Since the arrival of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, our ways of working have significantly shifted, and our sense of social connection has taken an almighty hit. Joining Aoife this week is special guest Bruce Daisley. Bruce is a former VP of Twitter, now bestselling author, keynote speaker, workplace culture enthusiast and host of the brilliant Eat Sleep Work Repeat podcast.
Throughout the discussion, Bruce discusses individualism versus collectivism and the pursuit of togetherness at work. Bruce reveals how resilience is a strength in which we draw from one another and unpacks the bright side of the pandemic and the opportunities it has brought. We also hear how work cultures differ across the globe and the power that lies within groups and storytelling. Further key points throughout include:
– An introduction to Bruce Daisley
– What on earth is resilience?
– The powerful link between social identity and groups
– How having a best friend at work can boost happiness
– Maintaining connections in a hybrid working environment
– Dealing with ‘bad apples’ in the workplace
– Climbing the corporate ladder and being greeted with workplace isolation at the top
– The biggest challenge of organisational culture and team dynamics
– Can a pay rise buy you happiness at work?
– How storytelling can transform business relationships
– What Happier at Work means to Bruce and the concept of the laughter barometer
‘’We’re entering an era where work might be a smaller part of our identity than it has been till now. But we’re also entering an era where left unchecked, we could be lonelier and more disconnected than ever before.’’ – Bruce Daisley.
THE LISTENERS SAY:
Do you have any feedback or thoughts on this discussion? If so, please connect with Aoife via the links below and let her know. Aoife would love to hear from you!
Bruce Daisley podcast: Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat
Book: Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam
Book: What You Do Is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz
Book: The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
Gallup: The increasing importance of a Best Friend at Work
Connect with Happier at Work host Aoife O’Brien:
Aoife O’Brien 00:00
Are you looking to improve employee engagement and retention? Do you struggle with decisions on who to hire or who to promote? I have an amazing opportunity for forward thinking purpose-led people first organisations to work with me on the first pilot Happier at Work program for corporates. The program is entirely science backed and you will have tangible outcomes in relation to employee engagement, retention, performance and productivity. The program is aimed at people leaders with responsibility for hiring and promotion decisions. If this sounds like you, please get in touch at Aoife@happieratwork.ie. That’s A O I F E at happieratwork.ie. You’re listening to the Happier at Work podcast. I’m your host Aoife O’Brien. This is the podcast for leaders who put people first, the podcast covers four broad themes, engagement and belonging, performance and productivity, leadership equity, and the future of work. Everything to do with the Happier at Work podcast relates to employee retention, you can find out more at happieratwork.ie.
Bruce Daisley 01:11
That’s for me the critical lesson of this, we’re entering an era where work might be a smaller part of our identity than it has been till now. But we’re also entering into an era where left unchecked, we could be lonelier and more disconnected than ever before.
Aoife O’Brien 01:29
Hello, and welcome back to the Happier at Work podcast. I am delighted to have my guest today Bruce Daisley from the Eat Sleep Work Repeat podcast. I’ve been a fan of Bruce’s for a couple of years when I started listening to his podcast. We met in person at an event in Dublin back in June before I went to Tenerife. So it was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to turn the tables on him, let’s say and ask him a few questions. For the podcast, we talked about things like team dynamics and resilience. I know you’re really really gonna enjoy this chat. And being a listener of this podcast, I’m sure you really really enjoy his podcast as well. The name again is Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat and find it wherever you get your podcasts. As always, I will do a wrap up at the end, I’m going to summarise some of the key points that we discussed during the podcast episode. And if you want to get involved in the conversation, I would very much welcome that do you feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn, all of the links are in the show notes. But you can look for me Aoife O’Brien, or through my website happieratwork.ie. And also on Instagram happieratwork.ie. Welcome, Bruce to the Happier at Work podcast, I’m absolutely delighted to have you as my guest today. Do you want to give people a little bit of a flavor of who you are what you’re about and a little bit of an introduction?
Bruce Daisley 02:54
Yeah, hi, I’m Bruce Daisley. I used to work at technology companies like Google and Twitter worked for a long time at those firms. And during that time, I think I just became obsessed with workplace culture I became obsessed with when the dynamics of teams help them feel better than other teams. And that was largely informed by the fact that that some teams I worked with, you know, could sit side by side with other teams. And yet, they’re, they’re working dynamic seemed fundamentally different. And, and so I left Twitter and I decided I’d started doing a podcast about workplace culture at a time when I felt like I needed some direction myself while I was still in the job. And the podcasts and the books that come from it have become the focus of my work, really. I do a newsletter, which goes to about 15,000 people across the UK and Ireland. And it’s just a sort of a constant focus thinking about what the future of work looks like really.
Aoife O’Brien 04:00
Yeah. And you know, I I’m a huge fan of the podcast for anyone who doesn’t listen, I highly recommend go and checking it out. And if you’re a fan of this podcast, you’re definitely a fan of Bruce’s podcast as well.
Bruce Daisley 04:11
Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat.
Aoife O’Brien 04:13
I just love the name. I absolutely love the name. And you had a book come out recently called Fortitude, which I’ve started reading. I haven’t finished it yet. But we met in person at an event back in June, I think it was in Dublin, had a great chat about all things podcasting. You were telling me all about this upcoming book, Fortitude, and how it’s a slightly different approach to resilience. Because we often talk about resilience at work and how people need to just be more resilient. And I love the approach of the book that it’s it kind of takes a slightly different slant around that you want to give people kind of some some of the insights maybe that you learned that you weren’t aware of prior to the book or some of the key points from it.
