The stigma around mental health prevents open conversation about working an office job while neurodivergent or having a mental illness. After our lecture on Mental Health in the Workplace – two of our teammates wanted to step forward and talk about their own experiences. One at the managerial level and the other at the individual contributor level.

Episode Transcript

All right, Robyn. So we’ve been talking a lot about our own mental wellness, right.

And how that is manifested in our workplace. You’ve been gracious enough to join me and being open about our own conditions and challenges. So I just wanted to get your perspective on kind of like the stress of success, especially in this industry in recruiting. Tell us about the life of Robyn and what it’s like managing a function-

like you run as an individual contributor. Yeah. So it’s fun first of all. Always fun, but also- so it was one of those things where when I was younger, I realized that having both- well I didn’t know I had an anxiety disorder at the time, but having ADHD, I realized there was like a lot of stuff that I could do at once.

And I could like pivot and handle a lot of things at once and in some ways that really serves what I currently do because I’m managing, like I’m an individual contributor but I’m handling a lot of the sourcing tools and all the different functions that go along with sourcing beyond just finding candidates.

So a lot of that has been because of my ADHD I can do a lot. It’s really great. I can pivot. I can like have several plates up in the air at the same time, like spinning plates but because of my anxiety, I get hung up on the most ridiculous things and super stressed about how am I doing X? How am I doing Y right? And a lot of my productivity can come to a skim spill if I let myself fixate on that too much. Which is kind of like you have all these huge bursts of productivity and then you have a day where you’re just like, I don’t know how to send this email.

Like I just do not know how to send this email and kind of trying to make sure that I stay on top of both of my mental health and also not letting my mental health get in the way of being a productive person. Not that I think everybody needs to always be a productive person at all times, but I like being productive.

So I’m just kind of like juggling that and it’s been really interesting. Mark gives me some- he gives me some guidance but he also knows where I need boundaries in order to make sure I stay on task, but he also knows where I need to just kind of run off. So great. Yeah. I think I’ve always thought about how- I mean, when we were prepping this for everybody watching, we were very open about what we specifically deal with.

I immediately was like, God sourcing is such like a great task for you because it is multifaceted, you’re dealing with five different people asking for five different things or five different profiles and you can compartmentalize that. I think everybody can relate to that idea of always having to be on and anxiety isn’t just for people with actual anxiety disorder, like everybody has it. And it’s really, really hard to send some of those emails sometimes. So you go through those manic stages where your productivity is through the roof and there’s worlds where senior leadership sees that. And then you have like the off day or the off couple days and they’re like, what’s going on? What’s happened? And it’s like- are you okay? You’re not all over the place like you usually are. You haven’t messaged like a hundred people today.

And it’s like well,. I’m having a day. Yeah. What’s happening here is I’m being a human being. Yeah. I’m like existing in my space. And it’s also interesting, along with managing tasks but also managing the different people that I work with and all the different, my role is a very much Jack of all trades sort of role. A lot of sourcers who stay in sourcing for a long time, the way that they’re successful I’ve noticed in my personal experience is by becoming like a person who can fill up gaps, right? So there’s a lot of this person prefers that I just put candidates on his calendar, this person prefers that I send her an email introducing her to the candidate, like all this other kind of stuff.

So staying on top of all those different things in some ways, I know with ADHD memory loss can be a really big issue. But it’s not always with me, which is good but also when you’re having kind of the off sort of day and somebody is like, Hey, what’s up? And you’re like well, I can’t really explain it to you without giving you my life story.

So I don’t know if you want to hear about how I was in seventh grade. So, I’ll just say that I’m not feeling well. For me it’s very much- like general anxiety disorder coupled with manic depression. And it manifests itself in similar things that you just described but there’s a lot of differences too.

I don’t have ADHD, so I don’t have that propensity to – anxiety has rumination qualities, but I don’t stop, start. I can imagine where that would be incredibly frustrating but I also understand how it can be harnessed in a role like you have. For me, the thing that resonated for me was like, I literally don’t know how I’m going to send this email. The dread of that sort of stuff.

Being a manager and embracing that and understanding the responsibility that I have to ensuring that the day-to-day quality of work and life for my people is engaging and fun and challenging. But there’s an added level of responsibility in that their careers, in some instances, in my hands. They all are going to make their own path but there is a reliance on your manager to show you the right way and give you best practices and guide you through things that are difficult and be the steadying force.

