February 13, 2023

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Julie Kantor and Felice Ekelman share advice for leaders who want a productive, happy hybrid workplace

Thrive with a Hybrid Workplace

Kenning partner Cathy Boeckmann talks with Julie Kantor, a business psychologist, and Felice Ekelman, an employment attorney, about their new book, Thrive With a Hybrid Workplace: Step-by-Step Guidance from the Experts.

In this conversation, Julie and Felice describe what makes their book unique: a dual focus on both the “institutional” challenges of flexible work, like setting fair and clear policies, and the need to face up to fundamental leadership imperatives like ensuring good communication and fostering connection across a hybrid workforce.

Cathy invites Julie and Felice to share their perspectives on what the best organizations and leaders are doing right, which include:

  • Inviting diverse groups of employees to give input on policies, which can be revisited and changed if things aren’t working
  • Anchoring the approach to hybrid work in the mission and supporting the kinds of work that need to get done to achieve that mission
  • Being intentional about creating the “interpersonal glue” that helps workers be productive and engaged.

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Cathy: I’m Cathy Boeckmann from Kenning, and I’m here with Felice Ekelman and Julie Kantor. The authors of the book “Thrive With a Hybrid Workplace: Step-by-step Guidance From The Experts” which is going to come out on March 3rd. Welcome, Felice and Julie

Julie: Great to be.

Felice: Hi, how are you? It’s Felice.

Cathy: It’s marvelous to have you here, and it might make sense at this point for you to tell us a little bit about your professional backgrounds. Julie, do you want to go first?

Julie: Sure. I am a psychologist by training. I have a boutique consulting firm in existence for multiple decades called JP Kantor Consulting. All through my career, I have been in the space between psychology and business, preaching both things from the individual as well as a larger scale of the organization, work in teams, organizations, individuals, helping them be better themselves and better organizations.

Cathy: Thanks, and Felice. What about you?

Felice: I am a workplace lawyer. I’ve always represented companies and although most of our work focuses on litigation and defending companies in workplace litigation. A good part of what we do is advice and counsel and management training. I have been working at Jackson Lewis, a national, employer-side, workplace law firm, for many decades. We work with our clients, to make sure that they develop policies that make sense and are lawful, which is becoming increasingly complicated, as we see state and local laws, involving workplace issues, grow.

Cathy: I think that leads us right into talking about your book. So this new book addresses the challenges of creating an engaged and successful hybrid workplace. This is a very timely topic. I know many, many organizations are struggling with how to do hybrid well. And what I love about your book is that it goes about addressing this topic in a really interesting way because it’s a collaboration between the two of you and you have these different areas of expertise.

You’re bringing these different professional orientations to how you’re approaching the topic. As a result, the book ends up addressing the hybrid workplace from two pretty clear perspectives.

In section one, you explain how to plan and prepare a hybrid workplace policy. And for me this is sort of the institution building angle. And then in section two, you offer a framework, the seven Cs, that can help executive leaders build stronger interpersonal glue between employees taking sort of a leadership development angle on the hybrid workplace. how did you come to decide that including both of these perspectives was ideal?

Julie: Felice and I had a mutual colleague and friend who was an HR professional; she brought us together to talk about working from home. This was in the middle of the lockdown. We all were at home, we all were lonely, we all were stressed. but what we found as we continued talking about this was a couple of things. One is the world was started to come out and different pictures of work relationships were emerging. In fact, there is a whole body of literature about working remotely where a hundred percent of the organization is a distributed workforce. That story has been told in many ways.

However, what we saw and what was emerging was this hybrid workforce Felice and I started talking about it and I remember the day we were talking about the things our clients came to us for, and Felice said to me, “I have spent my career helping clients avoid risk”. And I said, “I’ve spent my career helping clients grow and succeed. that’s where we realized there was a story to be told.”

Cathy: So how did you collaborate in writing a book together?

Felice: We worked remotely, worked on the phone. We worked on virtual platforms. And we found very quickly by developing an outline, that there were spots in the story that we wanted to tell where Julie would play the lead role. And there were other spots where I would play a lead role. And then yet, other pieces of the story where we would both contribute in a more equal and even way. But we discussed everything.

