EP 42: Mental Health and Communicating Vulnerable Topics with Amee Quiriconi

Mental Health and Communicating Vulnerable Topics

Despite the many differences in execution and strategy, a lot of organizational problems can be traced back to a few of the same things. Fortunately, there’s a simple place where you can begin to help alleviate many of the major organizational problems at once: improving your leadership’s mental health. So, in this episode, we are going to be talking about how trauma and our leadership can impact our business. Here to help break down this topic is Amee Quiriconi, an author, leadership coach, and consultant.

What You’ll Learn In Today’s Episode

  • Why taking care of your mental health as a leader is so important. (1:33)
  • How to be trauma-informed and why it is okay to bring your emotions home from work with you. (7:14)
  • The benefit of embracing trust and vulnerability in your leadership. (15:45)

Actionable Takeaway for HR Professionals

  • Assess your organization’s trustworthiness, empowerment, and safety levels. (21:08)

Actionable Takeaway for Executives

  • Notice the influence you have and when you are triggered at work. (19:20)

Ideas Worth Sharing

“Trauma is there, every day, whether we talk about it or not.” - @AmeeQuiriconi Click To Tweet

Resources In Today’s Episode

Enjoy the show? Use the Links Below to Subscribe:
















Click Here for Audio Transcript

Traci Scherck: Welcome to talent optimization today we’re chatting about diagnosing organizational challenges.

Traci Scherck: One of the biggest organizational challenges that we have seen through the Covid 19 pandemic is mental health and the impact that that has had on different ways inside of our organizations.

Traci Scherck: And with me today is Amee Quiriconi and Amee is going to chat with us a little bit about how trauma and our leadership.

Traci Scherck: has an impact on understanding what is happening, specifically with let’s say employee disengagement, are all the sudden we see an employee That was our top performer no longer performing well so uh me welcome.

Amee Quiriconi: Well, thank you Tracy I really appreciate being here, looking forward to this.

Traci Scherck: yeah me too, so you know as we look at an organizational challenges that come up and as leaders kind of who we have to be inside of organizations i’m really curious, how does our own you know mental health as leaders impact on how our organizations perform.

Amee Quiriconi: Oh well, you know for a while I think some of us, you know .

Amee Quiriconi: Believes that hey we can leave all of our personal challenges at the threshold of the door and and never let it come into our business but.

Amee Quiriconi: I think is, as we mature as adults and also, as we see in the world around us, you know, there is no difference, you know there’s no business brain or personal brain like we are holistic, you know human beings and.

Amee Quiriconi: Businesses are relationships, they just happened to be formed around you know, everybody getting paid to do something.

Amee Quiriconi: And so, when we come into you know, a position where we have the responsibility of caring for people and really that’s what leaders and business organizations have they have something akin to a parenting role.

Amee Quiriconi: where you have people that come in they’re relying on you, for directions support guidance and you know they’re in your care, so to speak, then.

Amee Quiriconi: You know if we have some unresolved challenges, you know kind of lurking in the background, you know, in the operating systems of our brain, they can sneak up and surprise us, and a lot of different ways in business, and you know and.

Amee Quiriconi: We haven’t as like culturally, you know there’s many of us that are like i’m 49 years old, I have to tell everybody that that you know I wasn’t raised under you know I in a system that taught me about how the brain actually works and.

Amee Quiriconi: You know I learned how to know that sugar is bad and vegetables are good as a little kid, but we still haven’t gotten to a place where.

Amee Quiriconi: Understanding the operating systems in our head is a you know just as a normal part of our day to day life and function as some of the other things that we’ve learned in time.

Amee Quiriconi: And so you know we have leaders, you know, myself included, you know that have showed up to work and have self sabotage and have been aggressive when aggressive wasn’t called for.

Amee Quiriconi: have been too passive you know, in a variety of different ways and those end up in very insidious and sometimes direct ways affect the well being of ourselves as well as our people, and when we affect the well being of our people.

Amee Quiriconi: Their productivity is a direct reflection of that and we struggle, maybe with getting what we want for our business either achieving our business objectives or thriving you know, in a workplace that feels good and healthy that you want to go to every day.

