The Great Resignation & The Future Of Work: Gissele & David Taraba Of Maitri Centre for Love and Compassion On How Employers and Employees Are Reworking Work Together

An Interview With Karen Mangia

Karen Mangia
Authority Magazine

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DIFFERENT WAYS TO “WORK”: We are really enjoying seeing the bold innovation of influencers on social media. It’s amazing to us how viral videos have changed the trajectory of people’s lives. One kid is making millions doing toy reviews so the future will definitely be technologically innovative. There is also the rise of podcasting as a career path with the Joe Rogan show getting an impressive $100 million dollars in their deal with Spotify. So we believe how people will earn money in the future will look different.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Gissele & David Taraba.

David and Gissele Taraba are co-owners of Maitri Centre for Love and Compassion and combined have over 20 years’ experience in leadership in the not-for-profit and for profit sectors. Gissele has a Double Masters, one in Research and one in Social Work and David has a Bachelor’s of Science and has been an entrepreneur in Manufacturing for 12 years. They offer various levels of support to individuals and businesses to increase the amount of compassion at work.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?

Gissele: Sure. I used to work in leadership at a not for profit and observed many people suffering at work. I myself was also suffering, silently, in the workplace so I sought an answer to workplace suffering in my organization. In my quest, I found compassion. What surprised me most about my journey was that I ended up finding self-compassion and it had a huge positive impact not only in my work life but also in my personal life. Previously I had been suffering from anxiety, low self-esteem, and perfectionism due to some childhood trauma. Once I found self-compassion, I was able to address my own suffering. I also realized I was looking outside of myself for my own personal power. I was giving my power away to others and seeking compassion and love outside of myself. Finding compassion for myself and seeing the impact in my life lead to me find my dream career path! I decided to bring what I learned to the workplace and the rest is history. Now we help organizations bring compassion to work and in individual’s personal lives.

David: I would say that the biggest thing that shaped me was the realization that I am complete. I went through many years feeling isolated and I was always trying to fit in. What was missing in my life was the relationship with myself, which then sparked the inner journey to self-enlightenment and self-compassion.

Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

David: I think people will still be working for others but the work will look different. The opportunity for improvement will still be there. Workplaces are constantly growing and evolving and that will not change.

Gissele: What I predict will be different is that the future of work is compassionate! Compassion has been connected to so many amazing outcomes, I’m surprised there isn’t more of an uptake within organizations. Compassion based research has demonstrated that it has positive outcomes for both individuals and their organizations including greater worker retention. I understand there are a lot of misconceptions and fears around bringing compassion to work but the research doesn’t support those fears.

I also believe we need to reimagine leadership towards greater self-compassion. I know servant leadership has been ‘big’ for many years but I have seen leaders who took that to mean they are only compassionate towards their workers and not themselves. And this doesn’t work. You can’t be truly compassionate towards others until you are compassionate towards all those things you dislike about yourself.

David: I think we will need to redefine work. People are moving away from live to work and work to live mentality. The future of work will be flexible. We will not be working 9–5 nor in the same manner. The new generation in particular does not believe in the “grind”. People want to attract and align to their dreams, rather than working in jobs they do not enjoy, working crazy hours and overworking themselves for a paycheck.

Gissele: True. On another note, I used to think robotics were going to take the jobs of good people, now I realize that robots and self-check out machines are being created, to free individuals from manual labor so they can dream bigger…so they can create businesses or work for companies that reflect their values, dream and desires. No longer, do we need to do those tasks nobody likes. I mean, there are people in retail who enjoy their jobs, but perhaps they are being moved towards a different type of retail, for example. I think the future of work is dreaming bigger, bolder and more loving.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

David: I feel the need to future proof is grounded in fear. My advice to leaders is to work on yourself, face your fears, face your limiting beliefs, learn how to practice self-compassion, and learn to love yourself. When you love yourself, you move and grow beyond your limits. There is no need to future proof your business because everything leads to your success. Once you live through your passions and joy, you will see failures not as something bad but see it as an opportunity or a redirect. You see this in the newer entrepreneurs like Influencers on social media. They don’t have the same fears, if they don’t succeed at something, they try something else. The future is bolder.

