Moving from stress bragging to happy chatting

Written by B.J Woodstein, PhD

“How are you doing?” you might ask a colleague as you meet by the kettle when it’s time for your mid-morning coffee. Your intention is to be friendly, maybe superficial, and to just have a quick chat while you wait for the water to boil. Your colleague sighs. “I’m SO BUSY!” they tell you. “I have a presentation to give tomorrow, plus that big report is due next week, and you know we have that meeting coming up with the possible new client that we have to prepare for. Also, my daughter’s in a play at school and obviously I have to go see her perform, and my kids have so many activities every week that I feel like a taxi, not a parent. Plus my mum has increasing needs. And then there’s…”

They go on and on, and you wish you hadn’t asked. It’s not that you don’t care, exactly, it’s just that you don’t see the point of complaining non-stop about how busy you are. It adds to your stress levels and you’d rather try to stay positive. Or could it be that you’re the colleague who rants about your workload? Are you the one people back away from at the water cooler, because you’re always showing off about your jam-packed calendar and your repetitive stress injury from all the typing you do?

Welcome to the world of stress-bragging. Stress bragging is just as it sounds like: it’s when people brag about how stressed out they are. Sometimes, as in the example above, it’s when they list all the things they have on their plate. At other times, it’s when folks say something along the lines of, “Sorry, can’t talk, I’m sooooo overworked and busy!” However they do it, they’re signalling that they’re so very important, because they have all these tasks to do.

Why do people stress brag? Well, we live in a workaholic culture, where people are expected to contribute constantly. In Western culture today, rest is looked down upon, as something the lazy do. But of course rest is essential. We need to take care of our bodies and minds, and we in fact work more efficiently and effectively if we take breaks. But this isn’t something often discussed; instead, it’s all about making lots of money, contributing to society and buying more things. When that’s what’s prioritised, it’s no wonder people stress brag; we want the world to know that we’re achieving the goals set by our society. Also, we obviously feel like we have to prove that our employers were right to hire us over other people, so we feel we need to offer constant evidence of our competence. It’s as if our stress levels become our brand, or are themselves proof of our right to be alive.


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In April, we were delighted to have been featured in the press. The first was in Your Business with James Caan, Spring 2024 edition, where we spoke about the importance of carrying out a good EDI health check and what it includes. Our CEO Dr Ope Lori, also lent her expert voice on themes related to Equality, Diversity & Inclusion. The full articles can be found on pages 194 – 197 and accessed here

We were also in The Evening Standard: London Business Guide, on Monday the 22nd of April 2024. Here we spoke about ‘Doing diversity differently’ and gave away a discount on our upcoming PILAA Inclusive Welcome CPD. If you didn’t manage to pick up a physical copy, do check us out here.

There is still time for you to book our PILAA Inclusive Welcome CPD, for Front of House teams or applicants looking to work in visitor attractions. Read the article for the discount code.

Finally, our Founder and CEO Dr. Ope Lori, featured in the first ever UK Black Pride (UKBP) The Black Lesbian Power List 2024, brought together by UK Black Pride CEO Phyll Opoku-Gyimah and supported by DIVA. This is an amazing accomplishment not just for our CEO, but for the wider PILAA family and our clients. Her much deserved recognition, will ensure that she continues to steer PILAA and the EDI industry ship, in a meaningful way. 

Read the full list here.


Stay tuned for more exciting news to come!

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How the soft life can inspire the workplace

Written by B.J Woodstein, PhD

The phrase “the soft life” sounds wonderful to many people. When you hear it, you might imagine folks lounging about on velvet sofas, eating chocolate, while listening to string quartets, or perhaps you’re envisioning people sleeping late, then going for a gentle swim, followed by a scrumptious lunch buffet and an afternoon of board games. Whatever you might picture, it probably is something relaxing and pleasurable. It may also feel completely out of reach for you. You might shake your head and say your life is nowhere near soft; on the contrary, it feels pretty hard, with long hours at work, rushed lunches at your desk, pointless meetings, and not enough time with your relatives and friends.

