your workplace, right. Versus this is the minimum I can get away with in terms of making it work. If we can replace the expectation, if we can lead the charge of replacing, this is the minimum too, this is the boundary that I want to have for myself and my team in order to effectively operate. This is the boundary, not the failure line because that’s way down here. The boundary has to be well above the failure line.

Joe:
You know, nobody drives to their summer vacation with exactly the, the amount of gas that gets you, the exact mileage, right? You don’t look at the map and say, well, it’s 360 miles to the beach. So, I’ve got 360 miles worth of gas in the tank. And that’s what we’re doing in the workplace. That’s when it comes to staffing, we make the decision based on what exactly do I need at a, at a minimum, uh, if you don’t have enough gas in your tank like you better not hit, not be traffic, better, not be a detour, right. Better not get stuck somewhere for a little while, or you’re going to have a, a failure. You will not get where you need to go, and it’s going to end up costing you more time and more resources to fix it. Um, I don’t know if that analogy worked, but it worked in my head, but, and, and it’s not just staffing too.

Joe:
So, cause… I don’t want to turn this whole discussion into a staffing piece. I think it’s a huge part of it. I think that workload distribution is a huge part of it, but one of the other boundaries, the work-life boundaries that I think organizations need to commit to, uh, is related to leadership development. You know, we know that we can preach until we’re blue in the face about how important these boundaries are. But if you don’t provide supervisors, the training, they need to understand when to ask for more and when to push staff versus when to pull back, how to create psychological safety, um, why it’s important not to email your personnel when they’re on vacation, right? Every… Most everybody listening to this has, has worked on vacation. You’ve Zoomed from the beach and that’s, that’s not a work-life boundary. That’s just a continued blurring and invasion.

Joe:
And so, as part of this, we know that in, in many places, leaders do not get the ongoing coaching, training, and support that they need to be the kinds of flexible, adaptable, supportive coaching-oriented leaders that lead to higher levels of performance among employees – who then also have a higher level of commitment and a better work-life “balance”. And so, one of the, one of the boundaries that companies are going to have to commit to is how do we continue to provide that ongoing training and support for our leaders and frontline mid-level and all the way up.

Alyssa:
Yeah, I mean, that speaks to the, the essential illness of the whole time – time and space, right? As boundaries creating the space in which people have #1, the capacity, right? To go to things and mentally and physically take, take part — whether that’s virtually or not take part in development, right. That’s really critical. Um, being able to create that space for others and also as your, for yourself as the leader, that’s really also an essential part of how we move away from those big, old pile of burnout, right? Is to be able to say, this is what I’m working for. This is, this creates some level of purpose, of meaning to the work that I do, because it’s not just about how many patients I can see or how many clients I can answer the phone for today is about, they care about me as a person. They care about my development. These are the things that I can do to take, to participate in making myself, myself, person… human, have more opportunities for development, new knowledge, the aptitude, and the abilities to excel and do whatever.

Joe:
If you’re swimming in the ocean, you can’t enjoy the experience. You can’t enjoy the view. If you spend the whole time in the water drowning, you know, we know that purpose and fulfillment is sort of the magic dust of employees being engaged and being committed in the workplace. It’s not possible if they, if they can’t keep their heads above water to build off of our analogy, there’s there is no purpose when I get up in the morning and I have the capacity to do, you know, eight things. But if I don’t do these 12, I’m going to be chastised or fired or I’m going to be just living in a stressful, um, void of misery. Right. And then if I don’t get the 12 done, then the next day I have 14 because of the two I didn’t finish. So, you’re absolutely right. We … you know, we can have organizations out there who insist that they are mission-driven, purpose-driven, that, that their work isn’t supportive of a cause.