Gissele: Oh good one. I hadn’t thought about that. Our success is limited by our limited thinking, so addressing that will lead us to a trajectory of always rising. The newer generation is not focused on preventing failure, they are focused on their passion. I was thinking as long as leaders stick to their vision and values, and invest in their people, they can’t go wrong.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

David: The biggest gap we see is between leaders who still want to hold on to the top down, hierarchical approach to work and employees who want to have greater sovereignty at work. Employees are looking for more fulfilment and want to do something they enjoy and love. This is why we have seen an increase in the development of new businesses. Employees do not desire to feel trapped in their jobs doing tasks they dread. What is going to continue to drive that wedge is companies’ unwillingness adapt and change accordingly.

Gissele: Agreed. Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing same thing over and expecting a different outcome” (laugh). From my perspective, if employers continue to work from a place of fear (fear of lack, fear of failure) and therefore do not offer fair nor equitable compensation packages, or address workplace issues, they will see an exiting of staff.

On a grander scale, for far too long we, as a society, have idolized the punitive boss who uses power over to become successful. Now I believe we are placing greater value on compassion and love for ourselves and others and are no longer willing to tolerate these workplace relationships. I think we are understanding that true power is not hurtful but collaborative, and empowering of others. People no longer want “bosses” but compassionate and supportive, inspiring leaders. People want leaders who care about them as people and care about their families.

The main strategy we would recommend would be to practice self-compassion. Many of the most critical and punitive bosses we’ve met, have really harsh and critical inner voices. That is how they motivate themselves. If they begin practicing compassion and love for themselves and focus on staying true to their values, addressing their fears and limiting beliefs, they will attract people who also align with their values and are invested in the company’s success. Those who have compassion for themselves, especially when they fail, are more likely to be compassionate towards other people, when others fail. This does not mean they accept workers who are simply not performing. In our work, we demonstrate that you can put someone on a work plan or terminate someone and can do so compassionately.

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

David: It has already changed the work landscape. Although originally there seemed to be a lack of trust about staff being able to work from home, after 2 years, I think there is evidence to demonstrate that people can successfully work remotely. There was a trend even before the pandemic hit that the number of organizations working remotely was increasing.

Gissele: It was interesting for us to observe how workplaces had to shift almost overnight once the pandemic hit and everyone got sent home except for services deemed “essential”. Workplaces that were more flexible fared better than those who struggled in shifting service to a remote location. One size did not fit all in this pandemic, as some staff may have struggled with children being at home from school or with vulnerable elderly parents whereas others did not. Workplace accommodations had to be tailored more to the individual circumstances and workers who fared better were those given greater freedom and trust to manage their lives while working.

I conducted a survey in a workplace and found there was an overwhelming preference for hybrid work environments that enabled individuals to maintain support from their peers at work (which staff found really important), and the being able to work from their own home office and perhaps not incur the same level exposure to COVID19. Some people reported being lonely, which is why ensuring continual communication with staff working from home is key. Finding opportunities to gather and maintain connections among peers and with managers will be super important in hybrid environments.

Interestingly, working from home has also contributed to the great resignation. Individuals, who may have been working in toxic work environments, or facing issues of race and equity, did not want to return to these environments and may have quit before having to physically return to their workplace. Leaders, who have been reluctant to address longstanding problems due to conflict avoidance, will see a great fleeing of the work force as individuals face greater options for employment.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

Gissele: To me, a future of work that works for everyone means individuals feel free to express and be themselves authentically even at work. As a society, we need to address our own level of consciousness. We have all contributed (whether through acts of omission or commission) to a world where racism, hate, assault and other acts deemed harmful by others exist. I think changing our world, begins with changing ourselves. If we want to address issues of equity, we need to have difficult conversations and lean into one another with curiosity and openness… and for me, in particular, the starting point is self-compassion. Individuals who feel marginalized need self-compassion in their quest to feel seen, heard, and included. Self-compassion helps them tap into their own power. Those who are deemed harmful also need self-compassion to address the shame that comes when one discovers one has committed a hurtful act. Self-compassion helps those whose behavior is not always loving to lean in rather than become defensive and leave the conversation because they feel guilty. Self-compassion helps individuals understand that there are no “bad people”, or “toxic people”, rather, there is toxic behavior that can always change.