Traci Scherck: yeah absolutely I think that the sometimes goes back to work for values and are we connecting specifically to the what those core values are because when we are.

Traci Scherck: We tend to bring things forward so, for example, one of our core values is fun right and another thing that we are very specific about.

Traci Scherck: Is that we are self aware and we have ways to kind of, say, you know tap on the shoulder you realize that this impacts that way oh my gosh I have no idea right.

Traci Scherck: And so, when we can bring those core values into what our business is are much more likely to look at this thing go Oh, we can actually talk about these things, because when we don’t talk about them, they become those pillars.

Amee Quiriconi: mm hmm yeah absolutely now you know and there’s, a thing that you know that some people, however, you know even being able to communicate.

Amee Quiriconi: Vulnerable topics right so like you know, an emotion, you know somebody gets angry or someone’s upset or they’re feeling demotivated.

Amee Quiriconi: You know, there are a lot of people in this world and it’s you know it’s unfortunate and it’s Okay, I always have to say this, like it’s okay.

Amee Quiriconi: That having those types of conversations don’t feel safe they don’t feel psychologically safe to sit there and go wow.

Amee Quiriconi: let’s think about this from like a more compassionate human perspective.

Amee Quiriconi: You know and and I think that that becomes a challenge in business because leaders have you know, often felt like they need to be the stoic brave face and.

Amee Quiriconi: You know the again this very dominant parent role in their in their organizations and you know, and if you had parents honestly that you know didn’t want to talk about feelings or told you to toughen up or whatever we bring that into you know how we.

Amee Quiriconi: You know the culture of our business and how we end up working with our employees.

Amee Quiriconi: And, and when you say like listen, you know I actually would like to be able to let you know that this is upsetting for me like you know.

Amee Quiriconi: or listen i’m really struggling here, and I might need some more time or can we take a break, because i’m becoming overwhelmed you know by you know what’s happening in here.

Amee Quiriconi: There are people that genuinely that triggers their own traumas and their own fears and they they respond negatively to that and that’s to me that’s, just as you know, unfortunate and sad and also just kind of needs to be considered, you know in leadership that.

Amee Quiriconi: I appreciate that you and I have come to that place where we can talk it all out but there’s a lot of people that never learned how to even do that, so it feels really scary to think about.

Amee Quiriconi: Bringing that awareness to business and to do it and so it’s easier to just default, to the way that they’ve been doing it, which is not doing this, you know manage.

Traci Scherck: Right and that not doing it and managing them becomes a part of the culture, you know so for all our listeners want to ask the question I really want you to think about it.

Traci Scherck: What is the culture of your organization what it specifically relates to communication once you want that culture to be.

Traci Scherck: Because, as we start to talk about you know the diagnosing organizational challenges, sometimes its challenges are brought in from the outside.

Traci Scherck: What we as humans, and I mean you said this at the very beginning, and that was but home comes into work and vice versa, so if you’re going through things at home that’s going to come into work it’s.

Traci Scherck: can’t stay separate you know I think about like the analogy that I use is there, I was told all the time that you need to have like.

Traci Scherck: an imaginary tree that every time you walk home from work you put stuff on that tree and you leave it there, so you never take anything home and vice versa, and it works that way.

Amee Quiriconi: We may be great if it did you know.

Amee Quiriconi: And it doesn’t right like it definitely doesn’t however people believe that it should because someone’s told them it’s supposed to, and so, then when we can’t do it that’s just another way in which we find ourselves feeling ashamed or guilty.

Amee Quiriconi: or frustrated with our inability to be able to draw these hard lines between work and home.

Amee Quiriconi: And, and you know we got to say here like you know we’re trauma informed is.

Amee Quiriconi: You don’t have to draw the line like I mean because it’s impossible to do and so stop beating yourself up if you know if what’s happening at work is bleeding out at home and vice versa you’re a human being.

Amee Quiriconi: You know you’re doing the best that you can that’s that’s honestly, given the circumstances, depending on what it is that would be expected, but we don’t know how to give each other that grace and that understanding and compassion, you know, to let us all be humans 24 hours a day, you know.