We agreed on using as many vignettes and stories as possible because we wanted this book to be readable and we wanted this to be the kind of book where, a reader could pick it up, look at a chapter if they needed some support and insight in something specific and be able to find it quickly. We also wanted to appeal to a broad range of readers. we tried to draw, vignettes, that were from, situations where our clients are in different industries.

The one common thread is that this issue that we’re really discussing now, pretty much affects knowledge workers. Perhaps, there’ll be a later moment where a broader range of our workforce can work from home. But at this moment, it’s really knowledge workers who really have the luxury of being able to work in different places and sometimes and different times. And so, once we got this table of contents, the book, I don’t want to say it wrote itself, but it was clear what our path would be.

Cathy: I get how the power of this book really comes from the strength of the two types of expertise that you both bring: The focus on avoiding risk and the focus on growth and development. These are really different areas of advisory support that you can provide to leaders, but I imagine there are some goals that you share as advisors. what brings together these two types of advisory work?

Felice: There are a couple of themes that you’ll see throughout, the book. One is this thing we call intentionality. Another is, be true to your mission. And yet a third is the common goal that we have in working with our clients is to create a work environment, that sometimes we call best in class, where employees can thrive and do their best work, where companies can achieve their goals effectively and efficiently.

Julie: And where a company can develop a reputation such that it is able to attract and retain the talent it needs to produce what it is that it’s producing. I think the other piece in terms of just the sort of organically of our process, we talked a lot. I would bring up a case.  I would share something I read. Felice would, you know, share a meeting and from those conversations is where we sort of elaborated what the issues are and both of these sides, right. You know, in terms of having an environment which is safe, and I don’t mean physically safe in that also, but also safe in terms of culture and diversity and things like that.

Cathy: I think at this point it’s probably helpful if we define what we mean by hybrid work and the hybrid workplace. There are probably a lot of definitions floating out there, so how do you both define it?

Felice: We define it as a mix, and this is where we talked about “the power of ‘and’.” Hybrid is not just remote and it’s not just in office and it’s not just some people remote and some people in office. It is the whole range of flexible work, arrangements that involve principally the where one work. So, the focus of the book is on where work is performed.

While we do talk about flexibility as to schedule, hybrid work is really about where work is done. And so, we envision a broad range of hybrid work arrangements and discuss these in great detail because a lot of employers, don’t recognize the vast array of choices.

So, there are some employees that could come to the office, never. Some of employees who will come to the office all the time. There is the true split shift. There are some situations where you come to the office when you need to, which means you need to work within commuting distance. And yet there is, you know, all of these scheduling arrangements, which could be a weekend, a week out, one week a month, every other day.

Julie: Some people want to start early and end early. Some people who want to start late and end late. What hybrid has afforded is people can work these different times because we have synchronous and asynchronous communication.

But this timing of how people are working individually and working together. So, hybrid is sort of this mix. I think the other thing that is worth noting: it’s still changing. If we we’re going to have this conversation a year from now, it will be slightly different. You know, we finished the book—the date it went to the publisher the next week, Felice and I were like, “Oh, we should have been including this.”

So, these permutations are really evolving. With all the complexity and with all the variety of permutations that hybrid work can take,

Cathy: I think that leads pretty naturally into the necessity of creating some clarity. And I feel like in your book, some of the foundational clarity is around setting policy. Let’s talk about policy, which is really section one of your book: how leaders can plan and prepare a work from home policy that’s going to set the organization up for success. Why do you think there needs to be a policy?

Felice: I think there needs to be a policy for a few different reasons. One, leaders and employees need to know what is expected of them. The other reason to have a policy is a legal one, and that is there must be some order so that things are not chaotic and individualized. And so, employees understand what they can ask for, what they can expect, and leaders know what they can agree to and what they cannot agree to.

As we explain in the book, you have to be careful with respect to work arrangements to ensure that there’s fairness. Because if there’s inconsistency in terms of how employees are treated, you raise issues with respect to discrimination, with respect to inequitable sentiments with respect to inequity in compensation, with respect to promotional opportunities.

And one of the reasons why you need to have a policy is so that everyone understands the playing field. without a policy, every situation will be a one-off, and it will lead businesses to be vulnerable to claims and of inconsistent treatment, which will likely give rise to claims of discrimination in the work. A well-thought-out policy is the best way an organization can try to insulate against this kind of outcome.