Bruce Daisley 04:57
The first instance is the fact that there’s so much resilience talk around, you know, we, it’s it’s hard to work in a modern day workplace and not here talk about the team needs to be more resilient or should we get a resilience course? Or should we should we try and find a way for people to be more resilient. And actually, it’s something that permeate schools as well, schools are full of resilient talk, we need to teach kids had been more resilient, we need to teach them growth mindset, we need to teach them how to be more gritty. And I guess I was interested in that phenomenon. I was interested in that, that idea that we were seeing all this talk around. And simultaneously, I guess the reason why we’ve seen so much of that talk is that in parallel, these are feeling that people are less resilient. And so why on earth would that be the case? And and so that’s the book is an investigation into those things, really trying to understand what on earth is resilient, why we’re hearing so much talk of it? And what’s the real origin of it, and you know, in places to detective stories, trying to understand that resilience, cause that you got sent on at work, who wrote it? And how dare they, you know, how dare someone tell you that they can create resilience. And you know, what was the foundation for it? And, you know, there’s a really interesting answer that broadly, majority of the work in those training courses comes from what I stole the resilience orthodoxy, which is the work of two or three psychologists, American psychologists, and that’s a clue because they come from a very individualistic School of Psychology. And so that was a fascination. And the next thing really was just trying to understand well, you know, I think it’s pretty clear to us that resilience does exist, and we see it in people in Ukraine, we’re seeing people surviving the Pakistani floods, right now we see around us all of the time, you know, it seems to produce this inner strength in a really low time. So I want to reconcile those things that, you know, we often see an absence of, of resilience when we look for it in an individualised world. And yet, when we see people who are finding themselves in the throes of collectivism, they seem to exhibit an abundance of it. And the book is really an exploration of that way. Broadly, the spoiler is that resilience is the strength we draw from each other. And I think the moment you recognise them, and you know, the moment you say, okay, absolutely, all of those episodes where people have exhibited resilience, they are emboldened by the community, the group that they feel part of. So you recognise it, you go, Oh, wow. You know, why on earth did we not get taught that simple lesson before? And so the books, you know, an obsession, and exploration, it’s part sort of detective story to try to track down those things. Really?
Aoife O’Brien 07:50
Yeah, I think it’s, I mean, it’s really important that insight, that, first of all, the fact that we’re asking, are people less resilient, I think there is a lot of talk about resilience. And interestingly, exactly, it said, Bruce, oh, let’s send people on a resilience course, rather than the perception that we’ve created an environment in which, which people feel like they’re struggling, like they’re overstressed. Like they’re burning out. The the kind of the onus is put on the individual then to be more resilient, as opposed to the organisation to cause less stress or cause, you know, reduce the workload or change the focus or something like that. Any any thoughts on that?
Bruce Daisley 08:30
Yeah, you know, I had someone come to fix my wife, I actually, and, and he said to me, he said, in passing, actually, he said, Never in the history of calming down, has someone calmed down, by being told to calm down. And resilience, a little bit like that, you know, resilience, never in the history of resilience, someone being more resilient by being told, by being sent on a webinar of how to be more resilient, you know, and the problem is, is that because we had all this individually, individualised resilience, when people get sent on a course, you know, and let’s look into what those courses often contain, you know, the leading psychologist, his resilience course, encourages you to hunt the good stuff in your life. You know, it’s a strange perspective, you know, you might have significant family problems, you might have money worries, you might be entering the cost of living crisis. And someone says to, you know, the problem with you, you’re not looking for the good stuff. Yeah, I’m not sure that’s, I’m not sure. That’s the empathy I was looking for right now. And so, you know, it’s a really interesting perspective, sort of looking into these things. Because, you know, I think to a large extent, these a degree of misdirection like I say, the leading psychologist, the psychologist who forms the foundational work, for most of this Resilience Training is a really esteemed psychologist called Martin Seligman, but you know, if you’re here him talk. He’s avowedly an old, an old school, a sort of traditional Republican. And he strongly believes that individuals need to take responsibility for the outcomes of their lives. And, you know, again, maybe to some extent, we do need to have some degree of ownership of what’s going on in our lives. But I think, you know, to say that that resolutely is a blank sheet of paper that we all start from the same position is a degree on empathetic, so yeah, I mean, look, you know, it’s been a labor of love the last two years, and, you know, and in fact, you know, on my own podcast this week, I’ve, I’ve included me talking to a sort of a brilliant academic, a brilliant advertising man, Rory Sutherland, who, you know, is well regarded and talking about the themes of the book. So, I think, you know, firstly, it’s been fascinating discussion that’s come from it. And exactly, I’ve been thrilled with how the books done, it’s been a top five best seller over in the UK and it’s sold really well in Ireland as well. I’ve been out for a couple of events in Ireland. So yeah, delighted with the success of it.
Aoife O’Brien 11:10
No, it’s really great. And I love this old approach approach, that it’s about community. And there is a lot of talk of personal responsibility. And I am a big believer in taking personal responsibility. But when it’s when we’re talking about things like resilience, maybe then that’s, that comes into the kind of general conclusion of the book being, it’s about collectivism, as opposed to individualism. And it’s not about just focusing on yourself, it’s about and, you know, does that mean then that we’re in order to be more resilient, that we’re helping other people that we’re kind of forming part of a group and we’re in order to be helped ourselves, we’re offering help to other people?
