TCDLive Weekend Lounge Talk Show

The TCDLive Weekend Lounge talk show aims to bring forth dialogue that often do not get the attention or people find it difficult to engage in. With the talk show as a medium guest and attendees explore a wide range of topics that could help them fully realize and reach their potential.

Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed during the TCDLive Weekend Lounge show/series are solely those of the individuals, authors, guest speakers who come on the show and do not necessarily represent those of The Critical Dialogue, its constituents, and partners, and its employees and clients.  The Critical Dialogue and its constituent partners are not responsible for any harm physical and/or psychological arising out of carrying out / following the views expressed and/or advice on this show.  This show is also not a substitute for any professional medical/non-medical advice.  Viewer discretion is advised.

S1E1: The Color of your SKIN doesn’t matter

Date: 25th September 2021
Host: Sree Kumar, Founder & CEO, The Critical Dialogue
Guest: Nageen Riffat (Nyn), Founder, Nyn’s Dreams

It was such an engaging session with our guest Nyn, on the TCDLive Weekend Lounge talk show.  The icing on the cake was so many turned up in support of the cause.

We’ve just scratched the surface

As the conversation moved along with Nyn’s story of her journey, her struggles, moments of vulnerability, withdrawal, emotional upheavals, to her transformation, and success; the show not just had its share of insightful moments, but had our attendees joining in with their own perspectives that were profound.
Women of color end up facing a wide range of micro-aggression

What was interesting yet painful to note was that despite so many years of discussing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion DEI, women of color face a significant amount of discrimination, bias, and harassment at the workplace.

  1. Being judged
  2. Questions on their ability
  3. Exclusion
  4. Suspecting their decision-making
  5. Questioning their commitment to the job, especially after motherhood
  6. Performance-related biases

Are some of the experiences that seem to take a heavy toll on women and are three times more for the women of color, who are victims of micro-aggressions.

Nyn shared with us briefly how she was able to overcome not just a wide range of micro-aggressive behavior at the workplace but go on to become resilient and successful.  In a world that was far away from her homeland, completely alien was something to really learn from.  She provided us with some ways in which that could be achieved.

  1. Believing in herself
  2. Continual improvement and upskilling
  3. Building a strong network of allies at the workplace
  4. Always looking to add value (focusing on what she can do to make a difference)
  5. Her willingness to seek help
  6. Developing high levels of self-awareness leading to,
  7. Enhanced self-worth and high-level of confidence

While the focus was on the challenges faced by women of color, this episode was all about the journey of an Asian Woman.

The next episode is to continue the dialogue on the challenges because of micro-aggressions faced by black women at the workplace. 

“It is harder for Black employees to advance organically from entry-level to managerial jobs; their attrition rates are higher, and many report a trust deficit and a lack of sponsorship and allyship.”

S1E2: Workplace harassment and bullying

Date: 2nd October 2021
Host: Sree Kumar, Founder & CEO, The Critical Dialogue
Co-host: Nageen Riffat, Founder Nyn’s Dreams
Special Guest: Oluwafemi aka (FEMI) Omotola, CEO, Owner, and Lead-HR Consultant, Shalom Shalom Consulting inc. ca.

It was such an engaging session with our guest Femi, on the TCDLive Weekend Lounge show.  The icing on the cake was like always so many turned up in support of the cause.

We continued from where we left last time..

This time the discussion on workplace harassment and bullying focused on black women of color and especially those who migrated to their host country with dreams in their eyes.

It was our special guest Femi who shared her journey in her own inimitable style that was not just engaging but came straight from the heart.  

“I had a spring in my walk when I migrated to Canada, with two master’s degrees, one in sociology and the other in industrial relations.  I didn’t think that I will encounter what I encountered when I got to the shores of my host country. The first thing that hits me was okay. My skin is black. I never thought about that before, when I was back home because everybody is the same, the same complexion basically.”

With her husband job-hunting and three children in tow, the start was not the ideal that I had expected.  She went on to share how she had to face up to harassment and bullying as she tried to settle in and take off on her journey.  Her story provided deep insights into her struggles, moments of vulnerability, withdrawal, emotional upheavals, to her transformation, and success; the show not just had its share of insightful moments, but had our attendees joining in with their own perspectives that were profound and a great learning experience.

Women of color end up facing a wide range of micro-aggression

What was interesting yet painful to note was that despite so many years of discussing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion DEI, women of color face a significant amount of discrimination, bias, and harassment at the workplace.

  1. Being judged
  2. Questions on their ability
  3. Exclusion
  4. Suspecting their decision-making
  5. Questioning their commitment to the job,
  6. Performance-related biases
  7. Receiving undue flak
  8. Not getting due credit for their success,

Some of the consistent themes we could hear while Femi went on to share her journey, that had their fair share of ups and downs.  From starting as a self-confident woman to losing it and regaining it as she navigated the emotional roller-coaster.  What she said was that not many are able to see what is going in inside the mind of a person who has to endure harassment and bullying on a daily basis.

She shared how the state of her mind and in her office was starting to take a heavy toll on her family, who had to take the brunt of it all.

When asked about how she was able to overcome the challenges and what is her advice to high-potential young black women who aspire to reach leadership levels in the organization, she had these few things to say.

Ways to stay on top of your game

  1. You must always invest in yourself, try and keep learning, developing your skill-sets and competencies so that you do not just match up but can be better than anyone in that role
  2. Find out what you are passionate about and invest some time taking it up, even if it is a side-hustle.  That can boost your confidence to new levels.
  3. Do not be afraid to speak up.  Bring difficult conversations to the table sooner than you do, so that you do not have to lose your sleep over it daily.
  4. Identify the early signs that you are becoming a victim of harassment and bullying, by listening to your body.  If you are not sleeping well, that could be one of the first signs.
  5. Build strong allyship.  Have someone who you trust and can share what you are going through.  It can act as a catalyst in overcoming the myriad problems you face.  That someone or people can act as your personal advisory board.
  6. Learn to make use of the employee assistance programs.  Do not be afraid of reprisal.
  7. Stop wearing masks and be your authentic self
  8. Whatever it is you love to do or take up – just start.  No matter how big or small the initiative is.  Start strong and stay the course.

Femi shared, how she not just started her entrepreneurial journey, setting up a consulting firm that would focus on creating an organizational culture that is truly inclusive, she also started a side-hustle by setting up a separate project, that of selling African fashion accessories and cultural artifacts.  That really gives her immense satisfaction and joy.

Insights from a few of our fellow attendees


“I believe that you need to build allyship and be the strong person and voice of reason! As a leader in my organization, we have developed Employee Resource Groups where we build up and embed DEI”
“it’s time to have a courageous conversation..  I insert myself professionally no matter what”
“I’m blessed to be in a global organization where DEI is embedded in all our people, product, and services daily”
“It’s vital to find an organization whose values align with both your personal and professional values.”
“instances of bullying are on the rise when cos are either performing badly or during crisis situations like covid? Its a means of trying to get people to leave”
“Most stem from the fact that the leadership is not committed to implementing safe workspace policies that already exist in organizations.  It must start at the top”
Angela Gala
“There are times, leadership resorts to means that are intentionally designed to force employees to leave”
“Most of the time the problem is at the top, and it will prevail as long as the leadership remains the same.”
“I quit my full-time job and started my own practice.  No more harassment and no more bullying”
Vikas Singh
Bullying and discrimination happen because:
1. Poor leadership – 
2. Poor team coordination and poor peer support.
3. Lobbying and voluntary ignorance from management (low to high, including HR, etc) and colleagues 

What can we do?