Julie: Felice, I think that one thing I know you’ve started to see, is organizations having to come back and revisit their policy.

Felice: Well, as you already alluded to, Julie, we’re just starting this practice of flexible work arrangements. You know, a lot of employers created a policy as they were trying to lure employees back to the workplace. And the luring is still happening, we’re not done.

And so what might have first seen, to leaders as a sound way to handle the demands of employees for flexibility may change over time. And there is nothing wrong with leaders saying, we tried X, now we’re going to try Y. And one of the things, that we emphasize in the book is recalibration is important, a hybrid arrangement can also support, ESG goals and DEI goals.

Cathy: You used a couple acronyms there: DEI and ESG. What do you mean by those terms?

Felice:  DEI stands for diversity, equity and inclusion and refers to movements, that employers are undertaking to make a more inclusive workplace. ESG refers to environments, society, and governance. And again, is similar in the sense that it reflects, organizations consideration of the impact of their activities on the environment, whether their governance is inclusive and whether it is supporting the goals of society.

And we discussed this in the book, but if the organization has decided that it no longer wants to support massive amounts of, office real estate in lots of different cities, then recalibrating a hybrid work arrangement is going to be important if the organization is going to reduce its office footprint. And so, whereas a year ago, the organization might have got, we want a seat for every employee, in a new arrangement where fewer employees are coming to work on a regular basis in an office, the seat for every employee may no longer. Be an appropriate measure and may no longer be a goal of, the workplace. And so that will trigger a recalibration if office space reductions are likely.

Organizations may also find that they can’t attract employees, in certain parts of the country where they were, supporting lots of real estate and may have to move to other parts of the country. Or may have decided that more positions are appropriate for a true remote situation. So, one of the things we urge readers is to not be afraid to recalibrate, and frankly, if it’s not working, fix it.

Cathy: One of the things that you, emphasize in the book is that in approaching the whole idea of hybrid work that leaders should emphasize the power of, and can you tell me a little bit about what that means?

Julie: In its simplest terms, it is, you can have a job and a team that works in the office and at home. It does not have to be a fully remote, distributed workforce. It does not have to be a completely in-office, which historically those have been the choices. So really the beauty of what we’ve seen happen over time is using both.

And what we’re working on now is helping organizations figure out how do you balance those in terms of what Felice was saying in terms of scheduling policies, and then also what are the activities that leaders should be encouraging and thinking about when somebody’s working from home versus working at, the office.

Cathy: So, it sounds like you’re really trying to encourage leaders to get out of a black-and-white, either-or kind of mindset as they approach this topic. So, Felice, how does that come into play when leaders need to actually sit down and create a policy?

Felice: One of our suggestions is that the team that is created to engage in policy making, reflect a broad range of voices. If the policy is limited to just a few folks, who may be in a cocoon–perhaps they’re all executives in one office, perhaps they’re all the same age, perhaps they’re all the same gender or ethnic background–you’re not going to get the kind of policy that’s going to be readily accepted and understood by the broadest range of employees.

And so, we encourage leaders who are developing or recalibrating a policy to hear voices that reflect the entire organization. And that means parents of young children, children with elderly parents, folks with different positions in the workplace because some jobs are going to be more readily performed at home alone, outside of an office without a collaborative physical workspace, and others are not going to be so well performed without being able to work together with colleagues.

And so, our thought is that one rule is not necessarily the only rule, and that organizations have a lot of freedom and have a lot of creativity to examine the work that people perform and make decisions about the quote unquote rules and policies based on the work, not on the people.

So, if there are, particular functions that are very well performed individually. There’s no reason why those functions require regular visits to an office. But if there are other functions, that require, sitting in a room with a whiteboard and developing creative ideas, then those employees holding those positions should have a different set of rules.

And this is lawful, it’s appropriate, and it’s a better approach than making decisions based on employee choice—”I want work from home” versus “I want to work in the office” because that is the basis for all the angst. Today, people don’t understand why rules, exist and why they apply, to all kinds of employees when the work that people in an organization, perform varies dramatically. And so we urge leaders to look at the work and not necessarily the rule first.

