VIC 15 | Shame And Judgment

Welcome back to another episode where our host KL Wells reconnects with Tucker Stine, which follows their first conversation about shame and judgement in the workplace in Episode #11.

Shame and judgment are not needed in the workplace. Just about everyone either has substance abuse issues or knows someone that has it. The goal now is to spread awareness about it. More and more stories are coming out of Corporate America and around the world about the opioid crisis. There is also talk about how rising rates of alcohol abuse disorder are continuing to perpetuate an epidemic with no clear ending in sight.

KL and Tucker dive right back into their own experiences and stories of how we can begin to alleviate shame, the stigma, and the judgment prevalent in today’s society.

This is where the narrative begins and changes. Listen to this powerful episode today!

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Shame And Judgment In The Workplace – Part 2

I’m excited to be here specifically to interview KL for a couple of things that are coming up quite a bit and topics around addiction, substance abuse disorder in the workplace, shame judgment, the narrative, and the conversation, and this is part two of the one that we had. A couple more things are coming to the surface. We will continue to have these topics and will go into greater depth as they arise. The more that we hear back from all of you, please let us know how these topics are resonating, and we will continue to have those dialogues in those conversations. KL, welcome back. How are you doing?

Thanks. I appreciate you.

This is our part two series around shame, judgment, and addiction in the workplace. You had a story that you have within your own organization of individuals that you work with around having that shame and potentially that judgmental conversation. Talk about what you went through but also the innovative solution as it comes about. Go for it.

I am involved with a large corporation multinational. I was teed up to make a presentation on thriving in the midst of the chaos of this disease, and was originally approved by people. When it went higher up, it was too prickly for them. They nixed it. It’s because I have enough reach within this corporation that I got approached by a number of the executives and my colleagues who were like, “We need information. Would you be willing to put together an informal presentation for us so at least we are informed?” I said, “Absolutely.” This is my passion project. It is my work and calling in the world. I firmly believe that the executive space is where the biggest transformation needs to take place.

When you look at the statistics, 1 in 3 families is dealing with substance abuse disorder. It is touching the person to the right or the left of you. Overdose is the number one killer of 25 to 44-year-olds. If we are not having this conversation within Corporate America, where are we supposed to have it knowing full well that Corporate America in the C-Suite is full of people that are dealing with it? Whether it’s substance abuse disorder or it’s other sorts of addictions, whether it’s workaholism, shopping or all the things that people distract themselves with is vibrant and alive in the C-Suite. That was totally fascinating to me.

Overdose is the number one killer of 25 to 44-year-olds. Click To Tweet

Being the visual person that I am, I’m literally visualizing you walking into a room and having all these conversations happen, even though I know it didn’t quite happen exactly like that. Give us a little bit of an idea of the kinds of responses you were getting from these individuals that are becoming more proponents and creating this voice. How did they respond when they found out?

They were very disappointed that it wasn’t going to be a corporate presentation. They are telling me the stories of people that they work with that have addiction substance abuse disorder themselves, “How do I work with that person? How do I hold that person in a space of love and caring? Much less how do I work with potential family members that are dealing with someone that they love that is dealing with substance abuse disorder?”

In fact, I have an exec that approached me and has an executive who works for him. Very openly, which I appreciate, this person spoke to the execs that I work with and said, “My adult daughter is dealing with a fentanyl addiction. We don’t know what to do.” I’m like, “I know who you should be reaching out to. There’s a blog where you could read the Voices InCourage with KL Wells.”

“There is a website that you can go to,, begin to get information and listen to other people that are in your exact situation and are walking in your shoes and begin to figure out what are you going to pick up from somebody who’s walking in your shoes now as, ‘I can do that. I can’t do all that but I can do this?’” That’s why all of this has been born for those people who aren’t going to go to Al-Anon because they are private people. They don’t want anybody to know. Ninety percent of their loved ones are people who are not going to go to Al-Anon.