Traci Scherck: Why absolutely so i’m super curious what is a trauma informed organization.

Amee Quiriconi: Well, you know trauma informed means, first of all, being aware of how prevalent trauma actually is in out there.

Amee Quiriconi: You know there’s a couple of ways that they’ve been able to measure it and one of the more you know most famous versions of this was a study done in 1998 by the CDC and Kaiser permanente.

Amee Quiriconi: And it was the adverse childhood experiences study and they had basically taken 17,000 people that were in the Kaiser permanente insurance.

Amee Quiriconi: plan down in the San Diego area and they created a questionnaire of 10 questions and they were addressing what they.

Amee Quiriconi: would call again an ace and adverse childhood experience experiencing divorce abuse neglect to witnessing abuse, you know, several other questions in there.

Amee Quiriconi: And they wanted to see the relationship between adversity, in early childhood from zero to 18 years old, with a long term health, you know outcomes in health and and illnesses and wellness.

Amee Quiriconi: And what they found was that over two thirds of the people in the study actually experienced at least one adverse childhood experience.

Amee Quiriconi: And about 20% of the participants actually experienced four or more, and when you looked at the number of aces that a person had and you related it to their.

Amee Quiriconi: Long term health or physical health conditions.

Amee Quiriconi: there’s an astonishing correlation between the more adversity, that you experienced and witnessed and had happened to you, but in your first 18 years of life, the worst your health outcomes were like by like large numbers.

Amee Quiriconi: And so that gave us this idea of like well how prevalent is trauma, then in our culture well we’re looking at the fact that most of us have experienced at least something.

Amee Quiriconi: And, and that you know, there are a number of us a substantial number of us that have experienced a lot, you know growing up.

Amee Quiriconi: And that, as a steady didn’t include specifically the effects of trauma due to racism or experiencing.

Amee Quiriconi: You know trauma due to medical conditions and disabilities, and so it still wasn’t even the best list that we could come up with, I mean they’ve added on it they’ve they’ve a corresponding to it.

Amee Quiriconi: So trauma informed organization first says it’s their trauma is at work, whether we talk about it or not, it’s showing up every day in some form another.

Amee Quiriconi: It either happens in the fact that our employees are coming in, and they have some things in their past that have contributed to their responses to their world today as adults.

Amee Quiriconi: Or the trauma could be happening right now in the moment either like a pandemic let’s say that ends up doing a universal worldwide trauma, you know and everybody experiencing the.

Amee Quiriconi: The the racial movements of last summer and and watching and you know vicariously being traumatized by watching the death of black Americans on video and on TV being played over and over again, those are traumatic experiences.

Amee Quiriconi: And so, then a trauma informed organization says, we know that it’s there.

Amee Quiriconi: So what can we do with our policies, our practices and our management or leadership styles, to make sure that we’re not re traumatizing people that have this in their background or or doing things to trigger and traumatized people right now.

Amee Quiriconi: And when you do that as an organization and what you’re doing is you’re allowing and creating this greater sense of psychological safety.

Amee Quiriconi: And you don’t have people that are on guard all the time or De motivated or angry hostile depressed anxious, you know, whatever it is.

Amee Quiriconi: And so that’s like the bigger like kind of generic impression of it it’s.

Amee Quiriconi: It isn’t a way of recognizing again that we’re holistic people and that we have a whole life and not to measure us based on just a business metric you know, like this person is not performing it their job is to ask.

Amee Quiriconi: Not what’s wrong with this person, but what’s going on with this person, and so, if we’re dealing with challenges like communication problems or we’re dealing with conflict issues.

Amee Quiriconi: or anything like that, instead of calling this out this person is a toxic employee, which is a term that we see in here a lot in business.

Amee Quiriconi: we’re actually starting to reframe our perspective of Is there something that’s happening that we need to be aware of is this person experiencing trauma at home.

Amee Quiriconi: Is this person, you know, is the manager of this person actually hostile and abusive and it could be re triggering their own.