  1. We can grow stronger – awareness and preparation (somehow talking about it actively and passively)
  2. Focus on wellbeing 
  3. Maybe sometimes empathy for the bully (maybe he/she had a challenging background of being bullied self also). And try not to take things personally.

What are the positive outcomes:

  1. We can ask openly in the interview about the company’s discrimination policy and bullying policy. Ethical behavior etc.
  2. Talk to other employees working there and listen to their feedback. 
  1. Identifying bullies and confronting the situation with respect and acknowledgment. Sometimes the bulky do not know about his/her behavior. 
  2. Focus on self-wellbeing and self-preservation

Judith Carmody
“It’s imperative that we start to sensitize people early in their life and career.  Maybe it’s time we looked at teaching at schools and colleges and even parents about the negative effects of bullying and harassment.  Teach them how to deal with it effectively when they grow up and have to face it in the corporate world”

While the focus was on the challenges faced by women of color, this episode was all about the journey of an African woman of color.  Femi’s journey is an eye-opener and definitely a small step in furthering the cause of making our workspaces safe and free from harassment and bullying.

The next episode is to continue the dialogue on the challenges because of micro-aggressions faced by employees at the workplace.

S1E3: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

S1E3: Organizations Must Stop Shouting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Date: 9th October 2021

Host: Sree Kumar, Founder & CEO, The Critical Dialogue
Co-host: Nageen Riffat, Founder, Nyn’s Dreams
Special Guest: Torrey Davis, I/O Psychology, Organizational Strategist, Founder, Davis IOP Consulting

Disclaimer:the views, information, or opinions expressed during the TCDLive Weekend Lounge show / series are solely those of the individuals, authors, guest speakers who come on the show and do not necessarily represent those of The Critical Dialogue, its constituents and partners, and its employees and clients.The Critical Dialogue and its constituent partners are not responsible for any harm physical and/or psychological arising out of carrying out / following the views expressed and/or advise on this show.  This show is also not a substitute for any professional medical/non-medical advice.  Viewer discretion is advised.

It was such an engaging session with our guest, Torrey, on the TCDLive Weekend Lounge show.  The icing on the cake was so many turned up in support of the cause.

Behind the scenes

I was having a conversation with Torrey about the topic of workplace harassment and bullying and how people of color need to stop complaining and playing the victim all the time and start learning ways to “navigate” the rough and tumble of the corporate world; he had this to ask me….

“Sree, by navigating, are you suggesting that I need to become more white in order for me to survive?”

Why can’t I be comfortable in my skin – me being just me, and still be able to level up, succeed and reach top positions in organizations?

His questions got me thinking and our discussions veered towards the DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) policies in organizations that suffer from poor implementation.  He went on to say that the policies exist for a reason and are indicative of the fact that incidences of workplace harassment and bullying have occurred in the past that necessitated them in the first place.  

As it turns out, globally, these policy documents have become more of a medium of defending the corporations than those it was originally meant to protect. 

I find it insulting to those who are hired by companies that repeatedly shout diversity and inclusion, only to find it to be the exact opposite.  It is not just about color, race, gender, harassment, and bullying in its subtle form keeps occurring all the time, the so-called micro-aggression. 

Bullying and harassment happen at all levels and can be directed to your age, experience, skillset,  the way you speak, your attitude, and many such dimensions. 

Diversity, equity, and inclusivity in the workplace don’t mean you merely use it as a showcase – a splash here and a dash there.

Most organizations feel satisfied that they are meeting the bare minimum needs of diversity and inclusion numbers.  People at the receiving end of micro-aggressive behavior start to feel increasingly alienated and are constantly reminded that they are different and don’t belong.  

He said “As a man of color, I had to work harder, just to get equal respect all the while suppressing my personality to dispel the stereotype of a rebellious, non-conformist.

In #thecriticaldialogue #TCDLiveWeekendLounge show this weekend, we spoke to Torrey asking him to throw some light on his journey and how he not just saved his skin but saved his sanity to be successful in life?  

We asked him how to identify the signs of micro-aggression at work and ways to deal with it.

Let’s talk DE&I!

Torrey began his conversation by discussing, what he coined, “the roots” of his experience of DE&I. His journey began with his family and how he fit into his family’s nucleus because his parents and brothers respected each other’s differences. He discussed being exposed to his parents struggles within the workplace – his mother being bullied due to not engaging with cliques and workplace gossip. His father started out in the mailroom, even though he had personnel and  account experience due to spending 22-years in the Military. 

Torrey’s DE&I journey changed as he entered college and the working environment, where being a man of color brought about new unwanted experiences. Ultimately, the attendees gravitated to how Torrey defined DE&I: Diversity – “Other than me or different than me”. Equity – “Fairness, but fairness must be agreed upon by the parties involved.” Inclusion – “to actually be inclusive…thought process and perspectives, culture, communication, family status, working styles…must be considered.”

What is interesting about Torrey’s discussion is how it complemented Nageen Riffat’s (Nyn) conversation during Episode 1 of this season. 

However, Torrey’s focus was on organizations and how DE&I relate to men of color, and DE&I in the organization in general. Focal points of Torrey’s discussion were: 

  1. DEI – What’s wrong and why is it not having the necessary impact?
  2. Microaggressions
  3. DEI – implementation, what can organizational leadership do?
  4. Do you think having a DEI policy has become more a tool to defend the organization than those it is intended to protect?
  5. Employee assistance programs – are they truly helping promote DEI?
  6. Is a mandated independent external audit of DEI of organizations needed?

Are some of the experiences that seem to take a heavy toll on women and are three times more for the women of color, who are victims of microaggressions.

Torrey shared several different perspectives about DE&I in the organization that can assist leaders, managers, and employees with discussing the necessary elements needed within their companies to promote and exhibit diversity, equity, and inclusion:

  1. Not defining DE&I in a manner that is relatable to the masses.
  2. Speaking from my I/O Psychology and consulting lens, not defining good measures for DE&I is problematic.
  3. DE&I is more than what’s listed under Affirmative action. 
  4. Microaggression in the workplace
  5. Implicit bias.
  6. The four dimensions of DE&I – organizational, external, internal, personal.
  7. Employee assistance programs and mistrust.

While the focus was on the challenges faced by men of color in relation to DE&I, this episode focused on many organization concerns and DE&I. 

S1E4: Recovery and Resilience in the aftermath of domestic violence

Date: 16th October 2021

Host: Sree Kumar, Founder & CEO, The Critical Dialogue

Guest: Nageen Riffat, Founder, Nyn’s Dreams

Disclaimer: the views, information, or opinions expressed during the TCDLive Weekend Lounge show / series are solely those of the individuals, authors, guest speakers who come on the show and do not necessarily represent those of The Critical Dialogue, its constituents and partners, and its employees and clients.  The Critical Dialogue and its constituent partners are not responsible for any harm physical and/or psychological arising out of carrying out / following the views expressed and/or advice on this show.  This show is also not a substitute for any professional medical/non-medical advice.  Viewer discretion is advised.

It was such an engaging and deeply moving and emotional session with our guest, Nageen, on the TCDLive Weekend Lounge show.  We were blessed to have so many turned up and also registered their support of the cause.

Behind the scenes

I was talking to Nageen Riffat, Founder, Nyn’s Dreams and Award-Winning Speaker on Women’s Empowerment and Author of the best seller #HerRhythm – You are more than your survival story”

Her story literally shook me to the core, and I couldn’t get myself to even imagine the trauma this powerful lady had to endure, two young boys in tow, with no guarantee of what was in store.  I said to her “How could GOD be so unkind to such a wonderful woman? – Why was he a mute spectator, watching his creation being battered and bruised and left to fend for herself all alone?

