The Right To Be Treated Like A Human Being at Work

Former Restaurant Workers Are Sharing Why They Left The Industry, And Dear Lord, This Is Important
“When everything shut down during COVID-19, I realized how much the place destroyed my mental health.”

I worked back-of-house for almost 10 years. I realized working 60+ hour weeks with no sick days, no benefits, zero breaks, and missing every single family holiday just wasn’t worth the measly check that restaurants provide. Once I left, it was almost scary how it felt to work at a job that actually treated me like a human being.


The Pandemic Lifts The Rug & Reveals Long-standing Bad Practices

The ‘Great Resignation’ Is Finally Getting Companies to Take Burnout Seriously
Is it enough?

Every month from April to August 2021, at least 2.5% of the American workforce quit their jobs. In August alone, more than 4.2 million people handed in their two weeks’ notice, according to federal statistics. So far, 2021 quit levels are about 10% to 15% higher than they were in record-setting 2019, by Klotz’s calculations.

For a long time, burnout was seen as the worker’s problem—something they needed to fix with self-care and yoga and sleep if they were going to make it in the rat race of life. There are dozens of studies and even more articles focused on curing burnout from the employee perspective. Mindfulness and meditation can help. Finding social support can help. Tailoring your job to align with your interests and values can help. But according to Christina Maslach, a social psychologist who is the U.S.’ preeminent burnout expert and co-creator of the most commonly used tool for assessing worker burnout, none of these strategies will ever be successful if they place all the onus on the worker. “Nobody is really pointing to the problem, which is that chronic job stresses have not been well managed” by employers, she says.

Importantly, burnout is not a medical diagnosis or a mental health condition—instead, the World Health Organization classifies it as an “occupational phenomenon.” But studies show that it can overlap with physical and mental health issues, including depression, insomnia, gastrointestinal problems and headaches. It can even be a predictor of chronic diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, research shows.

Part of the problem as to why these problems have existed for so long is that overworking people has been glorified by both employers and employees, even being seen as a badge of recognition for some. The gaming industry is notably bad for this with the EA Spouse story in 2004 highlighting this. While some say improvements have been made, others are saying not by much.

As a whole though, this type of thinking, belief, and behaviour is outdated, as it dehumanizes people. Thankfully, as it is has put the spotlight on so many long-standing issues, the pandemic is highlighting this one as well and finally seems to be breaking it as well. Yet it’s sad it has taken two decades and a major pandemic for it to be addressed.


The Need to “Level Up” Our Mental Complexity

[PDF] Preparing for Complexity and Wicked Problems through Transformational Learning Approaches | Semantic Scholar
As the information environment becomes increasingly complex and challenging, Library and Information Studies (LIS) education is called upon to nurture innovative leaders capable of managing complex situations and “wicked problems.” While disciplinary expertise remains essential, higher levels of mental complexity and adaptive capabilities are also needed to manage complexity. This article reviews three transformational learning approaches with the potential to effectively guide student growth toward these higher levels: (1) overcoming immunity to change, (2) threshold concepts and variation theories, and (3) transformative learning theory. All three approaches aim at transforming high-level meanings that are limiting into understandings that empower in order to achieve pragmatic goals, comprehend foundational disciplinary concepts, and generate new frames of reference for social justice.

As we move from ideas to action, a critical issue that arises is the gap between the world’s complexity and our abilities to manage such complexity (Kegan & Lahey, 2009). Managing complexity demands more than technical knowledge; it requires the ability to make adaptive changes in our thinking, beliefs, and behavior (Heifetz & Linsky, 2002a). Recent developments in learning theories and teaching practice are often responses to some form of this critical question: How can we help our students prepare for the future in a complex, rapidly changing environment?

Behind that question is a belief that new forms will emerge that are unimaginable now, and that increasing our knowledge and skills within existing frameworks will not suffice in dealing with novel situations. What we come to know through informational learning will still be fundamental, but changes in how we know through transformational learning will also be critical (Kegan, 2000). That is the premise for this examination of three transformational learning approaches that have the potential to help students move toward higher levels of mental complexity: (1) overcoming immunity to change, (2) threshold concepts and variation theories, and (3) transformative learning theory.

To deal with the complex “wicked problems” that are emerging today, we need people with higher levels of mental complexity who can thus comprehend and tackle the breadth and scope of these problems, often from multiple perspectives.

Why is this critical? Because using outdated thinking, beliefs, and behaviours, which may have worked in the past for simple or complicated problems, will no longer work for these complex problems today. In fact, using outdated thinking, beliefs, and behaviours actually exacerbates these wicked problems, making them all the more severe.