Amee Quiriconi: history of abuse that we should be aware of, and how can we change and adapt ourselves so that we can do that, and so you know it is resisting re traumatizing recognizing that it’s out there.

Amee Quiriconi: And realizing that there were things that the organization can do to you know, to create a healthier place for everybody.

Traci Scherck: Absolutely, and I want to kind of draw a line this doesn’t mean that as leaders or HR professionals, we need to be psychologists inside of our organizations.

Amee Quiriconi: Right right, I want to be really careful that we’re separating out what those are.

Traci Scherck: And then we’re also saying hey there’s a whole myriad of things that we need to look at right like hey remember right person the right role, are they are we are we.

Traci Scherck: aligning with how they need to be led all those things are there right, but what we’re really talking about is hey there’s times when someone comes in, where we know that there’s things happening don’t want to be traumatized that.

Traci Scherck: or we’ve got a really great employee that made all the sudden started, not to be or not right employee that hey if we ship them, they all of a sudden then start to do things really, really well it’s being aware of an boat right.

Traci Scherck: You know, and I want to throw that.

Traci Scherck: disclaimer out there, because when I hear so often from my each our listeners is man Tracy the sounds really heavy and i’m never going to get anywhere with it.

Traci Scherck: So I just want to be careful of that to say hey there’s small bites here that are that that sometimes just that awareness allows us to do 10,000 things forward.

Traci Scherck: You know, and there is so i’m going to share one of my own stories here because I think that it’s it’s one of those that was really a wake up call for me as.

Traci Scherck: Both a leader and how a leader really showed up as a leader to me, so I was in an HR director position inside of an organization.

Traci Scherck: And inside that organization, I had a specific situation happen and i’ll back up just a second to say we had just implemented an employee assistance program so shorthand for HR etc right, so our EAP program was just implemented, and I mean how often are the programs actually use.

Amee Quiriconi: I rarely see them use most of the employees don’t even know that they exist, you know they’re kind of like hey we have an EAP and then that’s it they’re not referred to they’re not recommended they’re just like a you know it’s there and then it’s like a one and done.

Traci Scherck: Right i’m gonna have a whole conversation about how the EAP programs, but really support individuals, you know.

Traci Scherck: Am leaders when we specifically talk about you know how, how do we become this trauma informed organization and do that right that’s a different.

Traci Scherck: caliber you know, so we have this EAP program we just implemented it.

Traci Scherck: So I have a situation happened when my boys were little they were doing forensics and we’re coming in the front door is like eight o’clock at night one night and this gentleman came up behind me pulls a gun to my head and takes time right.

Traci Scherck: So I come into work next day and i’m pretty flustered and.

Traci Scherck: My executive director at the time, sits me down and she’s like Tracy why don’t you go to emp I will turn it off i’m not going to get confused like why you don’t like all the stigma involved with EAP, I don’t either I don’t today.

Traci Scherck: i’m not going to go to up, I have to tell you that those three or five sessions are so transformative Okay, how do we work through this and the light bulb for me was.

Traci Scherck: None of us are above this right, we are all human as you’ve been saying this entire conversation, and we also know that we’re all experiencing these things and her leadership, you know to say why don’t you go over this, something I didn’t think I could right.

Amee Quiriconi: mm hmm.

Traci Scherck: And that’s your thing that we’re creating and as the HR director i’m thinking I can’t get it up is ridiculous, but how many of us are out there, listening to sign up.

Traci Scherck: So these beliefs, that we have, I really think that we need a challenge because we’re not looking at ourselves first and challenging what our own beliefs, are we can’t organization there either.

Amee Quiriconi: Right right and that’s why you know my focus is usually you know it’s it’s not going to be as successful if, like the HR department comes up and says listen, we know we’re dealing with you know.

Amee Quiriconi: A lack of trauma sensitivity in our organization, you know we have managers that manage you know by bullies we have some passive aggressive employees, we have like toxic communication.

Amee Quiriconi: You know, we need to be trauma informed that won’t go as far.