“Sree, GOD helps those who help themselves, was her spontaneous response”.

“I tell you it was the worst experience in my life, a bad dream but it was also the best experience in my life . . . It made me a stronger person, and I feel like what I have gone through,  I can pass along to others, and I feel like I have this intuition when I’m around  people that are in those situations, and I try to make it evident but not obvious, that  I’m there for them if they need anything.”

Globally there are so many women who have been silently suffering or have been victims of domestic violence.  And a limited few who have not just recovered from the aftermath of domestic violence but who went on to rebuild and rebirth their lives.

When it comes to DV the victims/survivors inevitably experience trials and tribulations of recovery.  They are forced to contend with so much stress in the aftermath of domestic violence that may include recurring symptoms of trauma (like depression, anxiety) but also of the perpetrators who make persistent attempts to control them.  Controlling by stalking, breaking into their homes, harassing and threatening their employers, friends and family.

This has a deep impact on their ability to make decisions, concentrate and remain focused, and process their emotions. 

But there are also women who not just survived but gone on to define their own path, find meaning and purpose in their life and have now become a beacon of hope to several thousand worldwide.

While not much data exists in terms of how they were able to win back their life, leaving an abusive relationship and working toward recovery, those who have shared their journey are really making a difference.

Their stories are filled with how their road to recovery took a tremendous amount of personal strength, self-awareness, resilience, emotional intelligence and self-control.  The common theme is that they stopped playing victim and waiting for someone to come save them and started taking charge of their life.

In The Critical Dialogue #TCDLiveWeekendLounge show this weekend, we spoke to Nageen Riffat on the topic “Recovery and Resilience in the aftermath of domestic violence”

We asked her to share her story of not just how she rid herself of the traumatic relationship but also about her road to recovery through resilience.

God helps those who help themselves

Nageen began the show by sharing her story from early days of her childhood, about what shaped her dreams, the influence of her dad and how growing up as his adorable princess she dreamt of living a life truly made of those dreams.  

She said, little did I realize that those very dreams were going to be shattered post her marriage.

Her deeply moving tale of woes, inner-conflicts, domestic abuse of both the physical and the emotional kind and her slow and painful road to recovery, resilience and transformation is what made the show invaluable.  There were lessons to be learnt at every stage, at times as a host I felt that I just let her be and continue, but honestly there is so much to her story than mere survival, as she wrote in her book #herRhythm – you are more than your survival story.

I tried to keep the focus around topics that I thought would really be beneficial for fellow women around the world.  Those included:

  1. How living in denial doesn’t help your cause?
  2. Reclaiming yourself – need to invest in self-care
  3. The power of belief
  4. Repurpose your life – start dreaming again
  5. Decisions and choices that EMPOWER
  6. Forgiveness – how that helps in recovery
  7. Stand up for your rights
  8. Re-birthing – find renewed purpose, meaning, and energy to succeed

Honestly, as much as I thought it would remain focused on these topics, we veered towards some more basic and pertinent ones that deserved attention.  As is always the case with the TCDLiveWeekend Lounge experience, we always remain open to bring to table that which matters even if it demands of us at times moving away from pre-fixed agenda.

The idea of “Dialogue” is just that after all, isn’t it.

We started talking about how;

  1. Cases of domestic violence go unreported – Nageen shared that over 90% of the domestic violence cases go unreported, not just because at times victim/survivors themselves are unaware that they have been subjected to abuse but also because of the cultural stigma that is attached to it.
  1. What stops victims/survivors from reporting cases of domestic violence – She said that many do not report because they don’t want their family name to be dragged to courts or litigations.  They do not want their own kith and kin, friends and colleagues to end up facing the wrath of the abusers.  This is particularly the case when the perpetrator is a person of high influence, both in terms of money, muscle and connections.  The problem she said was at times the victim/survivors family themselves are to blame as they don’t want to get involved and invest their energies in pushing the victim back into the fire.  Instead of trying to stand up and fight for their kin, they at times can be perceived to be more siding with the perpetrators and their families.  That is the sad part, she said.  This really has a deep psychological impact on the victim as they become highly untrusting of others and withdraw into a cocoon to suffer in silence. As Nageen said, it starts to impact so much that it goes on to impair the thinking and decision making faculties of the victim/survivor.
  1. It’s not just physical, the psychological abuse goes unnoticed – Nageen spoke about how it was not just about the physical abuse victims/survivors are subjected to but the intense  emotional/psychological abuse they are subjected to that often goes unnoticed.  She said while the scars from physical abuse are visible and are a grim reminder of what she had gone through each time she goes in front of the mirror, it is the emotional trauma that is hard to overcome.  Especially when you have no one to talk to and are alone, it comes to bite you again and again, not allowing you to forget your past.  She said, physical scars may heal over time but the emotional ones take a long long time.  You can never completely heal from them though you can work towards reducing the negative effects of those on your psyche and on your life ahead.
  1. Why are married women with children less likely to report against the perpetrators of violence? – When you have innocent lives who are dependent on you and expect you to be the protective blanket around them, you cannot afford at times to be seen as vulnerable.  Your instincts naturally are to bear with the abuse, lest it start touching your children’s life.  The perpetrators of domestic violence can emotionally manipulate children, physically threaten them to get their custody.  For them, not being able to get custody of their kids is the first and a great sign of their failure, which they would not like a bit.  They would go to any extent to ensure that the victim/survivor is physically and emotionally isolated.  They can threaten, use coercive force, and even be prepared to kill, just so that they win.  The fear they instill in the victim is just enough for them to remain silent.  

    The other interesting point she raised was that when you have kids and you want them to grow up in a good family environment, you keep trying your best to make up with the perpetrator with the hope that this is just a passing phase and one day things will turn out to be good.  What she said was profound and very important – you cannot afford to live in denial.  You have to accept that you have failed in your efforts to make this work.  It’s time to move on.  When you are faced with the choice of either ‘giving up’ or ‘standing up’, she said make the choice of standing up to fight another day.  That is what made her to be what she is today – A true woman of substance.
  1. If the abusers would have grown up in a family which condoned such acts – to this question, she was not wanting to sound like she is empathetic to the perpetrator.  She said, it is sad that it does happen most of the time that women in the family of the abuser, do not even realize that another woman like them is getting violated.  They either are mute spectators or contribute to the problem.  She said, such women fail to even realize that they are mothers, sisters, daughters themselves.  It is so damn difficult to fathom that they could become party to domestic violence.  She went on to say that unless women in the violator’s family, his kith or kin don’t take a stance, this kind of violation is not going away any time soon.
  1. The effects and impact of covid-19 pandemic in an increase of domestic violence – Nageen spoke about women and especially working women, who have been victims of subtle forms of abuse, the psychological kind, which has been on the rise post pandemic and work-from-home scenario.  The only time a victim/survivor used to get to be with themselves was either in the shower or during their commute to and fro office.  With work-from-home, that luxury has also been taken away.  There is very little time for self-care which these women get with expectations of them being super-woman who could work almost 18-20 hrs. A day, supporting family, children, parents, work and much much more.  The exhausted mind has no time to think of rejuvenating for self-care.  She said, she had to wear a mask throughout the day, at office – to show up as a confident and decisive person, with children – as a strong and powerful lady, with husband – as a caring and affectionate partner, with in-law – as a devoted daughter in law, with parents as a loving caring child, with friends as a – bubbly enthusiastic person, Phew!  You never really are you!
  1. The need to sensitize and build awareness. Nageen spoke at length about how women must invest in their self-care and build their self-worth.  They must work hard to develop competencies that could help them not just take up jobs but also become self-reliant in the face of adversity.  She said, the very fact that she was well educated and had a successful career helped her to escape from the clutches of an abusive relationship and gave her the confidence to make a life of her own in an alien land.  Today, she goes about conducting sensitization programs, workshops and skill builders and works with NGOs and community centers to empower women to stand up and be noticed.  She kept repeating throughout the show that self-care was the key.
  2. How organizations the world over can support She talked about how organizations can support the victim/survivor of domestic violence by not just being sensitive to their needs but also to provide them with the time, space and necessary resources to not just recover but get a life of their own making. She highlighted that while she was fortunate to have colleagues and an organization that supported her through that face of trials and tribulations, often she comes across women who have been let down by the very company or colleagues with whom she would have spent years working.  Organizations must come forward to employ and promote more women in the workplace.  Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the true sense.

