Are We Great Again?

image of old building on american banknote
I’m guessing you forgot the illusion of democracy is so fragile.

Dark Days

Yesterday, was a dark day in American History, no matter where you were entertainment was halted as a seemingly normal business day where the state of affairs was meant to be bumpy but proceed with very little fanfare. That was not the case as during the middle of proceedings and even in mid-sentence pro-Trump supporters gained access to the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

While it was shocking, was it surprising?

What happens when you force-feed individuals political rhetoric that subverts, hides and even outright lies? What happened yesterday was the culmination of deep-rooted hate, misinformation, and baseless lies filtered through algorithms whose sole purpose is to match like to like (meaning based on your online persona, they handhold you to places of distrust).

Like 9/11, this is a traumatic event and for me, that same feeling of shock and heartbreak over institutions and safety. The triggers are all there: incessantly watching the news all day for fear of missing something important (we spent the day watching and I had to explain the historical, cultural, and political significance of the moment to my Chinese-born family), reaching out to family and friends to try and understand the chaos, and trying to cope using better mental health practices (which I wish I had known then).

What Happens Now

This morning, there’s more coverage trying to make sense of the what, how, and who and every possible angle of what occurred yesterday.

Understand this: There are people throughout the world who saw the events yesterday as a collectively triggering and traumatic event.

For people who may have first-hand knowledge of riots and toppled governments. For people that see what is occurring in the US as another notch in the continuous onslaught of hate and exclusion. For people like me, that work in Inclusion and Belonging, and think of our children and the work we do may not be enough, not nearly enough.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Look Within and Reach Out

Know that yesterday’s events were an act of hate- plain and simple. I had trouble sleeping so this morning wrote a letter to my daughter on my personal blog because I worry about the kind of world we are creating for her.

If you need help to process, like I do- reach out. There are so many of us that are simply in shock, not surprise, but still shocked.

If you have access to mental health services or a counselor or therapist- reach out.

If you are impacted, let your employer know because they should also be reaching out- no matter who you are.

Employers Reach out to your Employees

Sometimes we get caught up in our titles and create this division of authority that separates us, but we are all people. People with feelings, ideas, and different understanding of the way the world works but no matter your political affiliations- we are people.

And just beneath the surface of all that hate- is hurt.

We need to stop pretending and spreading this false narrative that strength means aggression, that we need to be take from others in order to have, and we need to hurt others in order to heal ourselves.

Sorry, it does not work that way.

Know that you will lower levels of efficiency today, less engagement and more emotional and mental distress amongst your employees because we all experienced trauma and have yet to have processed it.

I am not a mental health professional, but I know being silent on this will cost you.

I leave with these words from Seth Meyers, who was angered and shaken by yesterday’s events.

Yours in kind,

Jessy Santana, founder of The Way We Work

When Was The Last Time You Genuinely Checked in with a Colleague?

That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.

Stan Lee

This holiday season will be difficult for everyone. There’s no doubt. Whether you’re staying home for safety’s sake or being forced to by the government of where you live. The holidays have never looked like this.

Even the years I spent in China, a country that saves its cheer for Chinese New Year, I could usually find a group of friends and a home or a karaoke to celebrate Christmas in. This year, however, the cheer has fizzled out of the grandeur that normally is the festivities this year.

I, for one can’t go home for Christmas, the border is still closed between the US and Canada. So my mother’s infamous Christmas party decorations and merriment will have to wait until next year. Replaced by my sad little tree and twinkle lights. Honestly, there’s no comparison but there’s also no presents because my husband doesn’t understand the concept of waiting to unwrap gifts and has opened every package that’s arrived- there goes the surprise!

We’ve been lucky and grateful in this year for many reasons, we’ve struggled but we’ve managed, others may be not.

Last summer when I started hosting the Beyond BLM: Actionable Steps for Change series, one of the panelists mentioned that no one had checked in with her just to see if she was ok, and it would have been incredible if someone had. When she felt she could handle going public, she did and the comments and calls of support followed, but the toll on her emotional and mental health had already occurred.

The holiday season is always one that is filled with a tinge of darkness just beneath the surface. We all get distracted by the holiday movies, the dinners and parties but loneliness is especially high during the holidays. I imagine this year, numbers will peak. Especially for those that may be quarantining alone.

Mental health has already become precarious in 2020. According to the Mental Health America, The number of people looking for help with anxiety and depression has skyrocketed. Even in Canada, pre-Covid, 1 in 5 Canadians needed help with mental illness, according to the Canada Mental Health Association.