Amee Quiriconi: If the leaders themselves even above and beyond actually don’t embrace that culture, because one of the most important things about a trauma informed organization is the establishment of trust of trustworthiness.

Amee Quiriconi: Because it, you know if we’ve had traumas like you experienced you know, there is a sense of.

Amee Quiriconi: You know, you lose your trust if you’ve experienced trauma, you know it makes it harder to be able to.

Amee Quiriconi: to form a bond or a connection with somebody else because you, you know you’ve experienced the withering.

Amee Quiriconi: And the removal of that trust you know pretty regularly, and so, if leaders or won’t embrace it and.

Amee Quiriconi: In are willing to go through some of the hard work it’s vulnerable work like you’ve mentioned burn a brown you know we’re talking about the fact that leadership today is about.

Amee Quiriconi: Transparency and vulnerability and and when we can’t get to that place and we just want to kind of farm out, you know it to somebody else in the organization it’s not going to sink its teeth and really.

Amee Quiriconi: step in there, because you might have some layers of trauma informed practices and awareness in there and that’s better than none so don’t hear me say that don’t do it at all.

Amee Quiriconi: But one leader who comes into a room lays into everybody, you know tear somebody down in front of everybody, and then leaves again will erode all of that trust building, you know, and all of that psychological safety in a heartbeat.

Amee Quiriconi: And so you know I commend your leader, you know really making sure that you know they helped you feel comfortable with doing that.

Amee Quiriconi: and taking that that step there because, again, you know.

Amee Quiriconi: there’s a lot of great resources out there for us to to address and to your point about HR people like I get HR people like no one’s asking anybody to suddenly become a psychology you know psychologist in the organization.

Amee Quiriconi: That is not it at all, it is just having this human to human awareness, you know of yeah so somebody coming in with a problem and and we’ve got you know some miscommunication going on misunderstandings, you know.

Amee Quiriconi: A trauma informed perspective is is that when we’re under stress, we all show up a little differently to the table, you know, some people become more aggressive.

Amee Quiriconi: And those are the ones that we tend to identify as the toxic people like oh they’re a bully or they’re aggressive we don’t recognize it as they’re stressed about something you know.

Amee Quiriconi: And and and so that what they probably need is they probably just need different skills on how to be able to manage the stress and how to recognize that they’re when they’re under stress that they become aggressive and give them some tools to be able to.

Amee Quiriconi: to learn and communicate differently not penalize them or label them as a bad person, you know, and the same can go through, and what I love about PI, and we talked about this is.

Amee Quiriconi: We also tend to focus as organizations on the more aggressive people right squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Amee Quiriconi: And we tend to disregard I call it, you know the quiet people in the organization, so you know, some people actually become more passive.

Amee Quiriconi: And people pleasing in in withdrawn when they’re under stress, but yet they don’t get as much attention in our organizations, but they’re likely to leave us too.

Amee Quiriconi: And they’re under a lot of strain and in HR leaders, you know, recognizing that you know, again we show our trauma or our triggers in different ways and it’s on both ends of the spectrum fighter flight.

Amee Quiriconi: And so you know that’s just kind of like you know, having that awareness of like oh yeah i’m upset right now and I guess other people would get upset about something else too, and I should you know just be aware of what that looks like for different people.

Traci Scherck: Absolutely, so we had such a deep conversation and covered a lot of different areas with this, and so you know we always kind of like totally under plane here with what’s one key action will take away for executives listening in.

Amee Quiriconi: And you know when we talked about this ahead of time, I think that the biggest actionable item is.

Amee Quiriconi: You know I said notice the influence that you have, and like your leader was one of those but.

Amee Quiriconi: My big thing that I always communicate with leaders, the first thing that we can do is start to notice when we’re actually triggered at work and and because we probably get.

Amee Quiriconi: teed up a lot more often than we realize and our our natural system because we’re human beings is once the trigger goes off is to actually go fight or flight depending on whatever our system actually has in it is to take the next step on autopilot.

Amee Quiriconi: Now, unfortunately, our triggers are based on our past experiences so it isn’t our ability to predict the future, it is a.