A number came out through Mental Health America. I believe it was 70% of those addicted are still working full-time. For those that are in active addiction, it doesn’t happen from 5:00 PM until 5:00 AM. Merely things that are going on throughout the day. One of the things that I’ve started to see is if we have sexual harassment and ethics training. We have all these kinds of training in the workplace. There’s not one specifically that says, “How do we help employees with addiction-related issues in the workplace?”

I’m not even talking about the addict themselves. We talked about looking at if you are spending 38% of your life in an office or at work. If you are spending that much time in your life and you are seeing this happen, how do you respond? How do you create the conversations? Are they starting to look at even language?

How do you start using different language to be able to start to have those conversations and more employers, whether it’s an employee resource group or whatever it might be? They are looking for more training. Part of it is there’s acceptance right there. If we are hurting, HR has got the alarm going off. At least that is starting the conversation because, let’s face it, if 70% are in the working world, how are those employees creating safe spaces or even for themselves?

There are a couple of things I think about as you say this. One is that’s identifying the people that are dealing with the disorder. I have a story about that. There are far more of us who are the loved ones watching our sons, daughters and spouses implode with substance abuse disorder. 1 in 3 is us. I think about a story. This was back in the ‘80s when I was in banking. I was in a very large branch in the DC area. Part of that branch had a private banking component to it.

VIC 15 | Shame And Judgment
Shame And Judgment: There are far more people who implode just by watching their sons, daughters, and spouses deal with substance abuse disorder.

The head of private banking went out to lunch one day, started a bunch of cocaine and came back into the branch. I’m watching this take place. I’ve got twenty-some employees that I’m working with. This is a very vibrant branch with very money people walking in and out of it. I’m watching this guy, and I’m like, “We have a problem here,” I made a phone call. Somebody came from corporate within an hour and helped exit him, and then they went on to get him treatment.

You made a tough call. It’s always going to be that who’s going to take that leap of faith. Corporate responded in a way, “We are not going to shame or judge. We are going to take care of it.” It wasn’t, “You are out on your butt.” It’s like, “We are going to take care of you. Let’s find a way to make this work because we value you as an employee.” Sometimes the myth is, “You are gone. You are done,” or whatever it is. I love the way that you use that process unfolded, to see a healthy way in which it can happen.

This was back in the ‘80s. This gentleman had a very good reputation. People loved him. He had been in the bank for a long time. I ended up going to lunch with the VP of HR after that particular instance. She had known him for decades. He was well known, well respected, well-liked, all of the things, and he got the help that he needed. That was a great story. I’m finding more and more that it appears to me in the conversations that I have that more and more people are afraid to have these conversations, and even do what I did was to make the phone call and say, “We need help over here. Can we get some help?”

Honestly, it never occurred to me that I might lose my job and ask for help, but I do know that there are people that are concerned about that. There’s this whole group of people that want to be invisible. Being invisible, at least in the C-Suite, and at the higher levels of Corporate America, is going to kill us from a corporate perspective. If we are not having the conversations that matter around our employees, who are we going to employ if, at this point, 1 in 3 is dealing with this disease?

I’m speaking from personal experience. The more invisible that you try to become, the more visible you are seen.

Those three stories stand out to me. To the young man that I was working with, I know him so well and I said, “Give him my phone number.” It pains me to think of other parents that have adult children. They have no idea what to do. They are dealing with their adult kids that are using fentanyl, which is Russian roulette, twelve times a day every day.

Using fentanyl 12 times a day every day is like playing Russian roulette. Click To Tweet

At the end of the day, we are all human. Sometimes, unfortunately, the way Corporate America is structured is that we take the social constructs out of a lot of things. There are certain rules or whatever it is. There is human and humanity and all of this and say, “Somebody else’s life and the health of our own organization is far more important than the judgmental voice or the fearful voice.” Those stories that you communicate, and we are starting to see more of, are proof that humanity outweighs the other fear around the social constructs of these kinds of things in the workplace.