Joe:
Um, but your employees will dismiss that entirely if they end up feeling like they’re on a hamster wheel. And that the point is to run as fast as you can and crank out as much as you can. Absolutely. And so, I’m interested in hearing from some folks in our audience, because I think there’s a lot of creativity that could go into making this list. When I talk about work-life boundaries, I’m really talking about what are the things that companies — employers need to do in order to create a healthier separation between work and the rest of employees of an employee’s life. And so, we’ve talked about a couple of today, just to recap, we talked about, um, going through the process to take an, uh, an inventory of where people are stressed, where workload is overwhelming, finding out from people, what their real lived experiences are. We talked about doing time budget, uh, reviews and exchanges.

Joe:
When new duties get added, uh, we’ve talked about better training and support for supervisors as far as managing people and helping create that separation and, and not, uh, blur those lines a little bit. Um, we talked about staffing up as a way to not have so much, uh, failure potentially across an organization because we’re operating at a minimum threshold. So, what else would you say, BossHeroes? What are the things that you would like to see your companies commit to, uh, in order to create work-life boundaries? We want to hear from you, um, in terms of your ideas. And so, you can send those to us via email at bossbetternow@gmail.com. If you’re watching this episode online on our BossBetter YouTube channel, uh, or in, in any of the blogs on our joemull.com website, uh, just drop a comment in the box below.

Joe:
Uh, and yeah, we’re waving to you, thanks for watching the live stream. And we’ll keep talking about this because I think this is going to continue to evolve as we move through the next year or so in the workplace. And I think we’re going to see some really innovative things from organizations who say enough is enough. Uh, we’re the most overworked, industrialized nation on earth, and something’s got to change. And so those organizations who pioneer in that area and who get out in front, they’re going to, they’re going to have access to a wider pool of talent too. And so, I think, I think the, the marketplace is going to help in this regard since, since the, the market itself is people and people are insisting on a change.

Joe:
And that music means it’s time for the Camaraderie Question of the Week. We know that bosses build camaraderie on teams, by making it easier for people to find things in common with each other. That’s why here on the show, every week we give you a question you can use at meetings to facilitate connection and build camaraderie. And our question this week, Alyssa, is this: If you could wave a magic wand, what household chore would you never do, again?

Alyssa:
I’m going to, as a person who like, I have a legit like, task list so that I know that everything gets done, but I don’t have to do everything on a given day… Meaning like my house is never cleaned on one day in

Joe:
One day. Parts of it, based on what happened that day?

Alyssa:
That’s exactly it that’s exactly because I have given up the ghost on, oh, you know, Saturday morning, everybody’s going to clean that. Nope, that doesn’t, that doesn’t happen because then that just builds up. This whole thing of the house is clean. No one can do anything. So, screw that.

Joe:
Uh, oh, those pillows aren’t for sitting. No, no, no.

Alyssa:
Yeah. Right. The candle’s burning, everyone calmed down. It just doesn’t work for me. But if I could give up one thing and never have to do it again, it would be bathroom day. Like, specifically my son’s bathroom. If I need never have to clean and pry up dried toothpaste and other things, which I will not say on the air again, that would be delightful.

Joe:
Lately feel that yes. Yes. And we’ve got three kids sharing a bathroom, so triple it — and welcome to our world. Yeah. Yeah. Children are disgusting. Just, you know, let’s be honest. Adults are disgusting too, but children are disgusting. Absolutely. So, it’s bathroom day, you wave your magic wand. This is the chore you would eliminate. It would just happen automatically with your magical wand, your household chore magic wand. Got it. Very cool. Good answer.

Alyssa:
What about you, Joe? Well, are you responsible for a certain thing that you just wish would never have to have?

Joe:
That’s an interesting question because we do kind of live in that world. Like my wife has some stuff that just kind of lives with her because of her schedule. And I have some stuff that lives with me. Um, and we have stuff that we kind of all pitch in on. Um, if I had a magic wand that could eliminate a household chore though, and I didn’t say laundry, I would get, my wife would divorce me. I feel like that’s the right answer. And so, since I like being married to her, I feel like our answer has to be laundry. Um, but, but I, I’ve always hated the dishes. And I don’t know why. Um, I’ve always hated doing the dishes for a lot of years. I would avoid it in very stealthy ways. And now I’ve just kind of talked myself into full-on acceptance, which is, it’s ridiculous that the dishes are the chore that you hate because I’ve actually timed it.