The show definitely highlighted, and did not miss the fact that there is a great need for women to come out in support of women, if we want to see any significant change – whether in families or in the workplace.

The key takeaways

Support, Educate, Empower, Develop (SEED) as I would like to call it, is important in helping women fight against abuse and violence.  This needs to be backed by creating a fertile ground that has Social and Institutional support, Community support, and more importantly a cultural revolution of sorts.  One small step at a time.

TCDLive Weekend Lounge show is committed to bringing to dialogue all such topics that deserve our attention.  

May the world become truly inclusive!

S1E5: Mental Wellness Recovery – an active change of ideas and attitudes.

S1E5:  Mental Wellness Recovery – An active change of ideas and attitudes

‘Recover’, ‘Reignite’ and ‘Rejuvenate’ Your Life

Date: 23rd October 2021

Host: Sree Kumar, Founder & CEO, The Critical Dialogue

Co-hosts: Torrey Davis and Nageen Riffat

Guest: Karl Berry

Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed during the TCDLive Weekend Lounge show / series are solely those of the individuals, authors, guest speakers who come on the show and do not necessarily represent those of The Critical Dialogue, its constituents, and partners, and its employees and clients.  The Critical Dialogue and its constituent partners are not responsible for any harm physical and/or psychological arising out of carrying out / following the views expressed and/or advice on this show.  This show is also not a substitute for any professional medical/non-medical advice.  Viewer discretion is advised.

It was such an engaging session with our guest, Karl, on the TCDLive Weekend Lounge show.  As always the critical dialogue went long and was so engaging, with attendees providing their insights and observations towards the end of the show.

Behind the scenes

I was talking to Karly Berry, founder and CEO of the Community Care and Resource Council, Dallas, Texas, USA and the conversation veered towards mental health, mental wellness, and post-traumatic recovery.

It was #thecriticaldialogue I thought highly relevant with scores of people reporting problems with mental wellness post-pandemic of now over 18 months.

The trauma has not spared anyone, young and old alike, business and working professionals, gender, race, culture, nationalities, the whole world.

Today many the world over are dealing with devastating losses of both the personal and the professional kind.  From losing dear ones to the loss of jobs and relationships to accumulating huge business losses.  People still seem to be reeling under the after-effects of a calamity of proportions they would have never ever imagined they would face in their lifetime.

I asked Karl to tell me about what he thinks is the way forward, the steps one can take to ‘recover’, ‘reignite’ and ‘rejuvenate’ one’s life when faced with such physical and emotional upheaval.

He said to me, Sree, “It simply boils down to making a choice between ‘bad thinking and ‘good thinking”

I wanted to explore further the critical dialogue as I asked him to tell me more, and who is better than Karl himself who is a great example of someone who lost it and fought – fought well to recover all that he lost.

In #thecriticaldialogue #TCDLiveWeekendLounge show this weekend, we spoke to Karl asking him to throw some light on his journey and how he made his mental health recovery possible by an active change of ideas and attitudes.  

We asked him how to identify the early warning signals of mental wellness issues, what can one do to overcome the problem.

The dialogue! – a context

The word impossible (IS) no longer part of the scientific community’s vocabulary” – Christopher Reeve

From being an established Hollywood star and playing Superman to an accident that left him as a quadriplegic to recovery and beyond, Christopher Reeve set an example of how your ability to tap into your inner courage, move forward with your life, and even reinvent yourself is possible. 

That’s what transformed him from being not just a start but going on to being a legend. 

“He toured the world to meet scientists, public representatives, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists. He became the voice, and above all the beacon of hope, of all those who live with paralysis”.

He found ‘new meaning’ and ‘purpose’ to his life.

His story is much talked about as he was a star, but there are many in this world who have been doing similar work and have gone through the process of ‘recovery’ and infused new meaning to their life and are providing hope and doing service to the community.

The Critical Dialogue revolved around the following topics

  1. Good Thinking/Bad Thinking
  2. Recovery
  3. Active change ideas and attitudes
  4. Getting back what was lost
  5. Karl’s lived experiences
  6. School/College
  7. Job
  8. Counsel from Minority Owned Businesses
  9. Logic to change you thoughts vs Acting to changes your thoughts
  10. Programming the subconscious mind – Spirituality – Honesty Open-mindedness and Willingness

It was a free-flowing unstructured discussion around these topics and Karl shared with us his own experiences of being a drug addict, doing it daily, every day, and how he had all but lost it, before taking the course of spirituality and transforming himself completely.

He shared with the audience how he then started to find meaning by helping others who faced similar mental health problems, through community outreach programs.

While no direct answers were available, as is the case with dialogue, we engage in conversations and let the audience pick for themselves parts that they relate to and find useful.  

In the lounge it’s you who decides what you need to be served – it’s always your choice.

You could listen to the TCDLive Weekend Lounge Podcast or watch the video to learn more.

TCDLive Weekend Lounge show is committed to bringing to dialogue all such topics that deserve our attention.  

May the world become truly inclusive!

TCDLive Weekend Lounge Talk Show
is committed to bringing to dialogue all such topics
that deserve attention.  

May the world become truly inclusive!

An IDIOTS Guide To Success!

Yes, you heard that!  I am and have been called on numerous occasions an idiot. 

Should I call them perceptions, judgments, or facts as evidenced by my actions?

Hmm… I don’t know.

What I know for sure is that as an established idiot, I can help you in many ways.

Ways to be highly successful in life.

Ways you would have never ever thought of or imagined.

Ways, if not guaranteeing success will surely help you avoid pitfalls which could come your way in life’s journey.

Hello there, this is your host Sree Kumar with #thecriticaldialogue series “An Idiots Guide To Success”, where I share with you my secrets to success which you could never possibly learn from successful people.


In this episode we explore how NOT taking responsibility and blaming is the IDIOTS way to Success!

Today, I tell you how? It is absolutely fine to NOT take any responsibility for your life!

I always believed that I was entitled to a great life – that there is someone, somewhere (certainly not me) who is responsible for guiding my life.  A higher power which already knows my story and has written about it in detail.  That no matter how much I try, I cannot change the script.  Mind you, it is copyrighted. 

It is that power which is completely responsible for the quality of life I lead.  It is responsible for my happiness, my career, my family and my personal relationships.  So much so that it also manages all my financial resources.

I trust that power very much and have been brought up and conditioned to believe in it.  It’s such a wonderful feeling to have believed in that power all my life you see.  I don’t have to lift a finger to get things accomplished in my life. 

All I need to do is to pray and believe in my destiny and let that power take care of me.