Don’t let the year finish without reaching out, if you do need help or even if you don’t. The worst feeling of regret is always wishing you had reached out to those you thought might be struggling.

Last week, I reached out to an old friend and she admitted that while she was at work all day, she found her off time had little activity and she was glad for the conversation. What was supposed to be a 30 minute discovery call ended up being an hour and a half, let’s talk about everything call.

I remember that feeling from the start of the pandemic when we saw no one, didn’t leave except for the weekly grocery run. My husband and I had to learn to speak deeply to each other again, not having done that in a while. Another reason to be grateful this year.

But reach out and genuinely speak with one person this year, it might benefit you more than you realize.

And if you need more than just a helping hand reach out to those services that offer more. There is no shame in realizing you need help, we all do in different ways.

The Podcast is Live!

Why is this good news?

There is something special that happens when you are having conversations of change, both in organizations and societally, with others besides yourself. Sometimes, you think that you are out here spinning your wheels, not being able to understand the great ‘Resistance to Change’, that is still happening in the world when it comes to building equitable organizational culture.

I know that organizational culture seems like an amorphous and complicated- and it is, but overcoming bad culture is not insurmountable. It’s about learning what makes sense, within your means and how you can create a strategy for change. It’s about moving the needle forward and having intentional conversations for change.

So if you’re interested in having more of these conversations, join me on my weekly The Way We Work podcast!

If you want to know when the next one comes out subscribe today!

Stay in touch by following us on IG or Twitter @theway_wework and if you have any questions on identity, culture and the intersection mail us your query at thewayweworkofficial@gmail.com

Yours in kind,

Jessy Santana, Founder & Principal, The Way We Work

Guess the World didn’t Implode 🤯

Needless to say last week was nuts! Even if you’re not “political” you couldn’t turn the television on without coverage of the election going on.

Some of us may still be feeling like…

Waiting for the other shoe to drop- be like!

In fact, Election Day, I opted out of the conversation for my mental health, which is also why there’s no podcast this week but time will resume as it usually does.

But while we waited for the results, something happened in my house- that’s never happened before!

My husband was paying attention, to the state of the world! 

I was shocked-I know!

Which, for me, meant explaining American politics to a Chinese born and raised self-proclaimed apathetic about all kinds of politics cis-man the importance of this election.


Now whichever side of the coin you find yourself, that’s your choice. We can still be friends and talk to each other. I find it fascinating to speak to people with a difference of opinion- you should too.

But what this election season became for us, was that it allowed us to dive deep into the issues. Understand what we each held of value and howthat was being talked about in public forums.

I wasn’t trying to convince him of anything, but I had to explain both sides and the logic behind it- which was easier said than done.

And then he would translate and explain to his mother and translate her questions back. This is how I imagine things used to be, (maybe not all the English/Chinese translation), but conversations between people that even if they disagreed on ideologies could still hold conversations in a way that was respectful and productive. Even if we still walked away believing in what we came in with.


These are the 3 things I understood on Saturday after hearing of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s victory.

1. It’s the beginning of a sense of normalcy. They may not be the best candidates- what politicians are? But they have put a stop to the show- which after so long, I’m kind of glad news will be a little more expansive, rather than the unilateral, “What’s Trump tweeting about today?”. Now their real work can begin. It reminds me of this quote from Dr MLK’s Nobel prize acceptance speech from 1964.…”

“Another indication that progress is being made was found in the recent presidential election in the United States. The American people revealed great maturity by overwhelmingly rejecting a presidential candidate who had become identified with extremism, racism, and retrogression8. The voters of our nation rendered a telling blow to the radical right9. They defeated those elements in our society which seek to pit white against Negro and lead the nation down a dangerous Fascist path. Let me not leave you with a false impression. The problem is far from solved. We still have a long, long way to go before the dream of freedom is a reality…

Dr MLK, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech 1964

This was from 1964! How little progress we’ve made. 


2. Kamala Harris’s speech made the little girl in me cry and the grown woman in me sob. Men have been in the white house since the beginning of time, but to have a woman in the second highest position?

It’s almost a moment of we are so close we can feel it! “…all the women who have worked to secure and protect the right to vote” she continued: “And I stand on their shoulders.”

Chills, just chills! 

3. The only way to move forward is to find that common ground again. There doesn’t need to be a repeat of Trumps’ time in office, with everyone just voting along party lines. It’s possible to have a form of government that works for all, not just the few. And it’s possible to still get work done while having a difference of opinion.