Joe:
The dishes take me like nine minutes. Cause we have a dishwasher, you know, you put out, you unload the dishwasher that takes like four minutes, and you load the dishwasher and that takes four minutes. And then depending on, if you have like a couple of those pans that you can’t put in the dishwasher, you gotta hand wash them real quick. It takes almost no time at all, but it’s like an everyday thing. And I’m one of those people for, for years growing up, I remember doing the dishes and I would hate touching the dirty dishes. I would lift the stuff out with as minimal grip as possible. Um, so yeah, so it’s either laundry or dishes for me. That’s my answer.

Alyssa:
You know, that’s so funny because my husband, you know, we obviously, you know, share the house duties and he, um, I cook primarily, um, the majority of our dinners and that. So, he’s generally then always responsible for the dishes. Right. And he is the same way, but he, his counter to that is to like, as soon as a dish hits the counter, he does it. Like he wants to be on it, which as the cook drives me freaking insane. Cause I was like, I wasn’t done with that.

Joe:
Gimme the cutting board back, man. Come on.

Alyssa:
He just wants it done. And I’m going like, wait a minute.

Joe:
And I’m all like, well, why can’t we just buy an absolute ton of paper plates? Because that feels like a really smart solution. And you know, this is both biodegradable, no Styrofoam, right? We’re going to be environmentally conscious, but at Costco, you can get plates for days — paper plates for days. Um, but yeah, no, I … I’m guilty of that as well.

Alyssa:
Good times.

Joe:
And that is the Camaraderie Question of the Week.

Joe:
All right, friends. Well, if you’ve heard on episodes lately, we’re trying to do a fun thing around here, uh, that we’re gonna call, uh, your favorite boss book. We want to know what is your favorite boss book? What is the book that you passionately encourage other bosses to pick up and read from, start to finish? We want you to tell us about that. And if you do, we’re going to send you some sweet BossHero swag. So, here’s how you do this. We want you to record a short clip using the voice recorder on your smartphone, where you tell us your name, the favorite book who wrote it, and why you like it. Keep that recording under 60 seconds. And then email that to us at bossbetternow@gmail.com, along with your mailing address. And we’re going to play those on some future shows.

Joe:
And if we play yours, we’re going to send you this great BossHero swag box that we’ve put together that has some really cool branded BossHero goodies in it. You’ll get some stuff that actually says BossHero on it. Um, because we want to reward you for continuing to show up in such a way where you strive to be a better boss. So, tell us about your favorite boss book. If we play it on the air, we’re going to send you some good stuff. Yay. That sounds awesome. I can’t wait to see what people send us. I’m looking forward to it. Um, and that brings us to our final segment this week, Boss Like a Mother.

Joe:
All right, Alyssa. I had an interesting conversation with my son this past week, um, while I was traveling for work. And I thought it was a little bit of a… I noticed something that I’ve noticed before, but I kind of noticed it more. Uh, and I thought it would be fun to talk about here on the show because there is a real-world application in terms of leadership. So, I, as everyone knows, now I have three kids and Miles who is in the middle, who just turned nine. He is a scorekeeper. Uh, he knows when anybody has gotten something that he didn’t get. And so, his idea of fair and equity gets challenged in situations when he notices this. And this is especially true with his older sister. If he thinks that she gets something that he didn’t get, um, it’s a violation for him, his, his whole kind of sense of I’m not being treated fairly —

Joe:
It gets triggered. So, I was traveling for work and was chatting with everybody on the phone. And my wife said, hey, Miles wants to talk to you. And I get on the phone with him. And I could tell that this battle had been raging for a while. And apparently Lily had gotten a rice crispy treat when he was not there. This was this… My daughter had to stay home for a couple of days, uh, from school because of a kid that she sat next to got tested for COVID… Tested positive for COVID. And so, she had to quarantine, and it was a whole thing, but, um, heaven forbid Lily got a Rice Krispy Treat, and he didn’t. Now that day he got something else. So, in my wife’s mind, it was like, y’all had a treat, let’s move on. But no, like this was a violation.