So today’s lesson from the ‘idiots guide’ is that in order to be successful, you don’t have to take any responsibility for everything you experience in your life. 

Remember, you are not responsible for your achievements as it is already preordained.

You are not responsible for the quality of relationships as no matter what you do, others have their script too.

You are not responsible for the results you produce as they have already been defined and delivered into your book called life.

You are not responsible for the state of your health and physical fitness as no matter what you do or how much you try – death is inevitable and that is the only truth.

You are not responsible for your income and debts as it is entirely dependent on those who pay or lend you the money.  I say that once again, they too have their script to follow.

And lastly you are not responsible for your feelings as they are always guided by the happenings around you.

It’s so easy! Isn’t it?

You have been given the power to blame!

Please use that for your own well-being. 

I have led all my life using this unique gift of blame which the supreme power has armed me with.  It was comforting to blame my parents for the lack of a comfortable upbringing;

Blame my bosses for not knowing my worth

Blame my friends for not being there when I needed them

Blame the media for all the negativity in this world

Blame my clients for not being intelligent enough to understand the utility of my products and services

Blame my spouse for not being understanding

Blame the weather for staying indoors

Blame the economy for my financial state

Blame the astrological chart for the way my life has turned out to be.

Go ahead and pin the blame on anything and everything which bothers you.


Remember, the script has already been written.

I hope you have by now got the first lesson from my “Idiots Guide To Success”?

In the next episode, we will explore this idiosyncrasy in a little more detail

By the way, if you didn’t like this first episode, I blame you for not getting the hang of what I am trying to tell you.


The secret power of expectations

Often our expectations are based on the assumptions we have about people or groups of people. The same is true of us.

Have you ever noticed how your expectations become reality in your personal life?

Expectation is literally a self-fulfilling prophecy. We do this consciously and subconsciously.

Remember the kid in grade school who was always really rowdy and disruptive? Sometimes if people already assume they are perceived a certain way, then that is indeed exactly how they will act, even if they don’t mean to. The rowdy kid in grade school knew everyone perceived him as disruptive, and so he was. The teacher expected bad behavior, and the expectations were fulfilled.

Consider the profound impact this can have on your own life. Are the assumptions and expectations you have about yourself liberating or victimizing? There are countless examples of “self-fulfilling prophecies,” or the Law of Expectations at work in everyday life. Ever notice how people who think they’re going to be fired suddenly experience a drop in the quality and enthusiasm for their work? Then what happens? They get fired! Their belief causes them to act a certain way, and those expectations then work to bring about the very thing that at first was only a figment of their imagination.

In another study, second graders listened to statements from their teachers before taking a math test. There were three types of statements: expectation, persuasion, or reinforcement.

The expectation statements went something like, “You know your math really well!” or “You work really hard at your math.” Persuasion statements involved sentences like, “You should be good at math.” or “You should be getting better math grades.” Finally, for the reinforcement statements, teachers said things like, “I’m really happy about your progress” or “This is excellent work!”

Now, what do you think the results were? The scores were the highest in the “expectation” category! Why were the expectation statements the most effective? They created personal assumptions within each student. Those assumptions conditioned the actual external results.

Don’t Zone Out! Find Focus With A Theme

What happened to the time? When we are busy in our day-to-day lives, it sometimes seems that whole seasons pass in a blink. And the goals we have…well, they can easily slip by in that blur too. You want to WAKE UP: to get control of your time and meet your goals. But how?

In coaching, we sometimes talk about our lives being in the process. That is, our lives are constantly flowing forward over and around the highs and lows of our everyday experiences, like a river. As humans we often try to minimize those ups and downs: We plan for the future, we dwell on the past and thus avoid experiencing the emotion at this present moment. As a result, we dampen our aliveness and sort of zone out. No wonder we suddenly “wake up” to realize minutes, even days or weeks, have passed us by!

Have you ever had the experience of driving a car only to find yourself suddenly at your destination? Where have you been? Not present, that’s for sure! But really, what does it mean to be present in your day-to-day life?

It’s quite challenging to focus all your attention on this moment. Try it: As you are reading these words, slow down. Experience the action of reading one word at a time. What sounds do you hear in the room around you? How comfortable are you? How are you breathing? Recognize that you are alive, right now, in this moment. What was that like for you?

Here’s another experiment. Go ahead and laugh – – but try this anyway. It may give you a whole new way to be in the moment: As you go through your day, ask yourself: Where’s my butt? On a chair? Against a wall? Walking past the consignment shop on Main Street? Crazy as it sounds; it is very difficult not to be present when you’re trying to figure out where your rump is!

OK! Now you’ve tried rump awareness and have probably heard all kinds of other advice for becoming present at the moment – breathing, mindfulness, meditation, and so forth. Now broaden the concept: how can you stay present and focused on a project or goal in your life? Select a theme.

Here’s how it works: As an example, my theme for my business this year is “fun and inspired action.” This theme serves as a filter. Each month, I review my business goals through the lens of my theme and prioritize those that will be the most fun and give me and my clients the most inspiration. Brainstorming projects to undertake, I look for those that best match my theme. My theme gives me a sense of exploration when choosing new opportunities. FUN!

A client of mine has a theme for the month in regard to his job search: Action! Driven by action he’s got some aggressive goals for landing job interviews. In every step he takes he asks himself, “does this forward my action toward my goals?” You should see the guy – he’s on fire!

What is YOUR theme? It’s time for you to wake up and be on fire too!

Micro-managing – Lessons for leaders from helicopter parenting

Leaders would do well to understand that micro-managing is like the helicopter parent who is seemingly disapproving of all that their team members do.

I was trying to relate this one to my own personal experience and found it so relevant that I chose to share with you some insights that I gained.

This was about 30 years back when my wife and I were dating.  Being brought up in a conservative family environment where all decisions in your life were taken by parents, was blasphemous, to say the least.  Those were the days when parents thought that all that they did was in the best interests of the family and they were always ‘right’.

They were disapproving of our relationship and did all in their power to stop us from seeing each other.  That included, for my poor partner being locked up for days at home to character assassination of yours truly to extremes like threats to disown us.

The interesting thing about all these attempts was that the more they did of these, the closer and tighter we became in our relationship.  We started to find immense strength from each other’s company and felt like having the power to take on the world.  There was something very unnerving of about parents meddling in their children’s affairs that appeared to motivate us kids to rebel.

I realized that the more I was told to refrain from doing something, the more resolute I became in continuing.  The idea became more and more appealing to me and my partner.

The lesson here is that talking more and offering suggestions often were counterproductive and had low success rates.  Isn’t it similar to smokers still continuing to smoke despite all the graphic pictures and symbols shown on the pack?  I am sure you can relate to this when anyone tries to hard sell you an idea and the way you dig in your heels to oppose or stall it with vigor.

The harder we are pushed, the harder we resist!

Today, absenteeism, non-cooperation, and employee disengagement are early warning signs of a micro-managing boss.   

Employee turnover is the ultimate act of defiance against the leaders who have been guilty of micro-managing and giving little or no autonomy to their employees.

As with parenting, leaders need to be less controlling and more supportive and facilitative in their approach.  All the more important for leaders who are working with Gen Z, Gen X, and Gen Alphas.

Any attempt to control can lead to what social psychologists call the “Romeo and Juliet” effect.  As was the case with me and my partner.  The impact of that is still relevant.

Children are not exhibits – STOP treating them like your showpiece!