Cathy: I also note that in your book you talk about how policy should reflect an organization’s mission and values. Why is that important?

Felice: An organization doesn’t want to be in a position where their policy doesn’t make sense. And if the organization is focused on, for example, you know, providing the best software in a particular kind of function, then it should be able to explain why having employees present or not present supports that function.

Cathy: In your book, you discuss a major clothing manufacturer, tell us about what they do that works so well.

Felice: Their attitude permeates their assumptions about work and where work is performed. And if, for example, an organization is focusing on customer responsiveness, the policy should ensure customer responsiveness is at the forefront. If the organization is focused on research and marketing, then it’s policy should support that as well.

So, in my mind, it’s all about common function and, common goals and making sure that when leaders have to explain to their team why we have a certain policy, it can all make sense.

Julie: I think the other side of culture and policy has to do also with leadership and the kind of environments they want to create. Starting with Felice saying in terms of companies that are involved in marketing and if somebody is marketing a product, which states that this is a holistic, something that takes care of your home and your life and yet they have a very rigid policy, there’s no room for people having personal commitments, then here’s a complete clash. And employees will be the first to feel it when their product or what they are saying outside of the organization is completely something that is not lived within the organization–about how they come and go, how they partner, et cetera.

Cathy: So, what I’m hearing really is that. A really well-done hybrid work policy is going to make sense to the people who have to live it. It’s going to reflect the input that they give, and it’s also going to reflect the value of the brand, of the company, of its product, of its work so that people can live that brand value on the inside of the company and feel that they’re being treated as well as, you know, they would expect that their customers or clients would feel treated. Is there an example of a company that you think has done a really good job with hybrid work? a real success story.

Julie: Yes. this was a client of mine that they really started thinking about their mission. This is an architecture firm that does large scale, literally the tallest buildings in the world. not somebody who’s renovating my kitchen.

But they really started back and said, who are we? What is our mission? They’ve been in a business for a while, but they realized that in order to–for them it was getting people back to work. This is something that is an ongoing tension right now between employers wanting employees to come back more than employees want to come back.

They wanted to get ahead of that. They wanted to have an engaged. workforce, they also do a lot of creative work. They’re building big buildings. You literally need people in the same place to be figuring these things out. So, they stepped back, and they rewrote their mission, their strategy. The message of it was fundamentally as a whole, we are basically a sum of our parts.

So, they created from the beginning a message of everybody view is important. We’re not going to flourish without you. So that was the first piece. Mission connected to individuals. The next thing they connected it to is individual, professional, develop. So, Cathy, you could stay at home all you want, but guess what? You’re not going to get promoted like Felice is because she’s in the office every day.

I mean, just because again, we have the issue of equity, which Felice talks about, but there’s also about meaningful when you’re coming in. And so, they connected to the kinds of behaviors that make sense to being performed at home, and the kinds of behaviors that, guess what, if you’re not in the office, you’re going to miss out.

Their policy was that they started with four days in the office and one day at home. but they also said, it’s not just coming any four days. It’s coming in again, being mindful. And Friday was optional. And what they have found is that people are coming in on Fridays. and they’re coming in on Fridays because they have created this commodity, which is I want to be part of a whole. And when we get to talking about the seven Cs, and I’m going to talk about the importance of connection, they built connection.

Felice: The policy is not going to solve the problem of getting people back to work or making the workplace an exciting place to be. The policy is just the first step. It’s training managers to make sure that there is a reason for employees to be in an office, because let’s face it, most people don’t want to commute, and there are many good reasons why staying home can be viewed as easier.

But this idea about making time in an office meaningful has to happen on an individual team leader basis. It’s not going to happen because a chief human resources officer is in charge of a policy that requires presence on certain days. What happens is going to be based on how effective each leader is, and that is not going to happen unless the organization explains this to leaders and provides them with the training they need to lead in this kind of environment. And we also spend some time, talking about the idea of proximity bias and how dangerous that is.

Cathy: So, when you say proximity bias, what you mean is the tendency that anybody would have to have a bias, probably unconscious, to favor the needs and preferences of the people who are most proximate to them. And so, in the case of hybrid work, this might be leaders and executives who come into the office would have a tendency to have a preference toward, or a bias toward the needs of people who also came into the.