When I don’t feel like I’m a steadying force but I have to put on the brave face, it is very, very debilitating. So I guess my advice to any managers or senior leadership out there that experience some of the things that I experience, you can only be so good to your people as you are to yourself.

And so your own mental wellness, however- like I’m not a meditator. Some people really like to meditate. For me it’s sitting down and listening to a record or just getting lost in playing bricks with my son. Whatever your outlet is, you have to expose yourself to it and you have to let yourself get immersed in it or else everything else will engulf you.

And then that conversely starts the domino effect of being more and more destructive to the people that are in your stead.

Robyn, one of the things again that we really, really touched on when we were getting ready to do this series was how incredibly hard folks like us or folks with anxiety and or depression or other mental illnesses, how hard they can be on themselves.

And I just wanted to hear from your perspective, what it was like joining us during a pandemic and how that idea of being hard on yourself manifested itself. Yeah. I mean, like if we start with talking about being in a pandemic, right? We’re already, I was already at a heightened sense of anxiety.

I joined when Chicago was going through its peak. So we were all indoors, heightened anxiety, so we’re already there. We’re already stressed, but also this role was kind of created but also reinvented. And when I joined the company there was a few things that were kind of guideposts for the role, but there was kind of a lot of gray area.

Which is great and it can be really interesting to see what people can create when they have gray area. So one of the things that I started to notice very early on when I was working within the gray areas that I would fixate on maybe the wrong things or I wouldn’t be sure what I should be focusing on, what I should be working on.

And it took a little while for Mark and I to find kind of like- Mark being my manager, finding the right sort of cadence for figuring out okay, how do I figure out things? What do I focus on? What do I pay attention to? And what do I work within and what can be kind of disregarded?

One of the side effects or main parts of having ADHD is that you don’t know how to prioritize things. It feels like there’s five phones in front of you- this is an example somebody said on the internet- it sounds like there’s five phones in front of you and they’re all ringing and you don’t know which one to pick up first. Usually people have an easier time of like sorting it. I don’t know, like not me. So kind of like the issue that I kept running into in my early days at Hirewell is that I wanted to make a really good impression. I wanted people to like me and I also wanted to do a really good job right.

It’s a new job and it’s a company that I was really excited to join, but I have these five phones in front of me that were ringing constantly and I just would never know which one to pick up. So kind of getting into the weeds with like figuring out which things should be prioritized over which things, and focusing on, if I do A, then I do B, then I do C. But actually creating the labels of A, B, and C.

I think one of the problems that we kept running into is I’d be really hard on myself and I maybe would be like, I know I should be able to figure this out just from context clues and I wouldn’t speak up as much as I should have. And the problem with anxiety is you get trapped in your own sort of cage that you create yourself and you just sit there and you go like, I’m terrible at this,

I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m horrible, they’re going to fire me, whatever. But all you have to do is just go hey, do you have a second? Can we talk about this? I think that’s like a very tough thing that people with anxiety are just kind of constantly navigating and constantly learning how to deal with.

Which in and of itself, the ability- I have had to learn over and over and over again how to ask for the assistance and acknowledged that- I guess it just gets back to the main point. You will fail. You will fail, I will fail, everybody watching this will fail. So it’s one of the only constants.

I mean for me, it goes to the anxiety, which cycles into the depressive episodes for me in that, if there are enough constant situations where I feel like I’ve let somebody down or I feel like I haven’t done my best work, that could have been a result from the anxiety but the ultimate ending situation is the depression, which worsens everything. So that’s been my journey, like how to figure out how to deal with all of that and the perfection standard.

Again, it’s like talking about unicorns. I made a post, just an offhanded post about how I’m always asked to look for unicorns and I was like, I’m wondering why I’m being told to look for a mythical creature that doesn’t exist. It’s not possible. No one’s perfect. If I’m not extending myself as much grace as I’m extending to everybody else, again, it just kind of all rolls into this idea that you’re just, you’re not giving your whole self or your whole ability to every single thing that you’re doing and that in and of itself can be destructive to your professional work product.

The one other thing that you said that I couldn’t agree with more is I want people to like me. And when I don’t that I’m doing well or I don’t think that people like me or my customer feels like I haven’t done a good job, it makes me physically anxious and sad. And I think everybody has to understand that across the line, whether or not this is something that you actually clinically struggle with or not, it’s something everyone experiences to some degree and you have to be able to, to your analogy figure out which phone you need to pick up. Take the deep breath. Take a step back and say like, I’m going to work on stuff one at a time.

I can’t build Rome in a day, but I can take a step back and start to build the foundation for what that might look like.

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