It was so funny to see, whenever we had guests at home, we kids were made to perform various acrobatics in front of them.  The guests were told that the kid sings well, dances well recite a poem well, is a wonder kid in math and can perform complex calculations in a sec., or had immense general knowledge.  Sometimes paraded like artists in a circus.

Parents behaving like masters of ceremonies then started goading the kids to perform those feats in front of their guests.  If they did perform to the applause of others, parents felt proud and the kids were rewarded well.  If the kids fail to comply, they are labeled as shy or stubborn.

Sounds familiar?  What are the reasons for parents to behave this way?

Given the current climate, perhaps it is time we started asking ourselves some probing questions. Do we place too much of a link between our children and our social standing?

Do a lot of us unintentionally associate our reputation with how well our kids perform?

Many of us worry so much about getting into a “good” school that it drives both our kids and us crazy. How can an excellent school or college be determined? Is it one whose culture, curriculum, or academic standards we find appealing, or is it one that is viewed as a “status symbol”?

Many of us want our kids to participate in sports. But once more, do we really need to care that our kid is having fun playing a game he likes? Or are we actively or subtly encouraging him to succeed so that we can highlight what a champion our kid is?

Every parent is pleased with how their kids performed. But is it necessary to pressure our kids into performing in front of guests, whether or not they feel comfortable doing so, by making them dance or recite a poem?

Parents naturally want their kids to behave well and have decent manners. But why do we become too aware of their actions, demand that they set aside their immaturity, and become flawless examples of restraint when we are around people?

The same irrational expectations apply when we forbid kids from playing in the sand, water, or rain out of concern that their clothes and shoes will get dirty, and that people would subsequently judge them. Some parents don’t even let their kids pick out their own casual clothes; instead, they always make sure they look “next, clean & smart” as if they were on display.

Is our child a showcase to be put on display in front of others as a declaration of our success?

Allow kids to be kids. Let nature take its course as it develops. The child’s holistic and natural development should be of more importance than how they appear to others.

By treating children as objects for display, we only inflict undue stress on their fragile psyches.

If you wish to be that sensitive parent who wants to learn ways to relate effectively with your child? Let’s dialogue 👇🏽

Moonlighting – Is there a problem

Organizations have traditionally objected to employees moonlighting, believing that it can hurt their interests in the long run.

For one, moonlighting can lead to employees working on projects that are not related to their primary job. Thus they may miss important meetings or deadlines due to the time they devote to their secondary jobs.

Second, employees who moonlight are less likely to stay at the company for very long. These workers may feel neglected and undervalued by their employers, which could cause them to look for other opportunities elsewhere.

Third, it may also be difficult to monitor employees who are moonlighting. Unlike employees who remain at the company during the day, these workers do not have supervisors who can keep a close watch on their activities to ensure they are doing their jobs properly.

Finally, employees who moonlight may end up stealing proprietary information from their employers and selling this information to their competitors. This can threaten the survival of the organizations they work for, especially if they use the information to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Given this, organizations should consider allowing their employees to moonlight only if it can provide them with certain benefits. For example, such an arrangement could help an organization expand its operations and improve its bottom line if it is able to hire more talented workers with more diverse skills.

However, it is important for these organizations to take the necessary steps to protect their sensitive information and ensure that their employees are doing their jobs properly if they are to allow employees to moonlight. For example, these organizations should limit the number of hours their employees can work at their second jobs and ensure that they do not work on projects that have any connection to their primary jobs. Furthermore, these companies should monitor the activities of their employees to ensure that they are not in possession or have access to confidential information that could hurt the interests of their employers.

Organizations often prohibit their employees from moonlighting because it can be detrimental to their overall interests. First, it can be very time-consuming for employees to moonlight, which may cause them to neglect their primary jobs and miss out on important tasks and deadlines. Second, many employees may not be able to balance their two jobs effectively and end up neglecting one or the other. As a result, they may find themselves making costly mistakes in their primary jobs or failing to complete their secondary jobs on time.

Third, some employees may be tempted to use their access to confidential information at their primary jobs to obtain a competitive advantage in their secondary jobs. This could have a serious negative impact and could end up hurting the bottom line of their primary employers.

The reasons why employees choose to moonlight

  1. Financial prospects – When employees feel that they are underpaid or not able to meet their financial needs, they look for alternatives or side hustles that could provide them with much-needed support.
  2. Career prospects – When employees do not see career growth prospects or see that there are not enough possibilities or opportunities to expand their roles, then they may choose to find or work towards greener pastures. This they do to secure their future prospects.
  3. Workload – Employees may find that they are being overloaded with work and the financial rewards are not commensurate, then they may be looking at moonlighting as an option to safeguard their prospects in case they eventually choose to quit their primary jobs. It could also be that they do not have enough work in their primary jobs and would like to use their spare time to explore options outside.
  4. Learning opportunities – When employees find that there are not enough opportunities to learn and enhance their skills in their primary jobs, they would find gigs that would help them not just learn but also additionally give them some money as an added benefit.
  5. Lack of trust – When employees see signs that their jobs are not secure and their employer is laying off people and/or there is news/gossip that goes around about such an eventuality, then they may choose to moonlight as a defensive response to safeguard their own interests in case such an eventuality does occur.

There could be many more reasons unique to each employee. It is for organizations to be able to proactively deal with the eventuality of employees moonlighting and take corrective action that could help mitigate the business risks.

One must remember, that as much as organizations can look for a diversified business portfolio based on the changing market conditions, employees are entitled to do the same.

One can’t complain!

Work-life balance – A mirage you may well stop chasing

Working women would definitely relate to this one! and the men too…

Have you ever found that going on a dream vacation and coming back refreshed and ready to take on the world once again is sort of a myth?

Does your nature help in getting work-life balance?

Want to check out yourself?

Great. Send me the link to the assessment. Here is how to contact me 👇🏽

You are not alone!

Moving back from seeing the extraordinary comforts of someone cleaning up our rooms, and making beds every day to doing endless loads of laundry to meeting workplace deadlines can be a wake-up call.

The reality of what lies ahead of us in our “real life” is intimidating, to say the least.

I find that many of us struggle to reconcile our desire to do great work and be a great spouse/parent/daughter/friend. We might in the name of work-life balance aim for perfection in every area and fall short, sometimes spectacularly so, and on a regular basis.

Work is not only the creative outlet we so desperately seek, but it helps us support our family in a meaningful way.

As a working parent, you would have experienced the fact that every minute you spend at work is the time you are not spending with your kids and family, and there is a certain amount of guilt and frustration that comes with that reality.

Work from home as many would have thought would bring in the much-needed balance in their life ended up being no more than a ‘mirage’.  Being surrounded by noisy kids, elders, and family, in general, demanding your attention has been draining, to say the least for many. 

For working women, possibly the time away from home and the commute to the office would have been such a welcome break daily was suddenly taken away.  They seem to be now the first and the last to get in and out of bed, what with massive amounts of laundry, meals to be made, floors to be kept clean, making beds for others and the chores are endless.  This has not changed much as even for those who have had house help handy.  Supervising them and getting all of it done would have been more frustrating than managing employees and/or colleagues at work.

Many I know of have done away with such help as they always felt that the work done was not according to the standards that they have in mind. 

This problem was accentuated for all those who have ‘Perfectionism’ as a personality trait.  It is starting to take a toll on their physical and mental wellness.

It is also resulting in increased levels of absenteeism at work leading to piling up work and stress.

Do you ever experience a day where you feel as if you have provided your kids with the love and attention they require, in addition to delivering excellent work and getting some time alone to unwind and recharge? The answer may actually, be a no.