As many C-Suites as I work with, there’s not one of them that doesn’t have somebody that’s dealing with substance abuse disorder. Let’s say out of a group of 6 C-Suite executives, 2 of them will either be dealing with the disease themselves or have a family member that they are dealing with. How can we let that go? I don’t know how you can have six execs and not care about each other. That’s the numbers that we are given. The numbers are higher.

VIC 15 | Shame And Judgment
Shame And Judgment: In a group of six C-suite executives, two of them will either be dealing with substance abuse or have a family member dealing with it.

They are definitely much higher. From my perspective, coming in as someone who has been through it but also seen the dark side and also the bright side, when you start to recognize those that are suffering, you realize that it’s not just the person suffering but the ripple effect of all of that. Sometimes it’s an honest human conversation that does not be riddled with judgment, finger-pointing or to embarrass. It’s simply to say, “I care about you. I see you. I hear you. What can I do to help you?”

Those conversations don’t need to run up the flagpole but that behavior and those conversations are contagious and addictive alone. That comes with training. It also comes with allowing ourselves to feel a little bit more vulnerable and courageous in the way that we communicate with our co-workers, as well as those that are in charge. Our leadership.

We talked about visibility. It keeps the leaders out of it because we don’t want them to know. The response is, “That’s valuable and important to us. Let’s do this as a team. Let’s work as a group.” Sometimes there’s that invisible ceiling that nobody wants to cross, so then we could find out. More vulnerable courage to have those conversations amongst mid-level management executives and C-Suite is going to break down that barrier.

We tend to talk about organizations as if it’s these thing. Organizations are people. They have names, families, and friends, and they have people who love them and care about them. It is a way for us to keep it more separate from ourselves to protect ourselves. It’s because we are at such pandemic numbers that, at this point, you, as an exec, can no longer afford to turn a blind eye and be in denial that this exists. It is here, and it is here in a big way. It’s time to open up your eyes. It’s time to open up the conversation and get training about, “How do we talk about this? How do we care about our people without getting a match?” Do it in a respectful, honoring way.

We are starting to see it now with succession planning. We are seeing a lot of people aging out of Corporate America. We are at 50% of the world’s population, is now 25% under. Their list of must-haves, demands or what they are seeking in companies is honesty, open conversation, healthy business, that sort of thing.

For businesses to thrive in their succession planning, they better start opening up or they are going to leave. They can’t retain the right talent. They will start something else. We are starting to see that in The Great Resignation around some other things. If you are not going to provide it, they will do it themselves. We see a lot of recovery restructuring around that. Talk about this thing that you have been studying, specifically around Positive Intelligence.

There is some great work that’s being done in this arena. Shirzad Chamine has one of the books out there called Positive Intelligence. He was a keynote speaker that I listened to that was very powerful for me. Over time, I’ve read the book. I’ve gotten more involved with it on using it more in my own work with executives and their executive teams. The two things that stand out for me as we have this conversation are, one, there’s a PQ assessment that you can do. It’s a Positive Quotient assessment. If you go to and look for the PQ assessment, it will take you about two minutes.

VIC 15 | Shame And Judgment
Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential AND HOW YOU CAN ACHIEVE YOURS By Shirzad Chamine

What happens is that you get a score from 1 to 100. It lets you know where you reside. On the positive side, it’s looking at how much of the time you are in the space of empathy, gratitude, curiosity, joy, creativity and calm. How much of the time are you in stress, anxiety, frustration, anger, disappointment, shame, guilt, and judgment, which is we are right, in this disease, in this conversation, in terms of the sabotaging piece of this?

He talks about a number of saboteurs, and you can take that assessment, which is super revealing for yourself but the number one saboteur is the judge. All of us have been raised to be great judgers of ourselves, which is what this negative self-talk is all about, and of others. His principal focus on this is for us to get a handle on how much time, effort, and energy we are spending in the judgment space. I’ve worked long numbers of years before I even came across this framework to drop the negative self-talk for myself, all the things that in our heads are detrimental to who we are.