Ultimately, we believe unconditional love is what will revolutionize our world. Rather than respond in traditional ways, a future that works for everyone is one where we respond with love and compassion when someone makes a mistake or is hurtful instead of what we do now which is separate, isolate and punish.

David: Agreed. For me, I think in order to create a future of work that works for everyone we have to move away from our fears and our limits especially around how much success can be achieved, as a whole. Life is not zero sum game. Each individual’s success is not limited by another’s success so there is no need to compete. We no longer need to be threatened by each other. This idea must be transmuted. Once we know as a society, that the success we can achieve is unlimited, each of us can find a level of success for ourselves.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

David: The idea of not working in the traditional sense. Instead, each of us is doing something that makes us feel joy and we are living our passions. We no longer see work as work but as something we do because we enjoy doing it.

Gissele: I like that! What gives me optimism is that I’m seeing people really embracing kindness and desiring to move beyond fear and separation.

Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?

Gissele: I think part of the reason why mental health and wellbeing haven’t always been properly addressed at work is that long ago we made having emotions at work, wrong! I can’t tell you the number of times when I met with staff as an HR Director, and they would apologize to me for crying when they were having a challenging time. I think the future of the workplace is an acceptance of our vulnerability at work.

One strategy to address workplace mental health is embedding practices within the workplace culture. In all my years in leadership, I saw that workers were interested in wellness and receiving mental health support but seeking therapeutic counselling made them feel broken as most work places see having workers with mental health issues as problematic. Most workers also keep their mental health issues private, as they may not receive the same level of accommodations as say someone with a physical illness. Additionally, any strategies done within the workplace were often “after thoughts”. Workers were expected to participate on their own time (after work) or during lunchtime, so workers interpreted this as management not caring about their wellbeing.

From our perspective, we believe workplaces would be wise to prioritize investing in the employees’ personal growth and developing a healthy relationship with themselves, as part of daily work practice. Enable workers time to practice mindfulness, meditation and self-compassion during the workday. I can assure you that 10 minutes of meditation, during the day will contribute greatly to having workers who are more engaged, who are able to find better and more innovative solutions to complex problems. The research is out there on both meditation and self-compassion but employers have been hesitant to implement these strategies because they believe that it will make workers soft, entitled or lazy but this is not the case. Embedding these practices into meetings, having more opportunities to gather and enjoy each other and get to know one another with staff from all different levels (Directors, CEOs sitting with front line staff) will improve wellness outcomes and ensure individuals feel seen, heard and supported which in turn will lead to them being more engaged and successful at work.

David: I agree.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

David: We believe it’s all an expression of how change in the workplace is happening. The workplace is evolving and employers would be best served to check their egos and their fears before they get in the building. Try not to look at it through a lens of fear of what they are going to lose, instead they could come at it with an openness, curiosity and willingness to evolve and try different approaches. They could be focusing on where the opportunity is to make things better.

Gissele: I agree with David.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