On numerous occasions, one or two of the topics have been addressed while the others have been neglected. More often than you’d like, you would have found yourself losing your temper with children, and possibly have trouble concentrating fully on your work.

I frequently get the impression that we could never realistically attain decompression and recharge.

The hardest lesson in all this is to learn on this quest for balance is that you can’t be flawless. The true fallacy is that balance is a kind of perfection in and of itself.

Giving 100% to everything all the time is out of balance; you need to take from some areas and contribute to others to balance them. That has been a hard truth for most to accept.

Can you truly achieve the elusive work-life balance?  Is it a mirage that you have been chasing?

One way I have been able to get a semblance of balance is to not expect a perfect life.  I would like to take life as a continuous journey where I am able to soak in the experiences as they come along.  The breaks for me are just pitstops to cool the engine down and not as another means to goals like having a bucket list (aka to-do list) as some would have it.

Balance can be achieved by doing nothing – a sort of ‘stillness’.  It is like the handheld weighing scale held by the street vendor.  He has to hold it ‘still’ to get the measurements right.

There could be many more ways to understand whether you truly can accomplish the so-called work-life balance or what could be potentially coming in your way of dealing with this mirage.

Becoming self-aware and understanding what in your inherent nature/trait contributes to your sense of well-being and of the environment you live in.

By the way, it’s not just the working women but men too who have been at the receiving end of this elusive mirage.

DM me for a self-assessment if you are one among many who seek balance!

Exponentially Boost Your Employee Success

Looking to Boost Your Employee Success?

It could well be the game changer!

Great. Tell me how? Let’s meet over a Zoom Call. Here is how to contact me 👇🏽

Looking to exponentially boost your employee success? As a human resource manager and business leader, the one thing that runs in your mind is about boosting employee success which would eventually lead to your business success.

If that resonates with you, then you are also confronted with managing the critical balancing act on one of the ‘competing values’ as Quinn’s Model illustrates – that of ‘Results’ Vs. ‘People’.

You notice that when you fiercely drive business and that becomes your only focus, the people side of the story does get hit – though that is never your intention. The problem is that you are so intensely in pursuit of achieving the results that you almost always lack the time to invest in your ‘People’.

You may argue that you do have a strong employee engagement program in place.

Why then do we see an increasing rise in attrition and the level of stress in employees?

Why are more and more people looking for and talking about the need for work-life balance?

It’s time that you started looking beyond the obvious and the ordinary.

Employee Family Wellness Program

Families are important in our lives because, for better or worse, we often adopt the routines and demeanors of those who are close to us. They influence everything about us, including what we think, feel, and even do.

Therefore, incorporating the families of employees in those activities might be a wise option for those who lead employee wellness programs in organizations and are considering potential initiatives to help employees stay on the path to better health and wellness.

Why? Because absolutely nobody can better affect the physical and mental wellness of your employees than their family members.  No not even you or your employees’ doctors.

The effect of Family on Health and Wellness of employees.

Have you ever tried to kickstart a new habit, like an early morning exercise routine?  If you see your spouse or partner still in bed when you wake up, it will be much more difficult for you to drag yourself out of the house to exercise.  You may be tempted to stay back as well.  On the other hand, you’ll both commit to going together it may be a lot easier and you can push each other on days when one feels a little lazy.

The same is valid for other facets of well-being and health. Consider what happens if you advocate healthy eating at home but your spouse keeps bringing home ice creams and cheeseburgers for the kids.

According to research, when one member adopts a healthy practice, the other partner is more likely to follow suit. For instance, the study discovered that about 70% of men were inclined to increase their level of activity if their spouse did the same. However, without spousal influence, only about 30% made such alterations.  That is almost 50% lower rate of success.

If your employee has a happy family life that is healthy, supportive, and strong then it is more likely to spill over to their workplace.    When employers are able to extend wellness programs to family members, it clearly demonstrates to the employees that their organization cares about their well-being which goes beyond the workplace.

Including families in Wellness Programs

Organizations must find ways to extend the wellness programs to include families which can be an important and very strategic initiative toward a happier and more productive employee.  When an employee knows that there is a whole ecosystem working behind the scenes to keep him and his family safe, he/she would be able to work at his/her full potential.

There is a lot to learn from the Indian Armed Forces in this regard from where my experience of such programs and the immense benefits that it has to offer.

One such benefit is definitely a highly motivated workforce that is physically and emotionally strong!

Interested in rolling out a comprehensive “Employee Family Wellness Program”
in your organization? 
Let’s talk about it.

I can show you how to

“Exponentially Boost Employee Performance”

Toxic is your work culture?

Looking to assess your Team Culture?

Ask me for a customized online assessment

Great. Show me how? Let’s meet over a Zoom Call. Here is how to contact me 👇🏽

It is time to STOP living in ‘denial’

“The key to being a good leader is keeping the people who hate you away from those who are still undecided.”

HBR describes Culture as “consistent, observable patterns of behavior in businesses”. It affects the way we interact, communicate, and handle one another. Our decision-making processes, our tolerance levels, and our day-to-day emotions.

Toxic work culture

You’ll see that this definition excludes free lunches, endless vacations, and snacks. These benefits make it easier for people to put up with a bad culture. Driving continual disruption, transformation, digitization, and innovation as a business may seem fantastic.

Not so much, though, if the typical employee isn’t prepared to handle the challenge. Globally, businesses have expressed to us their concern that they are losing their culture. More workplace cultures are becoming a terrible mashup as a result of rising stress.

In my conversations with top HR executives in the last 30 years, I’ve posed the question regarding organizational culture, and they all seem to agree that over 80% of companies suffer from toxic work cultures.

If you were to ask employees privately to describe their organization’s work culture, more than a few might answer; high stress, overload, low morale, insecurity, and toxic leadership.  Though the executive leadership may almost always deny that such a thing even exists in their organization.  They would like to believe that all is hunky dory and would like to use the cover of ‘business results’ to affirm that all is well.

Studies have shown that everything from employee contentment, fatigue, and teamwork to objective metrics like financial performance and absenteeism is influenced by emotional culture.

Numerous empirical studies demonstrate the major influence of emotions on people’s performance on tasks, level of engagement and creativity, level of commitment to their organizations, and ability to make judgments.

Better performance, quality, and customer service were invariably linked to positive emotional cultures. Similar to how unfavorable emotional cultures were linked to high turnover, poor performance, and group anguish, despair, and dread.

When the subject turns to company culture, ongoing stress and negative emotions translate into people not treating each other well.  The leadership styles do have a great influence on company culture.  The question is do leaders influence the culture or does the culture influence the style of leadership?

If we believe that the company culture is made of consistent, observable patterns of behavior, then it is more likely that stressed-out employees and managers may contribute immensely to the toxicity of organizational culture.

In the face of a tough culture where “faster and cheaper” is the norm for businesses, it is easy for leaders to slip into styles that may not serve them in the long run and turn not just their behaviors but also the culture into a toxic one.

Leaders, therefore, need to urgently get out of ‘denial’ and become ‘mindful’ of the influence they have on building the culture in organizations.  They need to own up to the responsibility at all levels.

The problems of toxicity in work cultures are more pronounced than ever post-pandemic.

If you want to assess your team’s culture?
DM me to arrange for a customized online assessment and report.

If you want to develop ‘Mindful Leadership’ in your organization?
DM me to arrange for a customized assessment-centric workshop for your key leadership resources.

What according to you is the fallout of a toxic culture and leadership?

  1. Low morale
  2. High stress
  3. High turnover
  4. Poor performance

Self-handicapping Behavior – Pressing the self-destruct button

Are you experiencing self-handicapping behavior?
Need help?