It’s not the thoughts that go through your head that are holding us in the highest best version of yourself, generally. On the front end is being aware that you can, in fact, change and shift that in a more powerful way. Shift yourself into personally a more joyful, curious, empathetic, grateful, creative and calm space, which for some of our readers, marries up with the neocortex on the top of our head in terms of brain science.

You can change yourself and shift in a more powerful way. It is up to you to become more joyful, curious, empathetic, and grateful. Click To Tweet

You get much better decisions, healthier relationships, and healthier companies from this place. The opposite side relative to the saboteurs is if you are on stress or anxiety, frustration, anger, shame, guilt, judgment or disappointment, you are in the brainstem, which you don’t get good decisions out of that space. You don’t create great relationships that have the ability to be intimate, truthful, honest and loving. I am built with an intention to have intimate, close relationships that are about creating the best version of each person, myself and the other person in the relationships that I have. I’m much more wired to be in a high positive quotient area.

I always laugh at myself because my love language is words of affirmation. I’m thinking to myself, “If that’s your love language, then why aren’t you speaking that to yourself?” This total disconnect.

If you ask a roomful of execs, CEOs, and presidents, “How many of you deal with negative self-talk?” the majority of the room will raise their hands if they are being honest. What I’m here to say is that this gives you a snapshot of where you are standing, and then you can go about the work of shifting it.

It’s important to know exactly where you are because if you are always future tripping or looking backward, it’s not a true assessment of where you need to go. I’m going to do that right after this show. Is anything else that’s coming to mind, specifically in this space, that you would like to communicate or charge for people out there in terms of what they can be doing to change the dialogue? What comes to mind when I say that?

One of the messages that we consistently deliver and are important for everybody who’s reading is that just because you are feeling hopeless, helpless or desperate, this is not a space that you were destined to stay in. There are absolutely things that you can do to rise up from that space into a more positive, creative, hopeful, curious, empathetic place, which will serve the person that you love the most, that’s dealing with substance abuse disorder, at the highest level possible. This is when I say to people, “You are in an agency of how you think about this. How you think about this is how you behave and act.”

I’m not saying that necessarily like it’s going to turn around tomorrow. I am going to say that when you are aware of the thoughts that are going through your head around your loved one, you can change them. In fact, you can move from crisis to surviving, to struggling, to thriving. We are now at a place in our household where we are absolutely grounded foundationally in holding my son in a place of unfolding, and this is his journey. We are loving Him despite his suffering. Anybody who has suffered before knows that being held in love while you are in the midst of your suffering is the thing that you most need.

When you are aware of the thoughts going through your head around your loved one, you can change them. Click To Tweet

I love that you said that it doesn’t have to stay here. My wife and I had many conversations about this too. For me, the turning point was when she decided to stop giving in to the situation and take herself out of it. When she did that, the sirens went off for me. There are ways to be held and hold that space. There’s a difference between giving into the situation and taking yourself out of it. That’s a very loving thing to do. At the time, it doesn’t feel very loving at all. That goes for anyone that’s going through something like this.

We are asking people to step back from the notion that you can control this and you can fix it. That insanity of being the loved one is what a lot of us think that. We have people around us that think that. We haven’t heard a different way of thinking about this or holding this. We are here to say that this is out of your control. You absolutely cannot fix this. You can love somebody in the midst of their disease. That’s the space that we want to hold in the executive arena.

This has been another great conversation. I’m sure we will continue to have these conversations around shame, judgment, and addiction in the workplace. Please keep us in the loop on how your conversations with that organization continue, despite the top-down pushback. On the flip side of this, how that comes together? As always, please share this with anyone. 1 out of 3 means KL, myself, and the reader. There’s something there. Make sure that you share.

If you have any comments, questions or anything, please let us know. Go to our website. Sign up on our email list. You will get incredible content to help you along this journey. We have very caring people that aren’t trying to fix it but we are giving you the right direction, the pathway and the navigation to get where you need to go to thrive in the midst of chaos. KL, thank you for your insights. It’s great to see you and talk with you. Any parting comments?

Thank you, Tucker. There is hope, and you are never alone. Please remember that.

Thank you. Until next time.

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