Bruce Daisley 11:46
It’s more necessarily, not necessarily helping other people, but it’s recognising that the, a sense of collective strength is is what protects us. So, you know, there’s, there’s an American sociologist, really a guy called Robert Putnam, who wrote a book that became a really huge success around the Millennium in the US, called Bowling Alone, and he just talked about the phenomenon of how US society was becoming more individualised and less collectivist, you know, people were still bowling as much as they bowled before, but they weren’t part of bowling leagues, they weren’t part of bowling clubs, and he was just interested in that phenomenon. And his conclusion was that if you smoke 15 cigarettes a day, but you’re not a part of any group, I would advise you to join a group before you consider giving up cigarettes. He said, you know, effectively the group, protect us now, as soon as you start identifying this, and, you know, I found the whole realm of psychology around this is something called social identity. And what you find is that, you know, if the work peddling that old school individualised devotion of resilience is pretty flaky. The research about social identity is dazzlingly strong. To the extent that, you know, you can look at people who maybe have major heart operations, or go to hospital with an episode of depression. And the biggest predictor of how well they will be in three or five years time is how many groups they report being part of, Wow, that’s astonishing. And if you see the graphs of it, it is dazzling. I’ll give you another example. This, the world’s leading expert on teenage health, mental health is a woman called Jane. A lot and she’s pretty, I think, critical of the state of teenage mental health, you know, she, she speaks about the challenges that teenagers face in the modern era. But one of the things she observed in the course of the pandemic, and this was right at the start of the pandemic. So, you know, we’re gonna sort of delete from memory, some of our, this burns the scars from the pandemic, you know, most of us I think, would say that the pandemic has been a mental health disaster, but she studied the period right at the start of the pandemic. So maybe before anything came to pass afterwards, when she said, teenagers who reported having a family meal each evening, they were sitting down with their mums and dads, their families, who, whatever their family looks like, they were having a family meal each evening, their resilience went up, and their depression went down. Resilience is the strength we draw from other people. And the more that we’re reminded to the connections of other people, the, the more, we’re able to tap into it. Now, you know, for podcasts like this, actually, that’s got a really direct relevance, you know, the biggest predictor of people being engaged with their jobs. The biggest predictor of people being happy at work from the workforce server, there’s someone has a best friend at work. And so, you know, if anyone listening to this is thinking, okay, so you know, how do I achieve my own happiness at work, how to elicit happiness in others, then, you know, as much as it doesn’t feel like the sort of thing that would ever trouble an MBA course or find them itself on a business degree. Actually, having a best friend at work is the biggest predictor. It’s the biggest thing you can do to motivate your team. And, you know, actually, if you look into that Gallup workforce survey there published the latest version a couple of months ago, the latest version of the Gallup workforce survey says that the people who work a hybrid job and you know, increasingly that is all of us who do knowledge work. So it’s half of the workforce, and only 17% of them in a global study at least 17% of them having report having a best friend at work. So what does that mean? Well, not you know, firstly, if resilience is the strength we draw from each other, if having a best friend at work is the biggest predictor of us feeling happy at work, then, you know, one of the things that we might say we might set ourselves the challenge is, how can we create an environment where people here are best friends, or people here feel like they’ve got someone they can go and got it with, go and cry on the shoulder or go and moan about you know, their workload? How can we make sure that people have got those degrees of connection, even when they are working in a hybrid environment? And I think, you know, that’s, for me the critical lesson of these, we’re entering an era, which I think holistically, societally is better, where work might be a smaller part of our identity than it has been till now. But we’re also entering into an era where left unchecked, we could be lonely and more disconnected than ever before.
Aoife O’Brien 16:22
There’s so many things that I want to dig in as part of what you’ve just said. We went, in my last corporate role, I was one of their representatives, helping to interpret the Gallup survey, and one of the big questions that people had a problem with was this idea of a best friend at work, I think it’s, it’s a bit more American than probably what we’re used to in Europe. I don’t know do we call people our best friends at work might be a work life or a work husband or, you know, or something like that. But you don’t necessarily say that it’s your best friend, I think people think, associate best friends as being outside of work. And I love this idea that for another that I love this idea of I love the insight that work is becoming a smaller part of our identity. And on previous podcasts, and in various discussions I’ve had with people, we’ve been talking about what what work means, you know, and, and previously, we had a greater sense of community, maybe from the church in Ireland, where people go to Mass on a regular basis, a bit more involved in community events, work to a degree has replaced that so you go to work. And that’s where you find your sense of community, your sense of connection with other people. And that’s sort of taken over, I think, to your point, earlier, Bruce, about the pandemic, and people working in this hybrid environment, we’ve maybe lost that sense of connection, we’ve lost that sense of, of having a best friend at work, or having someone to kind of talk to, in building on that point, totally agree with this idea of like just having someone to talk to and to moan to and to have a bit of a gossip with I think it’s really great. But interestingly, from, I want to share a couple of personal examples for me, where I had a couple of people at work, who I used to go to lunch with on a regular basis and complain and all they did was complain, complain, complain about what was happening at work and, and through one thing, and another one person was on the contract, and she left and the other person got a new job, and she left, and I wasn’t going for lunch and talking and, and moaning about work on a regular basis. And I started to enjoy my work a lot more because it wasn’t moaning about it so much. Interesting. So that’s point number one. Point number two, there was a time where I did feel like I had a best friend at work. And then I was promoted into a position and in that organisation, it was very much enforced on them. And so when I was promoted, I felt very isolated from the the work of you know, I felt that I’m part of this leadership team now. And I don’t feel like I’m part of the kind of the group that I had been previously. So any insights or any thoughts on those kinds of personal examples?