Joe:
So, he gets on the phone with me. And for the next 10 minutes, we’re talking about that his perception of “fair” is kind of skewed. He’s like, but she got this and it’s not fair. And I didn’t. And I said, listen, bud, you know, that’s not true. You know, you had a thing, and she had a thing. So, we kind of got caught up in this whole back and forth. And the more we did it, the more frustrated he got, you know, you could, you could hear him getting really frustrated, like to the point of tears. And I kind of had that moment where I was like, this isn’t working, stop debating with him as to why, why it is fair. He feels like he’s not being treated fairly. And I’m trying to tell him why he is. And that’s just dismissing his feelings of this isn’t fair.

Joe:
I was literally sitting at an airport gate having this conversation with him. So, I finally took a breath. I said you know what, buddy, maybe you’re right. Maybe you’re right. Maybe Lily got something that you didn’t get. And in this moment that is not fair. And one of the things you’re going to figure out is sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes we don’t all get the same things. Sometimes we don’t know how we’ll have the same luck. Some things just don’t play out that way. Sometimes life just isn’t fair. I tend to think that it all sort of evens out over time and you know, you should know by now that your mom and I try to do our best to make sure that it’s pretty even most of the time, but yes, you’re right in this moment, on this day, it’s not fair. Sorry for you.

Joe:
And everything changed. He, I mean, he wasn’t happy, but he stopped arguing. He didn’t, and there was no rebut to that. And I kind of had that moment where I was like, huh. Oh, look at that. Okay. Nailed it. Nailed the parenting. Yeah. It only took me 20 minutes of arguing about the Rice Krispies treat. And it just got me thinking about, sometimes we have to lean right into the violation that people say they’re experiencing. Right. I leaned right into his victimhood where he was like, I am not being treated fairly. And it was okay. Sure. You’re right. You’re right. I, you know, from, from my view, that’s not true, but if that’s how you feel, okay, you’re right. Life isn’t fair. I’m resisting the urge to quote a very classic Dennis Leary routine from his famous, No Cure for Cancer comedy CD, where he says, uh, “Life sucks, get a helmet.”

Joe:
There’s some other colorful language in and around that. But I had to resist the urge to tell that to Miles in that conversation. But the spirit of the idea was there, which is yeah. Sometimes it’s not fair. And so, I just wonder if there are times when we sit across from people at work, uh, who report to us and who we’re having conversations with about their victimhood and about something not being fair. If it wouldn’t serve us well sometimes to be like, yeah, you’re right. Sometimes it’s not fair. Yeah. Sometimes people get the easier assignment. Sometimes people get stuck with the crappy schedule. Yep. It’s not fair. I’m sorry you feel that way. And I like to think it all comes out in the wash down the line and we’re going to continue to try to do our best to make it even out. But in this moment, on this particular week or in this particular issue for you, you got the short end of the stick. That sucks.

Alyssa:
Being able to acknowledge not your reality, but someone else’s perception of their reality, right. Is the crux of being heard and seen? And though in the workplace, at least that’s been my experience. And so, I give you kudos because, in the parenting space, that’s all really like, I have a hard time being able to step outside of myself as the parent, you know? Right. Um, and I, and Sarah really, yeah, probably am also guilty of that as a leader, you know, trying to justify, right. Why, why it is that way or, you know, blah, blah, blah, you know, word vomit. This is why. Right.

Joe:
Blah, blah, blah, word vomit. I know exactly what you mean though. Keep going.