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

Albert Einstein

The Great Resignation Leading To The Great Strike

Why Literally Millions of Americans Are Quitting Their Jobs
“Workers are burned out. They’re fed up. They’re fried.”

“[Employees] don’t want to return to backbreaking or boring, low wage, sh-t jobs,” Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration, tells TIME. “Workers are burned out. They’re fed up. They’re fried. In the wake of so much hardship, and illness and death during the past year, they’re not going to take it anymore.”

“People are quitting and they’re not taking jobs,” he says. “That’s tantamount to a strike. American workers have, in effect, called a general strike.”


Shattering The Boundaries of Your World & Self

Alain de Botton on the Myth of Normalcy and the Importance of Breakdowns
“Crisis… is an attempt to dislodge us from a toxic status quo and constitutes an insistent call to rebuild our lives on a more authentic and sincere basis.”

The moment we begin to see that there are infinitely many kinds of beautiful lives, we cease being captive to the myth of normalcy — the cultural tyranny that tells us there are a handful of valid ways to be human and demands of us to contort into these accepted forms of being. But the great hoax is that they are Platonic forms — the real reduced beyond recognition into the ideal, an ideal too narrow and symmetry-bound to account for the spacious, uneven, gloriously shambolic reality of being what we are.

Maria Popova

A breakdown is not merely a random piece of madness or malfunction; it is a very real — albeit very inarticulate — bid for health and self-knowledge. It is an attempt by one part of our mind to force the other into a process of growth, self-understanding and self-development that it has hitherto refused to undertake. If we can put it paradoxically, it is an attempt to jump-start a process of getting well — properly well through a stage of falling very ill.


In the midst of a breakdown, we often wonder whether we have gone mad. We have not. We’re behaving oddly, no doubt, but beneath the agitation we are on a hidden yet logical search for health. We haven’t become ill; we were ill already. Our crisis, if we can get through it, is an attempt to dislodge us from a toxic status quo and constitutes an insistent call to rebuild our lives on a more authentic and sincere basis. It belongs, in the most acute and panicked way, to the search for self-knowledge.

Alain de Botton

Alas, it is our basic psychological need of wanting to belong, to “fit in”, that drives us to conform and bury aspects of ourselves, thus preventing the world from seeing who we truly are, deep down inside. Not until we awaken to the fact that we are not belonging but rather conforming to society, do we step beyond it and begin to learn to belong to a larger sense of Self within us. Brené Brown describes this as True Belonging.

I’ve likened this post-traumatic growth experience and feeling to being cataclysmic, in that it rocks the stability of your world because your sense of self is destabilizing, so it can broaden itself. In the process though, new lands emerge from the ocean of you, expanding the world that is you, letting you explore a larger sense of being that was previously hidden from you.


Deep Processing of Big Sensory Data

People Talented At Deep Thinking Need More Time To Process And Recover
1 out of 3 people have sensory processing sensitivity: they take in more information and process it more deeply to produce unique insights and high performance. Now new research finds their brains do this work while resting.

1 out of 3 people have sensory processing sensitivity, which means they live in a more vivid world, full of brighter colors, more nuanced sounds, richer tastes and smells, and more intense emotions than the rest of population. Essentially, their brains are thought to take in at any given time, and then process that information more deeply than their peers. That depth of processing makes highly sensitive brains are capable of a unique levels of creativity or insight.

Sensory processing sensitivity is increasingly recognized for its connection with high-level thinking and talent, but most people avoid admitting they have it. That’s because people with SPS, often termed highly sensitive, have been criticized their whole lives. They are told they are too intense or hypersensitive, or that they need to get over things and move on.

In other words, highly sensitive people process more because their brains notice more. A lot more. They have also been found to have higher levels of empathy—which means they have a way of absorbing the emotional vibe in the workplace. They can be driven crazy by sensory stimuli, which makes one wonder if they overlap with the 1 in 3 people who have misokinesia (annoyed by fidgeting) and the 1 in 2 who have misophonia (driven nuts by noises).

And all of that sensory overload means that highly sensitive people need more time to rest and recover than their peers.

Researchers have found that daydreaming and mind-wandering are two of the highest yield activities for our brains, so it makes sense that when people with SPS appear to be resting, they are actually doing deep mental work. But until this study, that connection between rest and when deep processing happens had not yet been shown. And that discovery had to do with the difference with a new approach.

The findings help to explain why highly sensitive people have higher anxiety and are more prone to overstimulation than typical. But with that difficulty comes the talent in the thinking.

The characteristics described in this article come very close to describing me.

I find I’m highly sensitive to ambient loud noises (versus a single loud noise), particularly in large venues when people are talking before a show and the ambient noises are all around me. Once the concert starts though, I’m usually fine.