Bruce Daisley 18:58
I mean, look at look at the challenge of sort of finding yourself having a confident and moaning look, you know, they were they were they were felt they were felt feelings, you know, I I’m not sure whether repressing them makes you happier. But yeah, you know, there is some interesting evidence about when people work in an environment with a bad apple. These research that was done that, that track and they they brought along someone, two different team dynamics. They brought someone who was going to be negative there was going to be brought someone who’s going to be a moaner. They brought someone who slouched and lay with their head on the table saying this is boring. And what they discovered was that the overall performance of the team dropped by up to 50% by the presence of someone who is like this, this mood kill the vibe killer. And so you know, having negativity around Most definitely plays a part. I’ve never heard someone feeling bad about their own negativity to you. But yeah, you know, these things most definitely do play a part. On our experience. Remember the second part of the question.
Aoife O’Brien 20:14
The second one was being promoted then. And so there is a very much a culture, both of them, it was really a collective culture. So being promoted, and then feeling quite isolated from someone who had formerly been what I would have considered my best friend at work.
Bruce Daisley 20:28
Yeah, I mean, no doubt, you know, like the old truism that it’s tough at the top. And it’s also relatively tough in the middle, that, you know, not having someone that you can confide in, I think it’s the biggest challenge that, that bosses and leaders have, they have no one that they can go and moan to, that can go in and burden themselves to. And that sense of isolation is why, you know, so many senior leaders find themselves joining networking clubs of of like minds, because they just want someone that they can admit that they don’t know what they’re doing all the time. And they admit, you know, that they’re frustrated with the way that works playing out. So most definitely, I think that’s a an observable phenomenon, not just in yourself, but you know, across the the whole environment really, yeah,
Aoife O’Brien 21:12
Everyone has that it’s so interesting. I’d love to know, a little bit more than at the start, when you were kind of talking about when you’re introducing yourself, you talked about this idea of team dynamics. And I’m really curious as to how we can bring in this concept of resilience and working as part of a community as part of a collective, rather than an individualistic work approach, how, what what are your thoughts around team dynamics and how to apply what you’ve learned from the book into that kind of team dynamics that and how that plays out in the workplace?
Bruce Daisley 21:47
Yeah, I’m looking at I became fixated with it. And I think over the course of the last few years, there’s definitely been more attention that has gone into components like psychological safety and understanding that, and what really struck me over the course of the last couple of years, really was that I spent a lot of time anytime there’s a new workplace culture book that comes out, sort of spend a time sort of reading it and trying to interpret it. And there was one thing that struck me in the course, the last 212 months, where I’ve, I’ve observed a discrepancy between the US philosophy and workplace culture, and probably a more a more global perspective outside the US. So if you read a lot of the books, and the you see a lot of the conversation about team culture, and this is important, because Silicon Valley has had such a global impact in the last 20 or 30 years. But books about culture in America broadly consistent with things that, you know, people like Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix says, He said culture is what you choose to reward and what you choose to punish. Or Ben Horowitz wrote a really fabulous book called, what you do is who you are. And, and he talked about culture is, you know, the incentives and the penalties, intelligent organisations, it’s the pattern of behaviors that you hope that most people will observe most of the time. No, absolutely all of these things. And I found myself as a consequence of that watching the interpretation of these things I’ve, you know, over the course, the last couple of years, I’ve consulted with sort of a whole load of, of different companies. And what you find is that US firms generally interpret that as the culture is the roadmap, it’s the highway code, it’s the rules of engagement. But there’s something fundamental missing about that. Culture is the is the bit about having a best friend at work. Culture is the sense of connection and affiliation. Culture is this sense of team cohesion. For me, culture is the sense that we’re all in it together. And it’s quite often missed from those interpretations. So you know, for me, this is something that is far more emotional. That’s a visceral connection between people that, okay, I feel like we’re all on the same side. And look, I’m not saying American commentators can’t observe this because one of the one of the best academics passed away this year, but she was truly brilliant academic who studied this was a woman called cigar bar side. And she would she talks about companionate love, she talked about when she studied firefighters or cricket players, or, or people working in an office environment, the thing that often characterise the best performance was that they had a fondness of each other. That was, you know, she said, sort of platonic, but a companionate love a sort of an affection for each other. That meant that they all pulled in the same direction. No, look, you know, this is really instrumental for me. I think one of the biggest challenges of organisational culture and thinking about team dynamics is this obsession with the red herring of purpose, for me, you know, the notion that you’re, you might be working somewhere and that you’ve got this purpose that we want to create, you work in a sandwich bar, we want to create the best sandwiches in the, if you’ve worked in bars, restaurants, you know, quite often they’re not trying to create the best, there’s no aspiration there, they’re firmly in the middle there, that you know, the price point there are operating is that it’s a convenience. We’re not trying to do the best of anything. However, if you think about it from an identity perspective, then you say, you know, a lot of the people here are thinking, Okay, we’ve got a great dynamic here, you know, if you’ve worked in bars and restaurants, you’ve witnessed these really, visibly, but you know, I’ve worked in retail as well. You see people and they’re like, Okay, we’re not claiming we’re the best. We’re not like the the big I am. But we’ve got a really good team dynamic here, someone’s off sick, we all pull for each other. Someone’s someone comes and says, Oh, my cat has just been run over there, we’ll all be like, you go home, we’ll cover for you. It’s, that’s an identity. That’s not about purpose. That’s about identity. And, and unfortunately, we’ve misappropriated it. And as soon as you recognise that it’s an identity thing. It’s about like, the pride of the work we do. We’re part of something and we we feel have an affinity with each other. I think it makes a lot more sense for me.