Alyssa:
When essentially it does just boil down to sometimes, you’re right. It appears you feel that it’s unfair and I can understand how you feel about fairness. That doesn’t mean you agree that it’s unfair, right? You don’t even have to take yourself that far, but just the ability to acknowledge the basis of their argument, the basis of their pain, the basis of their hurt, that’s going to send a bigger message than any why, any justification that you could ever provide.

Joe:
And, and I think it so much so often when it happens either as parents or as leaders, it comes from the place where we have this first blush reaction of thinking this is dumb, or this is petty. Are we really going to spend time and energy on this? Is this the hill you’re going to die on? You gotta be kidding me, what a complete waste of time. And so, then we put our diplomat hat on, and we try to work through with the person across from us, why it’s not worth fretting about, or, or why it’s not. So why their perspective of, of, you know, it’s not fair is inaccurate. When all we do is just throw fuel on that fire because we’re dismissing their feelings. And I think what I like about the idea of leaning into it is you’re not telling them that they’re right to feel that way.

Joe:
You know, it wasn’t, oh, Miles, you poor baby, go get a Rice Krispy Treat. It was, um, cause that’s coddling and I’m not going to do that. But I feel like we create a more resilient nine-year-old or an ultimately adult hopefully, and also create more resilient, grounded employees is by saying, Hey, maybe you’re right. Maybe, maybe this isn’t fair this week. Maybe, maybe you got the short end of the stick. And that stinks. Thanks for telling me how you feel. Um, let’s hopefully we can, we can make it all even out, down the line, um, and acknowledging it. That customer got in your face and treated you terribly and that’s awful. And that probably didn’t feel good. Uh, but as part of the gig.

Alyssa:
Yeah. You know, and it goes back to this whole thing we’ve been talking about with boundaries, right. Is being, this might not be your, like you said, your hill to die on so to speak, but maybe it feels like a big boundary-crossing for that. And so that’s the invitation to get curious about that, about what they’re feeling, where, where that’s coming from that rather than the justification and the fairness aspect and the why.

Joe:
Yes. And, and, you know, because we have a whole number of folks, I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush here, um, for whom any perception of inequity or unfairness is disrespect, right? It’s I should not, I should not experience discomfort. Um, and whether, you know, their, their whole conversations about whether that’s generational or whether it’s a lack of coping skills for some folks who’ve come into the workplace, or it’s born out of neuroses, for whatever reason that it’s happening. Sometimes we gotta be iOS leaders to speak up and say, okay, yeah, yeah, timeout. Yeah, I know this doesn’t feel good, but it’s part of the job, right? It’s not disrespect. Everybody here is going to feel that at some point or another, and it’s going to feel that this isn’t fair or that this is an unpleasant feeling that you’re experiencing comes with the gig. You know, I’m sorry, it doesn’t feel good this week, but it’s part of the job. And you know, let’s talk about how we can get through it together. It doesn’t mean you’re disrespected just means you’re having a hard day. Welcome to life. Thanks for stopping by.

Joe:
“Life sucks. Get a helmet.” So, you know, and I think everybody listening to this knows that we’re not going to be at cavalier or dismissive conversationally with folks. Um, but we can be real with them. You know, we can be honest with them and be like, yep, it’s thanks. Sorry. This happened to you. It’s part of the job. And that’s why sometimes we have to Boss Like a Mother,

Joe:
All right, friends, that’s all this week for our show. If you like, what you heard, please be sure to click like on our videos, subscribe to the show, wherever you listen to podcasts, which by the way will deliver new episodes to your phone automatically. And of course, you could take my personal favorite act of support for our show. You can write a post on your preferred social media channel, telling others about the show in the meantime, thanks for listening. And we will see you next time.

Alyssa:
This show is sponsored by Joe Mull and Associates. Remember commitment comes from better bosses. Visit joemull.com today.

Joe (Ad):
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