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The Trauma of Work

A taboo topic. Reserved for private conversations with spouses, therapists, and your closest coworkers. To admit the level of human suffering and disconnection that occurs at moments throughout our careers would have us face an ugly truth. The success, wealth and innovation that we enjoy and benefit from is riddled with sacrifice -- the sacrifice of time, health, emotional energy, confidence, and sometimes even ethics. Think about your career. Was there a time when the compulsion to win or be better had you prioritizing another task over being present at home with those you love? Did that happen one night or every night over a decade? Has the high energy revving that feels required to perform been subsidized by sugar, caffeine, drugs… and created a body you don’t feel absolutely comfortable being in? Is your confidence and value dependent on your paycheck or title? Have you surrendered who you are in order to become who you need to be in a system that only values the acquisition of people (audience) and things (money money money)?

Guilt, shame and regret are woven into the fabric of what it means to be a professional. And these foundational emotions drive our way of working and being with ourselves that are not in service to our greatest good and that to the whole, but instead in service of a system that rewards few and creates fear in many.

What if I told you there’s someone on your team having panic attacks because of their workload? That there’s someone on your team who has lost confidence in who they are because of how they have been received at work? That there’s someone on your team fighting a very real battle with their own self-worth, which is manifesting itself in gossip, sabotage of teammates, and brutal honesty spoken with a belittling tongue instead of encouragement? And worse, that there’s someone actively rejecting who they are to become who you want them to be in an effort to be accepted and to matter?

Work is where the majority of us spend most of our waking hours from our twenties well into early aging. And we operate within it as if it’s a binary place of productivity and progress. But it has the potential to be a place of transcendence and deep connection. A place that can heal trauma or create it.

A year apart, a year with less communication and likely more financial stress, creates separation. As a leader, you have a choice: What environment do you want to establish for your team? For you? Below are the five truths of compassionate workplaces. There are likely more; I encourage you to create your own and operate as if they are law. See what happens -- how productivity, innovation, collaboration and morale shift.

A compassionate workplace...

  1. Honors diversity in working styles and needs (rather than defaulting to the loudest/most visible)

  2. Designs processes that serve the contributors as well as the customers

  3. Has zero-tolerance for bullying of any kind and removes, repairs, and remedies with swift action

  4. Is grounded in the belief that ROI includes an employee morale factor - profit x happiness index = real impact (for customers and the human lives within your office)

  5. Is committed to identifying zones of genius and moving or removing team members who are simply competent or worse, incompetent, at their job

Collective Gain has been called to support several executive peers and teams in the height of their dysfunction. Our approach is grounded in these five principles.

We see the world through a lens that has been shaped by our life experiences, which filters everything into where we are right and others are wrong (blame) and often assuming the worst possible intent on the part of those around us. Being left off a meeting invite, for example, turns into fear that you will be let go soon and replaced and the meeting organizer trying to sabotage your career. Or you assign incompetence to a fellow leader who isn’t running their department in a way that you think better serves your team and the company. Our need to be right, which can make us defensive, is our need to survive and win. A mindset built on scarcity bred by hierarchy and competition.

The best leaders sit from a position of curiosity and compassion, seeing work and life as if they are looking through a prism, where their POV is one of many, where meaning comes in many forms, and the only way to arrive at truth, and therefore efficient action, is through thoughtful inquiry with an open mind and a commitment to expanded thinking and impact.

Think about what it will take for you to adjust your approach to one of inclusivity, inquiry and impact. Where does the essence of the work you’re doing feel anemic and undefined? What processes need to change? What back-office chatter needs to be surfaced or stopped? What alignment needs to happen between teams? What beliefs need to be seen and expanded? What fears addressed?

There are many approaches to team and peer development that can create alignment and a cooperative working environment where everyone can thrive. However, these five pillars built on inclusivity, inquiry and impact promise an experience of work that lifts people up, unearths genius talent and delivers customer and employee delight alike.

If you have a team or leaders who need to be realigned to this way of working, we are here to guide the conversation and shape this new thinking. Contact us to receive information on the support we can provide.



I started Collective Gain out of a desire make work better, where being on a magic team was the norm vs. a rare chance occurrence. Through coaching, I discovered deep self-awareness, new perspectives and ways of working that I am passionate about bringing to you.

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