Aoife O’Brien 26:14
Yeah, there’s, there’s a few things I’d love to pick up on. Really interesting insights. And I hadn’t read, I knew that their culture in the US is different to the culture, say, in in a lot of other places that I’ve worked. But it’s an interesting insight that the US has kind of more about the rules. And here’s the rules that you need to follow. And it’s your personal responsibility, maybe going back to our earlier point, it’s your personal responsibility to follow these rules in order to create this great culture. And then from a rest of the world slash Europe. It’s more about that connection and affiliation. But to your point about Silicon Valley, and how Silicon Valley and companies coming out of the US have really grown globally, does that then have an impact on the cultures? In other parts? Is there maybe a slight jarring if someone joins, say, a US company and they previously had worked for a different company? Is there a different style? Or is there you know, or is that kind of reinterpreted? So first of all, I’d love to get your thoughts on that I have some other kind of questions I’d love to follow up on as well.
Bruce Daisley 27:14
Yeah, most definitely, I think these things have a really big bearing. Because, you know, if you, if you don’t have a consideration for all, we’re all in it together, then what what ends up happening is what’s happened to a lot of us, what’s happened, about work to a lot of people over the course of the last year or so is that our connection with work has changed. And work is no longer something that lives in our life, and has a relationship with us, like school, you know, like really tightly knit, you know, if you missed a day at school, like you would never catch up with the gossip, you felt like you’d never sort of your connection to the group was loosened, because you were sort of you were you hadn’t been there yesterday, you almost felt apologetic, she was sort of trying to find your way back into the the shared experience. And you know, that that was experiences score was a little bit like that, you know, the people next you got it with you might be on a T round with people where you’d make teas or you know, someone would bring sort of, you know, some form of carbohydrate based snack back, and you’d sort of your delight of sharing your packet of biscuits was loosely meant, you know, those things are really cohesive. And we’ve we’ve moved from that relationship to something closer to our experience of University, University where the people on your course you often had a loose connection with, you might occasionally have socialised with may be where you lived, or, you know, someone’s sports may or you know, a broader collection of people.
Aoife O’Brien 28:44
Yeah, and, and clubs, clubs and societies and things that people joined as well.
Bruce Daisley 28:49
So at college, your course was less a part of your identity, you often didn’t know what causes your friends run at college or university, your course was less of an identity. That’s why we’ve moved to war with work, that what the consequences that the consequences are that organisation saw an increase in their resignation rate as soon as about 12 months ago, and it’s not gone back down. And everyone thought that that was sort of something going through the system now is because we’ve become a little more semi semi detached from our jobs. And, you know, we’ve, we’ve started perceiving that work is an important part of what we do. But it’s not the defining part that sits at the at the center of what we do know, look, you know, that might change, but I think it poses really critical questions for anyone in this space, because it sort of begs the question of us. How can you create good cohesive environments where you’re not together every day? And I think the answer to that is you need to try to do things differently, you know, to try to presume that that team cohesion will come from, you know, a casual bit of chitter chatter during the course of the week. It’s not going to come in that same way you need to think about creating it in a far more explicit way, I think.
Aoife O’Brien 30:03
anytime sent. So it’s really interesting, what you’re saying about workers is not really a defining part of what we do anymore. And I can see that to an extent. But equally what my interpretation, I suppose, of the great resignation, whatever you want to call it, we haven’t really seen that much of it here in Ireland yet. But my interpretation was people are looking for a greater sense of meaning and what they do a greater sense of impact and maybe a greater sense of belonging in whatever organisation they choose to work in. And during the pandemic, they realised, they came to this realisation that what they were doing was not really what they wanted to do, it’s not really how they wanted to be spending their time. And so they’re looking for something more from work, because it has such, because we spend, I mean, from my perspective, we spend so much time at work, so you want to make it something that you really enjoy. I understand that it’s becoming less relevant. But if it is, that kind of how much time we’re spending at work, and to make it have that greater sense of, of meaning and have, you know, to go back to the idea of purpose, that, how can you? How can you create more of that that was my interpretation of the great resignation. But I can also see the perspective that it work is playing less of a role. And it’s more about community in wherever we live, family and the friends that we already have outside of that work context.
Bruce Daisley 31:25
Yeah, well, look, you know, I was at an event in Dublin about three weeks ago, where people were talking about the selection of businesses, and they were talking about all of them carrying weight that was in the 20s 20% Plus, so, you know, I’m pretty, I’m –
Aoife O’Brien 31:40
pretty convinced that it’s happening.
Bruce Daisley 31:43
It’s a pretty widespread phenomenon. The only reason I would push? Yeah, the only reason I would push back on the idea that this is a pursuit of meaning is because broadly, what you hear from recruiters is they say, and I was sat down with someone last week, who was who’s telling me the challenge they’ve got right now is people are just leaving for more money. Okay. Now, if it was a pursuit of meaning, then what I suspect you’d find is that there would be an influx into the jobs that we typically regard as being imbued with a great deal of purpose, you know, teaching nursing sort of jobs of substance. And I don’t think based on what we’ve seen from those sectors that we’re seeing that I don’t think the teaching profession is, is inundated with those things. So, you know, I’m intrigued with your perspective on you know, I’ve scribbled down on this, post it note in front of me that I’m going to go away and, and see if there’s any, anything to back that up. Yeah. But right now, I’m not convinced.