Felice: And that is an issue, that is not going to go away without training. So training is a must on all.

Julie: Felice was telling me about a client she was working with, helping them craft the policy, trying to find out enough room in terms of, on one extreme you have an extreme policy that has no room for flexibility in the policy. And on the other hand, as I say, the kids are running the store, anything goes.

I was just speaking with a client who had a sales team. They had mandated people to come back. We were coming out of lockdown, one of their guys who was a top producer moved to Florida. The rest of the company was in New York. This organization was one of the large banks; policy was eight days a month, people can choose.

And this one guy who was a top performer wanted to work from home And then the CEO is saying, mm, let him, let him work from home. And the manager tied to, again, what Felice is talking about, fairness and equity. He’s like, “I get it. he earns more than all of my other, salespeople, but what am I going to say to all the other salespeople in terms of their not being equity?”

Cathy: It sounds to me like a policy is foundational and important, but the behavior of people, of leaders, of managers within the organization is a co-equal element. You need people to behave in certain ways, and you need the policy to incentivize certain kinds of behaviors.

So, I think this is a good moment to move on to section two of your book. Let’s talk now about the role that leaders and how they can show up as leaders when guiding their organizations through the challenges of flexible work. So, it seems like the most important piece of advice that this book offers to leaders is to be intentional. What does that word mean and why does it matter?

Julie: It’s having to take the time to think about things that in the old nine-to-five workplace you didn’t have to think about. When you had to stop by somebody’s desk and remind them about that something was due–you didn’t have to think about that in advance. You knew when I walk in the office, I’ll see them. You didn’t have to think about honestly even training in the same way that Felice was referring to because a lot of it happened organically, in the day-to-day just passing in the office.

You have to be really mindful. You have to be thinking about things that you might have been able to do on automatic pilot. But when you’re in a hybrid organization where people are coming in different ways, where work has different meaning, diversity, all of these other pieces, you have to be intentional. You have to think about things.

Cathy: And I could see how a leader might feel a certain kind of burden of all the things that they could be considering that might be different in a hybrid workplace. And one thing that I think the book does really helpfully is that you’re directing leaders toward a particular framework of things to think about. And that’s where the, the Seven Cs come in. Can you give us a quick intro to the seven Cs?

Julie: So, the seven Cs of leadership starting with: Change, Culture, Connection, Communication, Collaboration, Coaching, and Compassion. If I had to pick one It would be Connection: the fact of people connecting, and the word I use a lot is about interpersonal glue.

You need to have this connection in order to literally get work done. Even people who are individual, they are part of some product. Even if you have, say, somebody who’s a coder, they’re not coding just something individually. It is part of something larger.  But there is a need in all organizations to have some connections.

I would contend that The Great Resignation was so large. because if I wanted to quit, I could send you a text, Cathy, I didn’t even need to come in. It could say two words, I quit. there was no connection.

Cathy: Just to remind our listeners, what is The Great Resignation.

Julie: The Great Resignation was a phenomenon that happened where there were people quitting jobs in enormous numbers, way beyond what is a traditional trajectory of resignations. Starting around the time when we were coming out of lockdown, probably going through the beginning of 2022,

And so, if you have all these people who are working in different places at different locations, and you’re not being intentional about when they’re coming in, and are they coming in for meaningful reasons? We’re going to be back into everybody sitting in their homes. Or worse, we hear about is people who do come in, they do follow the policy, and they’re sitting alone with their headphones on, on Zoom calls all.

So, what does it look like to build connections? And it is a leader’s responsibility. And again, this is where this intentionality to facilitate connections on two levels.

One is themselves with each employee. This ties into what police has talked about in terms of proximity bias. The people who are in the office, you can’t just build the connections with them. Leaders need to be mindful of how are you going to connect with these people who are working from home on a different day from them.

And the other piece in terms of connection is it is a leader’s job to facilitate the connection among the team and among the team with the rest of the organization. Again, intentional. things are not going to happen because we may be on different floors, but we all know we’re going to end up on floor seven for lunch.

And so, we’ll have some time to connect. We’ll have those organic. We hear about it over and over. These water cooler conversations, real work gets done, at the metaphoric water cooler. And so, what are the challenges that leaders have to own? The responsibility to facilitate this interpersonal glue, these connections.