Connect with me for a 1:1 Bibliotherapy Session

Great. Let’s connect for 10 min. over a cup of coffee.

Self-handicapping behavior and fear of failure to some of us are associated with feelings far more damaging than disappointment and frustration, such as embarrassment and shame. As a result, the prospect of failure can be so terrifying that we unconsciously lower our expectations for success. While lowering expectations may appear to be a reasonable approach, the manner in which we do so can result in us unwittingly sabotaging ourselves and others.

Self-handicapping behavior

Brinda, a woman in her late thirties with whom I once worked, had taken a ten-year break from her career in HR to raise two young children. Brinda and her husband decided it was time for her to return to work when her youngest child started kindergarten. Brinda quickly used her network to secure job interviews at four different companies. Despite her insider status and impressive credentials, none of them contacted her for a follow-up interview.

Brinda was deeply embarrassed by her failure, not to mention perplexed. Although she thought she had done her best, it soon became clear that her fear of failure had led her to unconsciously sabotage one opportunity after another. Or, more accurately, it became clear to me quickly. Brinda, on the other hand, was certain she had done everything possible to succeed.

“Look,” Brinda explained, “I understand why the first company turned me down.” “I didn’t have time to research it before the interview because my daughter had a big athletic event, and I promised to bake some cake for the school team.”

Brinda’s account of the second interview revealed an equally unconvincing narrative. “My mom called the night before and I got stuck on the phone with her for three hours. She was upset about my brother and his wife heading for break up, and I felt bad about cutting her off.”

“Well, what happened there was my nails were a mess and I thought I’d have time to do a quick mani-pedi before the interview, but I misjudged the time and got there half an hour late,” Brinda explained of the third interview. Perhaps forty-five minutes. Regardless, they refused to see me. “Are you kidding me?” I could certainly believe it, but I politely declined to nod.

Brinda went on to say that a severe migraine headache had kept her awake the night before her fourth interview. “I was completely exhausted!” “Can you believe I forgot to bring a copy of my resume?” I’m sure I’ll laugh about it later.” I doubted Brinda would find the situation amusing, but I held my tongue once more.

Most people who heard Brinda’s story would recognize an obvious pattern of excuses, avoidance, and self-sabotaging behavior that would almost certainly lead to failure. Brinda, on the other hand, was completely unaware. Her subconscious mind understood that by blaming obstacles for any potential failures, she could avoid the shame and embarrassment she feared.

Fear of failure drives many of us to engage in self-handicapping behaviors in which we exaggerate or create impediments to success without even realizing it.

Indeed, in order to have something to blame for our failure, we are often extremely creative in the self-handicapping devices we construct.

Many of us procrastinate and “run out of time” before a big test. We might go out with friends and drink too much the night before a big presentation, or we might sleep too little. We might leave our study materials at a friend’s house or on the subway. We might forget to pack the baking tray for the city-fair baking contest, or we might arrive at the marathon with only our left sneaker. And, as Brinda demonstrates, we can create an infinite number of physical ailments.

If we succeed despite these setbacks, we can give ourselves extra credit for succeeding when the odds were stacked against us.

Self-handicapping, of course, rarely leads to success. Furthermore, such strategies prevent us from accurately examining our failures and drawing useful conclusions about what we should change or do differently in the future.

Even when someone else points it out, the unconscious nature of self-handicapping can make us miss it.

Brinda was initially convinced that all of her excuses were valid and that her failure was the result of events over which she had no control. When I suggested otherwise, she replied, “You don’t expect me to break a promise to my daughter, do you?”

When we fail repeatedly or respond to failures in ways that undermine our confidence, self-esteem, and chances of future success, we risk turning our emotional cold into psychological pneumonia.

Because much of the anxiety associated with failures can compound, it is best to be cautious and seek help as soon as possible after significant or bothersome failures occur.

Which one of the following self-handicapping behaviors do you think affects people the most?

  1. Procrastinating
  2. Brooding
  3. Excusing
  4. Blaming

Honey, I shrunk myself!

Do you feel your self-esteem shrinking?
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Top batters in the game of cricket have long claimed that when they’re in form the ball literally seems bigger to them (and therefore easier to hit). Not surprisingly, when their form deserts them and they are in a slump they report that the cricket ball appears smaller and more difficult to hit.  They seem to mishit more often than connect.

I decided to test this phenomenon of how the chatter in our brain especially after a failure impacts our performance and shrinks our self-confidence and self-esteem.

I asked a group of participants to kick a  football through a makeshift goal from a ten-yard distance. Each participant was asked to take ten kicks. Before starting, all the participant’s estimates of the width and height of the goal were very similar.

I observed after all had completed their attempts at the goal, those who failed at the task by scoring fewer goals were estimating the goal of being far narrower than those who succeeded.  The participants who succeeded were estimating the goal to be wider and the distance for taking the shot as shorter.

It seems that “failure” can make our goal seem literally more difficult and more imposing than it appears before you begin your attempt. Failure not only makes our goal appear larger, but it would also makes us feel “smaller”.

Failing can induce thoughts that make us feel less capable, less skillful, less competent, less intelligent, or even less attractive.  Such thoughts seem to have a huge negative impact on our self-confidence and on future efforts and outcomes.

I’ve come across many college students who after failing a midterm test, might view themselves as less capable and view the class as more difficult, making them more worried and less confident about doing well in the final exam. While some students may work harder as a consequence, others may be so intimidated that they begin questioning their ability to pass the class ever in the future.

But what if that failed midterm also happened to be their first college exam? What if they perceive not just the class but college as a greater challenge than they are capable of meeting? Because they are unaware that failing the midterm has distorted their perceptions (making the class and college appear more difficult than they are), they may make hasty and inappropriate decisions as a result. Indeed, many students drop out during their first year for this very reason – similar to kid #1 in my earlier post on failure.

Failure has a greater negative impact on our self-esteem. Many of us react to failures by drawing damaging conclusions about our character and abilities that seem extremely compelling at the time, even if they have no merit. Many of us react to failure by thinking or saying things like, “I’m such a loser,” “I can’t do anything right,” “I’m just not smart enough,” “I’m such an idiot,” “I deserve to lose,” “People like me never get anywhere,” and “Why would anyone want to hire me?” or similar assassinations of characters.

Few would argue that such depressing and ineffective thoughts have any redeeming qualities. Yet, all too often, we allow ourselves to indulge in them, utter them aloud, and validate them. If our six-year-old failed a spelling test and declared, “I’m a stupid loser who can’t do anything right,” most of us would rush in to refute every word and forbid him from ever saying such horrible things about himself again.

Such negative thoughts would, without a doubt, make him feel worse in the moment and make it more difficult for him to succeed in the future. Yet, far too often, we fail to apply the same logic and wisdom to our own situations.

Negative generalizations are not only inaccurate, but they do more harm to our general self-worth and future performance than the initial failure that spawned them. Criticizing our qualities so broadly makes us hypersensitive to future failures, can lead to deep feelings of shame, and can jeopardize our overall well-being.

Furthermore, doing so prevents us from accurately assessing the causes of our failure and avoiding similar errors in the future. For example, blaming our inability to achieve personal improvement goals on character flaws makes it unlikely that we will identify and correct critical errors in planning and strategic goal setting that is far more likely to be to blame for our failure.

When faced with failure, which one of these according to you is more likely to occur?

  1. Internalizing – self-doubt
  2. Externalizing – Blame outside forces
  3. Withdrawal – quitting
  4. Other – mention in comments