Aoife O’Brien 32:41
Maybe it’s less about me. And as you know, and I’ve heard this on on Adam Grants podcast, this idea that you don’t have to be going out to save the whales, you don’t have to have that sort of big, massive impact on the world. But something that holds a little bit more meaning for you, maybe the company that you work in has maybe poor ethics, or that you’ve seen stuff happening or something like that. But in addition to this idea of belonging and feeling, like from my own perspective, and from the research I did, the sense of values become really, really important to the top something that we’ve already covered on this podcast, but but I think this idea of values aligning with the overall values of the the organisation, which means the collective values of of everyone else who works there as well, I think that, for me, is is really important. And if you find that during the pandemic, that that didn’t, that there was some sort of a clash there or that you realise that this wasn’t the right thing for you that you made a decision. I’m also hugely interested in this idea of people leaving for more money. I’ve also heard stories of of people leaving. Now, from my perspective, that is because of the challenge. They there’s talent shortages out there, and people are offering more money for people to leave. And I don’t think that that’s sustainable in the long term. My own understanding of that is that people are offering more money, people have decided, Okay, I’m going to take more money in order to leave. But without much thought around. Well, what’s the culture going to be like when I join this new organisation? Or, you know, what are they doing? That’s different to what I’m doing that kind of any thoughts on that?
Bruce Daisley 34:23
Yeah, you know, I think this is a critical thing. If you look on Glassdoor international data on Glassdoor suggests that the typically the number one thing that people said that was the most important thing about a job was the workplace culture, it was higher than the terms and conditions it was higher than the salary. Now, I wonder if the fact that people are finding that they’re working from the same desk three days a week, and that they’re home, and you know, two days a week they’re venturing into the office, they think, well, as bad as the culture might be there, I can handle it. And they’re saying for themselves, that culture might be less important. We’ve not seen that yet on the glass door work, but you know, it’s an interesting thing, you know, Most definitely look, a lot of us because of the failings of the way that societies set up. A lot of us used work as a proxy for social life in our 20s. And, you know, we use it as a way to feel connected, amused, entertained, you know, occupied. So how those things will change? I don’t know, you know, the very least I worked. I did some really enlightening work. As part of the research for the book A, I went, and I went along to a public hospital NHS hospital in the UK. And I watched some of the hospital team because they were learning how to deal with difficult patients. And the reason why this has become more imposing the isolation of the pandemic. Strangely, as people were seeing fewer strangers in their life as they were encountering few people that they didn’t know that insularity, strangely, was, was being manifested as aggression. So people were turning up in hospitals and being aggressive with the staff. And so I witnessed them learning how to deal with staff and I was like, Is this a phenomenon and they’re like, it’s off the charts. We used to go months without anyone committing violence on a member of staff. Now it’s happening weekly. And it’s like, wow, okay. They’re like we and we have no, you know, there’s not the police won’t come out to half the things now, because they’re so underfunded. And so, but, you know, the, you know, they’re finding the, they needed to find a way for staff to deal with this. In fact, their approach was, they’d got cabin crew from airlines to come in the cabin crew were on COVID related furlough, they were like, well, how do you deal with a passenger who’s kicking off and you can’t land somewhere and you don’t want to, you know, the cost of diverting the plane will lead to all manner of paperwork, how do you deal with a passenger that’s kicked off like that, and it was just so intriguing to watch this sort of cross pollination, then both dealing with these things. And, and, and they said, you know, pass it patients in our way is reflection of isolation. While I think societally, it’s a good thing, that we might be finding less of our identity, from our jobs, that we might be sort of leaning into our passions, our hobbies, the things that we scratched our head to think of what to put at the bottom of our CV might actually become a genuine interest. But but you know, I think these we need to ensure that if work does play a smaller part in our lives that we do replace it with something else.
Aoife O’Brien 37:35
Yeah. And that you know, what those other things are, what lights you up, what brings you joy, day to day basis? Yeah, love that. Love that approach. There was one thing that I wanted to ask from, from something that you mentioned earlier, and this is the idea of having a fondness for each other, and the idea that we’re all in this together. But I’d love to get your thoughts because I’ve worked in organisations where that has been absolutely the case. And I’ve worked in organisations where it’s not, you know, someone goes off sick, you kind of roll your eyes and say, Well, you know, now we’ve extra workload for us today. And that’s really frustrating. Or if someone goes off sick longer term, that frustration that you feel, rather than the empathy that feel towards someone else and say, Oh, my God, I hope that person is okay. So I’ve worked in both of those types of environments. And I’d love to get your thoughts on where does that come from? Is that does that come from leadership? Do they need to set that as an example? Do they? Do they need to kind of do it as a kind of as a rule as like, what are your thoughts in creating that type of environment? Because, you know, I’m trying to think of what I’m trying to say here. Like, as an individual, I felt like I was in that environment. And I learned from the behavior of other people in that environment, as opposed to me setting that environment myself.