  1. ANTI-WORK: For us, a trend to watch is anti-work. The lack of workplace compassion, value and support demonstrated by some corporate CEOS has led the new generation to focus on not working in traditional ways. They can make money being influencers and doing things they enjoy. The new generation is no longer interested in working themselves to death for corporate jobs or menial jobs that do not care about their wellbeing. No amount of money is going to get them to stay in toxic work environments. Young people more so, desire to manifest their abundance, align with and live their passion, be the CEOs and be financially wealthy so they can enjoy their lives. Check out Reddit’s Anti-Work, Unemployment for all not just the Rich. That says it all.
  2. COMPASSION AT WORK: Self-compassion has a positive impact in our personal lives. Transferring these skills into the workplace in order to address issues of race and equity, bullying and harassment, we believe is the next step. Compassion can help leaders address workplace issues, which can lead to better organizational outcomes. For example, historically we have managed bullying by punishing the person accused of the toxic behavior. What if we could send them to learn about compassion for self and others, as part of their work plan? Compassionate leadership is also going to be big! Jeff Weiner, former CEO of LinkedIn is a huge advocate of compassionate leadership. And even in politics, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden’s compassionate style has been featured numerous times by various media outlets.
  3. NETWORK VS HIERACHICAL: We see organizations flattening out in the future. Employees aren’t interested in the top down approaches or what we call the “baby bird” syndrome. Employees want greater autonomy at work. Leadership can come from anyone at any time. How we have brought this concept into the workplace is that we would offer staff in non-leadership roles an opportunity to practice leadership in projects, which includes leading their own leaders. The purpose was to demonstrate that leadership happens at every level and can happen at any moment.
  4. COLLABORATIVE RATHER THAN COMPETITIVE: Leaders are beginning to understand that work and life is not a zero sum game. The rise of networking groups and collaborative endeavors such as the SHEEO community are bringing companies together to support one another, rather than compete for the same customers. We feel the future of business success is collaborative.
  5. DIFFERENT WAYS TO “WORK”: We are really enjoying seeing the bold innovation of influencers on social media. It’s amazing to us how viral videos have changed the trajectory of people’s lives. One kid is making millions doing toy reviews so the future will definitely be technologically innovative. There is also the rise of podcasting as a career path with the Joe Rogan show getting an impressive $100 million dollars in their deal with Spotify. So we believe how people will earn money in the future will look different.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

Gissele: “The mirror won’t smile, unless you do first” by Frederick Dodson is a quote I am loving right now. I believe all my experiences mirror my current beliefs so all change in life begins with ourselves. I believe that truly empowered people do not need to disempower others. I realized this once I stepped into my own true power by practicing compassion and love for myself.

I also love “everyone is doing the best they can with the understanding knowledge and awareness they have currently” by Louise Hay. It helps me have greater compassion for others when I struggle with their behavior.

David: Although words of inspiration have been beneficial for me, I have come to know for myself, that all that I require is with me in any given moment including words of wisdom. If I had to pick one, I would say: opportunity for growth exists in every lived experience. This reinforces my belief that those experiences that I find difficult or challenging, or that I see as failures are in actuality, there to assist in my growth and expansion. In every situation, seeing “failure” is only one possible perspective of many.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.

Gissele: Just one? (laugh!). Actually the one person I would love to have lunch with or even better, do a podcast episode with, is Daryl Davis. We have a podcast called the Love and Compassion podcast with Gissele and I would love to sit down with him and talk about how he was able to speak to KKK leaders and Klansmen as a Black man and get over 300 of them to disrobe and leave the Klan. I’ve heard the story a number of times but I want to go deep with him. I would like to ask him how he was able to regulate enough to sit across from people who said some very hurtful things and did some hurtful things to black people. I know he talks about respect a lot. To me, he embodies compassion. From what I read in his book, he didn’t seek to change the people he met, he just sought to understand their behavior. For us, understanding is the stepping-stone to compassion. Once we understand someone, we can then see them as a person, and are more likely to treat them as such. It’s hard to hate someone up close. If we could only stop judging one another, and have compassion first for ourselves when we are hurt, and then for those who act in hurtful ways, we could come closer together experience a more loving world.

David: It’s too hard to pick just one! #everybody.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

Gissele: You can contact us via our website http://www.maitricentre.com. We would love to hear from your readers. We love having conversations about compassion! We are also on social media and have a growing YouTube page:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maitricentre1/

IG: https://www.instagram.com/maitricentre1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/maitricentre/

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0WhWcp4jlTPuwE2_6AVs_Q

LinkedIn: https://ca.linkedin.com/in/gissele-damiani-taraba-12995091

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@maitricentre?

We are beta testing our compassion at work modules, so if people are interested, they can email me g.taraba@maitricentre.com

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.

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