Cathy: I think that’s really helpful. So, the seven Cs framework, these areas that leaders always should have cared about, but there’s a way in which the challenges are evolving and maybe even intensifying with a hybrid workplace. So, what your book is doing is asking leaders to be intentional around these things in ways that they haven’t been. And connection has clearly changed tremendously as we have seen our workplaces change and shift into this hybrid, flexible model.

Julie: The second half of the title is about a step-by-step guide. This is the kind of thing where if you’re interested in coaching, you can just go to the coaching chapter. If you’re interested in what collaboration looks like, you can just go to the collaboration exercise and the other piece that I appreciate: The longer I’ve been doing this is that these are these small things that make huge changes. And so that is how the book is written.

This is not a novel that you have to take and learn the entire test, you know, at the end. Go in, read page 168. There will be three tips from there. Pick one. You don’t even have to do all three. Just acknowledge somebody when they came in the office and that they worked late last night, like just that alone. One of the things that the lockdowns and the creep back to the office exposed is that it is harder to be an effective leader. When you are not in a place where everyone else is all the time.

Felice: Because what became exposed in the last two or three years is that lots of leaders managed by presence and not by performance or deliverable. And so no longer is check mark, this person’s in, is that enough? And that requires training and much more focus of leadership on understanding what is the deliverable that we expect from each particular person. And also, to understand what is stopping people from being an effective employee, where before presence just kind of ruled all.

And so, the change in where work is performed really has made it more challenging for leaders because leaders have to really think about who’s doing what and when not. Is this person there and therefore doing work?

Julie: And you know, one of the side effects of increasingly remote work is this lack of trust between leaders and employers and their workforce. And I think two pieces. One is Felice referred to trust that we start with leaders trusting their employees, but it’s also about employees needing to trust they’re leaders. it is both about leader setting expectations, and employees are going to be building a trusting relationship if they meet these deliverables that have been spent, if they’re doing what they said they would do.

We have a section in the book, which is “Maximizing Productivity,” which is taking what Felice was just referring to about how do we shift from facetime as a measurement in terms of determining success, and what does it look like to start looking at measuring performance, measuring deliverables.

Cathy:  One of the seven Cs that’s particularly interesting to me, is Communication. I feel like a lot of leaders in my experience under invests in communication or, at least fail to recognize how important it is to do it well. And a lot of what I’m hearing is that expectations need to be communicated more clearly in a mutually understood way. What are some of the other ways that communication might need to shift in a hybrid workplace that’s trying to be intent?

Julie: Well, I think the first piece you said I want to highlight Cathy, which is just having it, just having the communication. Again, we go back to this concept of intentionality. I can’t assume that my day in the office and your day in the office are the same. So, part of it is just remembering to do it.

I have never met a leader who actually communicates as clearly as he or she thinks they communicate. Most people think that they told the team, everybody should know it, people can communicate in a lot of different. Obviously, there’s face-to-face when we’re all in the office together. There’s face-to-face like we’re doing on this recording where we’re, we’re all looking at boxes of each other. so it’s not quite the same. I can’t pat you on the back. I can’t sort of lean into you to sort of get a sense of I’m connecting with you. I agree with something you’re saying. So, this non-verbal, we have some of it, but we lose a bunch of it.

Then the next piece we get to is a phone. I’d like to remind everybody that phones do exist and if you call somebody, it’s generally a good idea to pick up. We seem to have forgotten that. Unfortunately, most people typically only speak on the phone if they’ve had a scheduled conference call, but at least over the phone, in terms of a communication that’s taking place, I can hear your tone in your voice, I can hear if you’re getting upset. So, we’re not going to have that kind of gap in communication.

Cathy: I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of the limitations related to email communication.

Julie: As I say with my clients, when we get on this conversation of emails, don’t get me started. because people use emails as if they are speaking to them face-to-face. And I’m sure everybody can tell you a story where somebody has written something, it is benign as please pass the salt. You know? They put 14 exclamation points. at the end of it, and they wonder why the receiver thinks they’re angry.