Bruce Daisley 38:51
I was chatting with someone recently, and they were saying, they were saying that they had an issue, that right now, anytime that they were giving direct feedback to their team, and sort of about what the team was doing wrong, the team was going to HR and complaining about it. So that was the scenario listed. And, you know, I’ve thought about it a lot, I have to scratch my head about a lot. And I think in that instance, there is no substitute for getting people probably in a room and having a long session talking about team dynamics, talking about the realities of how feedback works, talking about, you know, experimenting, giving feedback to everyone in the in the room thinking about giving feedback, maybe sort of, you know, kicking off by giving collective feedback to a piece of work of someone who wasn’t in the room and practicing creating the communication lines that exist and, and I think any leader right now probably needs to think about if I wanted to create a sort of strong supportive team dynamic centers, team cohesion, you know, I need to think about it. There’s a there’s a book by a woman called Priya Parker thing called The Art of gathering. And she talks about how, you know, effectively, I guess we can all arrange a meeting. And, and you know, we can go to our calendar app and create a meeting and invite people and that’s a meeting. Or we can create something that feels, it’s got an objective to it’s got, it’s got an outcome too, it’s like, it’s going to be a gathering of people with an intention. It’s a bit like, you know, the difference between creating a PowerPoint slide and creating a TED talk, you know, a TED Talk tries to take people on an emotional journey as a story art to it’s got an impact to it, anyone can create a PowerPoint slide by opening it and pressing new slide. And you know, anyone could create a meeting by pressing new me. But if you want to create something that is going to leave people feeling a sense of connection, then you need to think about it more carefully. And it look, it’s it’s another example of how good middle managers are going to really earn their money. And specifically, I’ll give you one example , I was chatting to a podcast a couple of weeks ago, with an organisation called the Moth and you might have heard the Moth, they sort of run the storytelling nights, run them in Dublin, run them all around the world. True stories told Live is the philosophy and you know, people stand up and they tell us a story told in the first person about their lives, about their about about something about their experience. And these stories, variously can be hilarious, they can be traumatic, they can be astonishing, you know, and they’ve got a few rules about what a good story should have stakes, it needs to have change. Really interesting. It’s fast. It’s a brilliant book, they did a fabulous podcast on it. Anyway, they told me they run sessions for teams. So okay, right. But if these, I was just intrigued, because like, if you say a good story needs to be in the first person that needs to have stakes. How is that relevant for companies? And is this just making people better at delivering PowerPoint presentation? Is it better? And they’re like, oh, no, no, no, the benefit to companies is that when people tell their stories to each other, and learn how to tell a story to each other, and they learn how to craft a story, so it’s got a sort of a story arc to it. When they do that to each other, what we generally find is it transforms the relationship with people. Oh, wow, why? And because the moment that no longer is this just ether, who sits next to me or used to sit next to me, and now should face on a zoom cred. This is, this is Eva, I know, the journey she’s on, I know what she did. And I, it’s moved me. And it’s transformational, you know, like, and I think, in the old days, so many of these things were an accident, we used to sit people next to each other, they would pretty much work out who the two or three people in the office they like to where they might go and have, you know, sandwich in the park with them or them, they might, you know, go for a walk with them at lunchtime. But it was largely accidental. And right now we’re in a zone where, where I think the things that were accidental, we probably need to be better at crafting. And I think you know, this is why the thing that’s going to be so fascinating is that in a year, two years, three times, three years, there’s gonna be some organisations that have learned how to do this well, probably from test and learn from sort of experimentation, they’re going to be sort of saying, Wow, we’ve learned so much we’ve developed and improved. And this is going to be something that would go organisations saying, Yeah, people these days that don’t want to stay in a job. We’re seeing such turnover, you know, there’s a problem in the job market. And look, you can, you can almost hear those two different perspectives started to take place already. You know, it’s a bit like the old sort of comedian line, which is, you know, there’s so much better than last week’s audience. The truth is, there’s no bad audiences. There’s no bad employees. There’s just bad environments that we create, you know,
Aoife O’Brien 43:55
huh? Yeah, yeah. This is this. And, and so Bruce, the question I asked everyone who comes on the podcast, what is being happier at work mean to you?
Bruce Daisley 44:04
The best barometer for me of whether I enjoy my job, whether the culture was in a good place, was whether I could hear laughter, and, you know, it became an obsession, an obsession for me as I Okay. Well, not in a sort of, simplistic way. You know, I think, as a barometer knowing that people are laughing, it means they trust each other, it means they like each other. It means they feel they’re safe. Generally, so we laugh. We only laugh with people we like. And you know, it was a really important barometer. If people were laughing, it wasn’t a sign of indolence. It was a sign of connection and affinity. And, you know, I think most of us would say, we’ve probably laughed less in the post COVID area that we did before. And, you know, the absence of having a best friend at work is an illustration that most of us wouldn’t necessarily say that we laughed as much. So I think this is it, you know, knowing that finding a route to having more laughter at work is actually a noble thing and a good thing and, and a way for us to enjoy the time, the 40 plus 50 plus years that we’re going to spend working.
Aoife O’Brien 45:13
I love that idea. And I very deliberately started out during the pandemic, when I was living alone, when I was feeling a bit isolated when we couldn’t leave the house, or it could go too far from the house. And I’ve very deliberately watched things to make me laugh in the evening. So things like modern family I had, what else I have Curb Your Enthusiasm, you know, things that made me laugh out loud, and I absolutely need about every day. Absolutely. It’s probably something I’ve not done enough of, in the in the interim. So love that. So for anyone who would like to connect with you, what is the best way to do that? And also, how would they get ahold of your book? Yes. So
Bruce Daisley 45:53
you can look, the the best way to find out more about the book is if you go to my website, eat, sleep, work, repeat.com. And you can sign up to my newsletter, or hear the podcast there. And you know, the books, you’ll see some of the comments that people have written, or maybe you have the opportunity to see some of the discussion and debate about it. So you know, I really welcome people getting in touch, I have done quite a few events in Dublin and often there. And yeah, you know, a lot of people get in touch via LinkedIn or via the website.
Aoife O’Brien 46:26
Brilliant. And that’s how we connected originally, I think was on LinkedIn. And then by chance you were speaking at an event that I attended in Dublin, so I had the opportunity to meet in person which was which was brilliant. So thank you so much for your time today and sharing your insights. I always love to hear what you have to say and get your insights and your thoughts on all things work culture and, you know, the this idea of the team dynamics and and what, what the pandemic has done to kind of change things and what we can do about it. Absolutely, thoroughly enjoyed the conversation today. Thank you so much.
Bruce Daisley 46:58
Thank you really grateful for chat.