I find I’m highly empathetic to the point it can be debilitating because I can empathize so deeply with others at times that I can experience their pain and suffering as though I was experiencing it myself. If this feeling is too great, I actually want to get away from the environment or space where this suffering is occurring.

Mind-wandering, when I’m doing a menial chore or in the flow of a video game, is when I have a lot of great ideas and insights. And sleep I find is critical because it helps me process what I’m feeling and thinking. In fact, if I’m overloaded with feeling and thoughts, I’ll sometimes feel exhausted and will want to take a nap.

A simple metaphor to describe myself in the past is like a doctor with a stethoscope. So I’m highly sensitive to the patterns around me which helps me intuitively and creatively pick up insights that others often miss. But it comes at a cost.

That said though, rarely has it affected me in a professional work setting. Well other than when I see issues affecting the mental health and well-being of people at work and they aren’t addressed, so I end up feeling the pain and suffering that others are feeling which is why I’ve been quite vocal about addressing social injustices in the workplace, often caused by a poor culture.


Forced To Innovate For Everyone’s Benefit

Canada’s high-end restaurants face struggle to survive
The fine-dining industry has taken such a hit that many restaurants have considered closing down

Workers have slowly gained leverage to demand better wages and conditions, she said. And the pandemic has led to a labour crunch as some have left the industry. Restaurant staff who were making $18 per hour pre-COVID can now demand $25 to $28, restaurant owners say. Even with higher pay, many restaurants are short-staffed, leading to shorter opening hours and slimmed-down menus.

“Fine dining is going to completely change. It’s going to become casual fine dining. … I just had a management meeting, saying we have to be more accessible to people,” Mr. Vij said. “Allow them to come to the restaurant maybe once a month instead of every three months, or we won’t survive.”

Vij’s being forced to innovate perfectly fits in with my last post about people needing to let go and unlearn the way things used to work, so they can have the space to think up new ways of working. And this requires perceiving all of the multitude of issues around this complex problem and addressing them all at once, so it creates a win-win situation for the restaurant, employees, and customers, all at once.


Validating Beliefs With Invalid Information

A Harvard study is going viral among anti-vaxxers. The author says they are all wrong.
New research backing vaccines is being twisted to smear them.

Over email, Subramanian insisted that the positive effects of vaccines are not in any doubt: “Other research has clearly and definitively established that the vaccines significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization and mortality.”

Despite the misinterpretation, anti-vaxxers and vaccine skeptics like Horowitz have held up and shared Subramanian’s paper as vindication on an array of platforms that have struggled to fight false anti-vaccine information. Horowitz’s own column has been tweeted out to at least half-a million users. Posts bringing attention to the paper have done well on anti-vax and right-wing Reddit groups; a summary was posted to over a dozen subreddit communities with over 34 million followers.

This article validates my last point that many people like anti-vaxxers are misunderstanding the meaning of things relating to the pandemic because they don’t have the cognitive and psychological capacity to make sense of the greater complexity around it. Because of this, they often jump to conclusions or make beliefs about things that are completely untrue. Often it’s because they want a simple answer to the complex problems they’re facing but there isn’t one.

It should be stressed though that people who don’t have the capacity to understand the complexity of these things are not “stupid.” In effect, the problem isn’t their intelligence. It’s actually their perception.

In fact, the more educated you are, the more rigid your perception and beliefs will probably be. This is as I noted before. If your beliefs, values, and way of life have successfully gotten you to where you are today, it’s unlikely you will want to give them up, regardless of the newer, more complex problems you encounter. In effect, you’re “hardwired” to want to continue to use them.

This is why unlearning is one of the greatest skills required for the future. It’s not about unlearning old job skills. It’s about unlearning beliefs and previous ways of doing things that are engrained within us because they will more than likely no longer work with the complex problems we face today. In fact, by using older ways of doing things, we will be amplifying the problems before us.


The Suffering From Wrong Perceptions & Outdated Worldviews

Thich Nhat Hanh on the Art of Deep Listening and the 3 Buddhist Steps to Repairing a Relationship
“The intention of deep listening and loving speech is to restore communication, because once communication is restored, everything is possible.”

In trying to understand the psychological effect that the pandemic is having on people, I’ve recently realized that the number one thing that’s happening is that people are often misunderstanding the meaning of what’s going on. And the main reason for this is because it’s not a simple or even complicated problem but rather a highly complex one. In a sense, it is a “wicked problem” because people’s own beliefs and values are actually standing in the way of resolving it. Yet many are unaware of this.