But did you know that the soft life is actually achievable? And it’s also compatible with work? The concept of it can actually inspire the workplace and make everyone a little happier. Maybe we can all reach a point of, if not very soft lives, then perhaps medium-firm ones rather than hard.

A recent article in the Guardian noted that millennials in particular are leaving traditional careers and opting out of standard career paths in favour of the soft life. What’s meant by the idea of a soft life, however, is not a room full of young people reading novels or scrolling on their phones all day, even if you might get that impression from a headline that pairs “millennials” with “quitting the rat race”. Instead, it’s about more balance in their lives, and a recognition that as important as work is, there are better and worse ways to go about engaging in the world of work.

In the Guardian article, people talk about the stressful jobs they had, which didn’t even always pay enough to cover their bills or enable them to enter the property market or have children. They were exhausted from spending countless hours in an office and had no energy when they got home for anything else so that they ended up just crashing. 

Some of these people found that their managers just kept pushing them, rather than showing any empathy. Rather than managers trying to adapt the jobs to the individuals, the managers here seemed to expect the individuals to adapt themselves to the jobs and to make the jobs the centre of their lives. Heading towards burn-out, the people in the article chose to give up their jobs and change their lives entirely. Some moved back in with their parents, while others left the high rents of the city for the country. Some left the field they’d been working in and chose lower-paid and/or part-time work instead.

Interestingly, the examples in the article are all women. That might be a clear sign that females in particular feel pressured by the idea of “having it all” and that it is not sustainable to work 40 or more hours a week while also having relationships with friends and family, raising children, exercising, staying healthy and developing hobbies. Even though this concept may be particularly relevant to women, the learnings that we can take from it will help everyone in our society, no matter their gender or personal situation.

So how can we learn from all these people rushing towards the door to leave the hard life in search of a softer one?


To read the full article, you must be a PILAA Member.

Missed Connections

Written by B.J Woodstein, PhD

Have you ever seen someone across the room or on a bus and wanted to speak to them? You didn’t know them, but there was something that pulled you to them, and you felt a connection of some kind. Then the person leaves the room or disembarks from the bus and the moment ends and you never get to know them. Or perhaps you heard someone you didn’t know say something really interesting and you wanted to join the conversation, but you were too shy and you didn’t have the courage. Then the conversation moved on and you didn’t ever take part in it.

Similarly, at work, have you ever felt like you wanted to get to know a colleague and maybe work on a project together or even become friends but you didn’t know how to start the conversation? Or have you thought about how you had a skill that you knew would contribute to a task, but you were afraid of bragging about yourself? Or have you been in a meeting and wanted to speak up about an important issue, but couldn’t quite formulate the right words at the time? Later, you might mentally kick yourself and think you should have been brave enough to talk, to suggest, to question. But the moment is gone.

Or is it? Is that moment of possible connection truly past?

Well, we’d argue that it isn’t. In the world beyond the workplace, the concept of missed connections has long been a popular one. Sometimes people have felt a spark between themselves and someone else, whether romantically or otherwise, and didn’t act on it at the time, but later realised that they didn’t want to let it go. So they put an advert in a newspaper or online or they asked for help from friends, and they managed to connect with the person after all. Sure, in some cases, nothing came of it; maybe the other person didn’t feel what the person placing the ad felt, or perhaps there was no real spark after all. But sometimes it did lead on to something more: a creative partnership, a beautiful friendship, a short-term relationship, even marriage and kids.

If we’re willing to accept the idea of rectifying missed connections outside the workplace, then why not within a place of employment too? Maybe we can call this the “keep calm and speak up” approach; in other words, don’t assume you wasted the opportunity and that your chance is now over forever. Take some time, think about what you want to accomplish, and make it happen. How you do that, however, will depend in part on what the scenario is. We’ll cover a few common “missed workplace connections” in what follows.


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