I literally was coaching a woman, recently, she was a leader in a very large nonprofit, and part of the question is, why does everybody think she’s angry? And so, we started looking at her emails and she thinks she’s writing friendly emails when she writes high, and puts literally, I think it was seven exclamation points. She thinks she’s doing it as an enthusiastic “Hi,” and other people think she’s yelling before they read another word. That is probably where we have the greatest amount of miscommunication because people fill in the interpersonal components of it and they’re frequently wrong.

Cathy: And how is that different from the communication that happens in other medium?

Julie: If you get to documents, like shared documents, online, whiteboards, people are using these as a sharing of information. So, the chances for miscommunication are actually less because we’re not trying to fill in blanks. We’re just reading a document. It is just the fax, ma’am. Thank you.

It is in these other mediums where there is this interpersonal glue that people are reading things into it.

Cathy: So, have you seen an example of a workplace where the leaders really are doing an amazing job of adjusting their leadership style to meet the challenge of hybrid work?

Julie: Yeah. I think again, it’s those leaders who realize that they have another part of their job, which is as inspirational leader. It is not somebody who is just leading the work. They accept the fact that they are leading people.

I could give an example of working with a client who was head of fixed income, very big job, very big bank. He talked in numbers. This gentleman saw the world through numbers. That’s how they were so successful, managing risk, et cetera.

This is when we are coming back from lockdown. they were doing a town hall and his first sense of being a leader is, he needs to share how the market’s doing. So, he got the sense that you need to share sort of big picture, but he was just going to be sharing numbers.

And I said to him, let’s call him Joe, “Joe, what do you think people need to hear right now? What have they been going through for the last year?” This is when they’re just starting to pull them back. These people have been alone, they’re exhausted, they’re stressed. The middle managers are stressed.

And so, he had an hour and first I said, “Well, how long do you think we should spend on this?” And he is like, “Well, maybe a minute when I’m saying it’s like…” “No, Joe, let’s try reversing that.”

And so he realized the need as a leader to not just lead how they are dealing with investments, but that there are people behind this. And what does it look like to become an inspirational leader who acknowledges what people are going through, who praises them, who expresses appreciation.

Many leaders didn’t even realize these things are commodities. I mean, praise is one of the cheapest ways you can keep an employee engaged. Just acknowledge, just say “Thank you. I know this has been a crazy week.” They are the cheapest way to have an engaged workforce, and they are so underutilized.

Cathy: I think that any leader is going to lean in on what they feel like has always worked in the past. And what I’m hearing you say is, the world has changed, right? We are in a very unique moment.

Felice: And employees expect more. Employees’ expectations are high right now. For the last year or two, there’s been a shortage of knowledge workers and, we could be in a situation where it might become more of an employer’s buyer’s market in terms of, where we are in the demand for labor.

But for the most part, employees are still expecting more than they did three years ago. They’re expecting creativity. they’re expecting flexibility. they’re expecting to hear more of these seven Cs and all the while, they are expecting that employers are tuned in to DEI issues and are thinking about ESG.

I’ve talked to a lot of clients who have said, in addition to the move towards greater transparency in terms of wages, applicants are asking in interviews, what is your policy on where work is performed? you know, do I have to come to an office?

So already employees are approaching jobs with an expectation that they’re going to have flexibility to work remotely or away from an office at least some of the time. And so, in terms of communications, interviewers and leaders have to be able to articulate why the policy is reasonable and make sense.

Cathy: I think as the business cycle continues to turn, as the expectations from the employee side continue to ratchet up, there is so much good advice in your book that I hope that leaders will read it and find the step-by-step guidance that they’re looking for to take a more intentional approach– to make flexible work work for their organizations, for their mission and for their people.

And if people are interested in getting in touch, where can they reach you?

Julie:  You can reach me on LinkedIn at Julie Kantor PhD or my email jKantor@jpkantor.com. Would love to hear from you,

Felice: I can be reached at Felice Ekelman on LinkedIn or feliceekelman@ gmail.com.

Cathy: The book is “Thrive With a Hybrid Workplace: Step-by-Step Guidance From the Experts.” It’s published by Roman and Littlefield. You can pre-order it @amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com.

So, thank you so much. I’ve really, really enjoyed this conversation.

Felice: Thank you for your time and the opportunity to talk with you today. Cathy.

Julie: It’s been terrific having this conversation. love your input, and looking forward to a new workplace.