Amee Quiriconi: recollection of something that happened to us in the past, is our triggers may not be the appropriate response at that time.

Amee Quiriconi: And so, when leaders start to realize how often they’re actually being triggered start to get curious about what’s going on, again, you don’t need to go to therapy at that moment to figure it all out or know the whys behind it.

Amee Quiriconi: But then you start to realize how much we can fluctuate during the day, and then you go wow if i’m going up and down like this during the day and.

Amee Quiriconi: I can imagine that my other people are doing that, too, and so I always tell people like notice your body at work.

Amee Quiriconi: When you’re seeing an email that sets you off like I mean we’ve all had that right misunderstanding start our brain starts to get all twisted up and stuff.

Amee Quiriconi: and your triggers will be an indication of just of how much you know, work has is pushing you.

Amee Quiriconi: and causing you these upward you know these up and down the emotional fluctuations and once you start to see that you know it’s just like anything once you notice that you have a trigger you can totally change your awareness of it and perspective and the influence it actually have.

Amee Quiriconi: You know, on on what you end up doing next.

Traci Scherck: And you can ask for support.

Traci Scherck: Because guess what we’re not robots.

Amee Quiriconi: we’re not robots.

Traci Scherck: So what actionable takeaways for our HR professionals will sing in today.

Amee Quiriconi: um you know, aside from like I said, recommending like taking a look at that you know I do actually have a.

Amee Quiriconi: Quick assessment, I could recommend that, like it i’m happy to supply to you Tracy that you can pass along.

Amee Quiriconi: And it allows you to just kind of do an inventory of your programs, you know, there are six pillars of a trauma informed organization or six areas of your business that you could look at.

Amee Quiriconi: One of it is is do you have a safe environment, do you know where people feel emotionally and physically safe, you know what is your organization’s.

Amee Quiriconi: trustworthiness and transparency, you know about operational decisions and things like that do you have a very closed organization.

Amee Quiriconi: Do you have peer support and mutual support like EAP programs, or you know resources for employees, you know, do you have an environment that fosters collaboration.

Amee Quiriconi: Do your employees have empowerment or voice or choice can they actually raise concerns, and do you have you taken a look at some of the cultural, historical racial and even gender issues that are abound in there, and do you have any areas of the business that maybe.

Amee Quiriconi: You know aren’t as fluid and, as you know, still have some of the biases built into it.

Amee Quiriconi: And if you were to sit there and think about like you know, again I didn’t mention anything about did any of you get psychology degrees and you know become therapist.

Amee Quiriconi: we’re looking at what aspects of our company actually do create a stable safe environment for employees, so that they can be.

Amee Quiriconi: most productive thriving working well together with each other, which then ultimately allows our businesses to be able to hit their goals hit their strategies and and do what the business was created to do.

Traci Scherck: Thank you so much, I love your six pillars, and so, if you’re listening into this fine oh my gosh I need more of this, so we will have the link to that survey in the show notes so.

Traci Scherck: Go check out the show notes that will be there and you’re part of our you will be on with us on Monday, so when this airs on Thursday, the following Monday, we will be doing a webinar specifically digging into these six pillars.

Traci Scherck: If you catch this later on just know that we do record these so you can still gain access to that so with that Thank you so much for joining us today.

Amee Quiriconi: No absolutely Thank you Tracy I appreciate it.

Traci Scherck: yeah and if you’re looking for more of me and some specific information about how to find her.

Traci Scherck: We have the website linked in the show notes, along with linkedin and of course this assessment that we’ve just talked about so thank you so much for joining us and.

Traci Scherck: digging into this challenging you know I say challenging right in air quotes topic, but it’s one of those conversations that we all need to have in be really comfortable having it because we’re all human and.

Traci Scherck: We need to be able to ensure that you know those emotions, as they show up in those triggers.

Traci Scherck: are somewhat normalized in a way that we can talk about them, so that we can optimize our performance and you know be fulfilled in the work that we’re doing each day.

Traci Scherck: Thanks so much have a great rest of your day.

Amee Quiriconi: Thank you.