Much of our suffering comes from wrong perceptions. To remove that hurt, we have to remove our wrong perception.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Why are people misunderstanding the meaning of things? It’s because they are having wrong perceptions of what they are perceiving, as Thich Nhat Hanh notes above. As I noted before, we don’t see reality directly but rather a map of it, a worldview, which helps us make sense of it and navigate it like a GPS. But when that map becomes outdated, like it is for many today, it causes us to navigate and make choices that can potentially lead to deadly consequences.

Whenever we see another person take an action, he notes, we must remain aware that there could be a number of invisible motive forces behind it and we must be willing to listen in order to better understand them — not only out of the vain self-referential transactionalism masquerading as the Golden Rule, in the hope that others would be just as willing not to misunderstand our own motives by their perception and interpretation of our actions, but because correcting our wrong perceptions is a basic and vital form of caring for ourselves.

Maria Popova

When you make the effort to listen and hear the other side of the story, your understanding increases and your hurt diminishes.

Thich Nhat Hanh

As Maria Popova articulates above though, even though many of us can see the wrong perceptions that others having with reality, not many of us have the emotional capacity to listen to them to not only help them but help ourselves. For myself, I’m still struggling with this because it’s hard for me to see people I’ve known my entire life and for them to talk in a such distressing way that makes me think “Who are you? I don’t even know who you are!”

Yet at the same time, I realize that their wrong perceptions are probably being caused by the suffering they’re experiencing from their cognitive dissonance because their worldview is inadequate in helping them navigate a reality which requires them to deal with two opposing challenges at once.

Having said that though, we seriously need to figure out a way to help people level up their perception of their world though, updating their “internal GPS” if you will, because if we don’t, many more people will suffer even more so when climate change begins affecting us even more so.


Overcoming Systemic Issues of Alienation

MLK’s Lost Lectures on Technology, Alienation, Activism, and the Three Ways of Resisting the System
“There has always been a force struggling to respect higher values. None of the current evils rose without resistance, nor have they persisted without opposition.”

The largest group of young people is struggling to adapt itself to the prevailing values of society. Without much enthusiasm, they accept the system of government, the economic relations, the property system, and the social stratifications both engender. But even so, they are a profoundly troubled group, and are harsh critics of the status quo.

This pretty much described me in the 1980’s when I had my first professional job. Things about the way people worked seemed unnatural to me but I assumed this was the way work had always been done, so I just tried to accept it and adapt…albeit someone frustratingly. When the Dot-Com Bubble burst in 2001, I finally had enough with accepting the status quo though and realized the system needed to change.

In this largest group, social attitudes are not congealed or determined; they are fluid and searching.

This is a common theme for The Future of Work in that the work and people themselves will be more fluid, thus without clear cut boundaries like “jobs” previously provided. What I find fascinating about this is that it is now being applied today to gender as well (ie transgender, non-binary, etc). So the future will be one of living and working within the in-between spaces that previously divided or categorized us.

The radicals… range from moderate to extreme in the degree to which they want to alter the social system. All of them agree that only by structural change can current evils be eliminated, because the roots are in the system rather than in men or in faulty operation. These are a new breed of radicals.

This is why we are encountering wicked problems today because people don’t realize that the roots of these issues are caused by our outdated beliefs. And until we learn to outgrow our beliefs, seeing our world with a broader perception and mindset, these wicked problems won’t be solved. In effect, they are systemic in nature. So changing the leader won’t solve or change anything because it’s the system itself, with its outdated beliefs cultivated within it, that are the problem.

It is fair to say, though, that at present they know what they don’t want rather than what they do want.

Love this. All change doesn’t occur with a roadmap but rather with a initial period of getting lost before finding yourself. So you first have to question your existing reality and beliefs, stepping away from them, before you can open up a space of possibilities within yourself which newer, broader beliefs can emerge to replace them. As the Zen saying goes, “Empty your cup.”

When culture is degraded and vulgarity enthroned, when the social system does not build security but induces peril, inexorably the individual is impelled to pull away from a soulless society. This process produces alienation — perhaps the most pervasive and insidious development in contemporary society… Alienation should be foreign to the young. Growth requires connection and trust. Alienation is a form of living death. It is the acid of despair that dissolves society.

This is really the greatest plague we are encountering today, one of alienation due to disconnection and distrust. And not even with regards to each other but with our very sense of selves as well. How can we begin to trust others when we don’t even trust ourselves? Again the problem here originates from our existing beliefs and values which are dehumanizing us in the process (ie advertising, social media, culture, etc). We need a new way of seeing the world and ourselves. Only then will we begin to trust ourselves again, as well as each other.

The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.

Morpheus, The Matrix