Aoife O’Brien 47:03
That was Bruce Daisley. From Eat, Sleep Work, Repeat podcasts. I hope you enjoy that conversation as much as I did, I wanted to do a quick recap on some of the main points that we talked about. And also reminds you to get involved in the conversation. If you have anything to add. If you have any additional questions I would love to hear from you. Reach out to me directly on the website, happieratwork.ie. Also on Instagram happieratwork.ie, feel free to connect on LinkedIn Aoife O’Brien. I would absolutely love to connect with you on there and do get involved in the conversation. Now some of the things that we started talking about myself and Bruce, the first idea was this idea of team dynamics, and resilience. And we talked about this idea of individualism versus collectivism. So relying on a group and how the importance of the group for the nature of resilience as well. So rather than kind of focusing on yourself and looking out for yourself, and in Ireland, we call this Me Feinners. And you know, just kind of looking out for yourself and your own interests, more putting the focus more on on the group and the collective and the community. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t take personal responsibility for our contributions, but it’s not about focusing just on the self, we get also get our social identity from groups and I loved this concept. So it’s about finding a place that you belong. And I suppose that’s one of the reasons that I set up my business Happier at Work. And one of the core pillars within the happier work podcast is this idea of engagement and belonging at work, we talked about the concept of having a best friend at work. And I know certainly from my experience of conducting the Q 12 survey for Gallup or, or focusing on the results and sharing it within the team. as well. When I worked in corporate, this idea of having a best friend at work, I think, from a European perspective, it tends to score lower because we don’t associate our best friends as being at work, we associate our best friends of being outside at work. But having someone at work that you can confide in, and have a little bit of a moan too, as well is really, really important. We talked about the idea that work used to form this huge part of our identity. After all, we do spend so much of our time at work. And if anything COVID has given us the opportunity to reduce the importance of work on what who we are as people or as you know, this often happens when people retire, that they lose that sense of purpose. They lose that sense of identity. But I think COVID has given us an opportunity to reimagine a purpose for our whole lives rather than just focusing on work exclusively. We talked also about this idea of psychological safety and the different cultures in the US. I know there’s a lot of people in the US who listen to the podcast as well. So US and Ireland tend to be the highest number of listeners, especially big has, as Bruce put it, this idea of Silicon Valley, and the organisations that came out of Silicon Valley having such an impact and an influence on, you know, these big global organisations and hiring so many different people how in the US, it tends to be more about the rules of engagement. So culture is defined as how we do things or what the rules of engagement are. Whereas in Europe, the focus tends to be more on building connection and affiliation. Because we can find a sense of belonging, where we work when we work in a culture that reflects, in my own opinion, and in, you know, the work that I do with clients, it’s about this idea of values and finding that connection through values. I love this idea that that Bruce shared as well about having a fondness for each other. And for me, it’s kind of it shows a level of respect. So you know, when you can have that sense of fondness when you can connect in that way. And I have worked in organisations where we haven’t necessarily had that sense of fondness. And to this day, I’m not really sure what the driver of that was, we’re all humans, after all. But people didn’t, weren’t necessarily fond of each other, maybe there was more of a competitive type of culture where if one person got one thing, it meant that another person didn’t have the resources to do to do their job, something like that. Another really great insight from the show was this idea of having an identity and people can gather, arrange their sense of identity, the identity of having a great team dynamic of taking pride in the work, and this concept that we’re all in it together. So we’re all on the same team. We’re all in this together working towards a common goal. One of the questions posed was, how can you create a good, cohesive environment, when you’re not all together anymore? So with this new hybrid, remote working environment where people are not necessarily in the office, or they’re not in the office at the same time, how can we create that, and again, would love you to get involved in the conversation around that? We talked about the fact that some people are leaving for more money, and I have seen this myself, where people are leaving jobs, and they’re, they’re going for something else. And I suppose from the organisation’s perspective, I don’t think that’s sustainable. So if companies are competing for Staff by increasing the pay, or the benefits that they get, it’s not necessarily a good long term strategy to be able to do that, because maybe it’s not sustainable. from the employees perspective, focusing solely on money, I can understand there’s certain circumstances where people do need to earn more money, but that doesn’t necessarily lead to a greater sense of happiness at work. So a couple of different perspectives on that, towards the end of the podcast, then, Bruce shared this idea of storytelling to transform relationships. You know, again, this is a topic that has been covered in a bit more detail on previous podcast episodes, and it seems to be coming up more and more in my life, the importance of being able to tell a good story and be able to connect emotionally with people by tapping into, you know, what are true and real stories that have happened and how can you use those in business to create a better culture? How can you use those in, in your life in, in, in business, to be able to connect and communicate more effectively with other people, because by telling the stories by sharing stories, by creating emotion in other people, it helps to move them and they when they feel moved, it goes back to this idea of feeling. And as Maya Angelou says, people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. As a parting thought, and I want to leave you with this idea of laughter as a barometer. I loved that Bruce shared that. And it’s about connection and affinity. If you can laugh with people at work, it’s a really great barometer as to whether or not you have a great culture within the team. And I know certainly I’ve worked in organisations where we’ve been able to have a great laugh together. So consider that as a way to just as a kind of a sense check as to whether or not you have that, that great culture. You know, are people able to have a laugh together? Are they do they feel like they’re in it together? So you know, they can even mark and tease each other and it’s all taken very lightheartedly. So consider that as a way to, you know, just to kind of sense check whether or not you you’ve built a really, really great culture. That’s all for this week, and I look forward to sharing more insights with you next week on another solo episode. That was another episode of the Happier at Work podcast. I am so glad you tuned in today. If you enjoyed today’s podcast, I would love to get your thoughts – head on over to social media to get involved in the conversation. If you enjoy the podcast, I would love if you could rate review it or share it with a friend. If you want to know more about what I do or how I could help your business head on over to happieratwork.ie