In order to do that we need to understand, that creating change is going to take more than just pretty words but real dirty work. Working across party lines and creating policy that is for the benefit of all. Maybe this might be an introductory lesson from Nisha Anand on the Radical Act of Choosing Common Ground.

Because it is a choice to work together just as much as not doing so is a choice too. 

This week’s Rose, Bud and Thorn:

Rose: I have decided that this is the week, I submit my grad application- so fingers crossed! 

Bud: There’s some new surprises coming for the holidays, I’m really excited about (more details coming soon). 

Thorn: We can finally move the news cycle to cover other things, unfortunately it might still just be Covid for a while 🥺.

Yours in kind,

Jessy Santana, Founder The Way We Work

I’m moderating another Beyond BLM series for SOGAL Foundation. Hope you’ll join us!

3 Things We Need to End the Year Better Than We Started

It’s November! And we are so close to the end of the year- It’ll be here before we know it! And although this year has felt like the longest year known to man- I promise it circled the same amount of times around the sun.

So instead of focusing on the discomfort, the negativity that may still be trying to seep in, I’m interested in looking up and forward- and these are just some of the things I’ve recently loved, kind of hated (you’ll see why) but still learned from, and thought you might enjoy too- especially since I’m told we’re still in this together!

So what else do we need for the end of the year, the beginning of winter (we just had our first snowfall this week and I wasn’t ready for it!), and all the things that will envelop us in warmth until the beginning of 2021?

These are some of my favorites

Great Reads!

Currently, I’m waiting for the December release of Brambles: A Thorn Short Story (Dauntless Path) by Intisar Khananibecause supporting good fiction by authors of color is always good business! Plus her writing is so good. Period!

If you’re late to the social justice train and opted out this summer- maybe it’s time for a reality check. It’s always a good idea to curl up with a good book that makes you think and just a bit uncomfortable- let’s face it we need to rock the boat! 

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo.

We need a little deep thinking and discomfort- even if it’s with ourselves and this book delivers! 

It puts things into perspective about why the conversation is difficult to begin with and why some opt-out but with 2020 bringing into light all kinds of social injustices I don’t know that we can really opt-out anymore. 

Great TV!

What the Constitution Means to Me by Heidi Schreck on Amazon Prime is great television right now- for anyone who’s interested in understanding the intricacies of how this one piece of document affects so many people. 

If you’re more of a Netflix fan, Over the Moon, a movie about a Chinese family dealing with loss, a little girl believing in something and the idea that family can change- and if you’re seperated from yours it’s a nice movie about believing in yourself and family. 

And if you’re still on the fence about things maybe this will help you, The Choice 2020: Trump vs. Biden by Frontline. This docu-series didn’t illuminate things that I hadn’t heard before but it’s a great piece on these two different men who are running for office in a competition for the highest office in the land. 

Great Voices to Listen to! 

This post by Patrice Palmer on Linkedin gave me the all the feels when it comes to what they describe as Accomplice and how are they different from Allies. There are many right now that disagree on the words but the sentiment is the same- we don’t have the time to sit around and wait for change to happen, we need people who are going to Pull Up

One of my favorite songs right now is Know Your Worth by Khalid and Disclosure. The stand-alone single really holds up and with the lyric: Find someone who loves you at your worst. It really says a lot about what kind of relationships we need right now i.e. Ride or Die kind, especially during isolation. 

I know it’s hard out there and things can seem bleak, but as my affirmation app this morning reminded me “Nobody but Me Decides How I Feel”.

Yours in kind,

5 Conversations to be having with your staff- Now!

This year has been full of deep change, some necessary others out of our control, but when we look back at this year I don’t want to say this was a lost opportunity. That we learned to survive yes, but that’s it. We didn’t learn to have hard conversations about what kind of culture we want to create within our corporate walls.

Instead, let’s take this opportunity to do just that! Learn to use this moment, full of change, uncertainty and potential to create and strategize what we want the future to look like.

So here are 5 conversations you should be having with your staff- right now! Don’t wait until 2021 to figure out how to move forward. By then it may already be too late!

1. What are our Problems?

This is an open call question that requires input either as a town hall, if people are feeling brave or as an anonymous survey. Please, please don’t single your employees of color to answer questions about race, identity, etc. The intention may be good, but the optics isn’t. While this may be an opportunity for open discussion and dialogue, you want to make sure you have the resources and the guidance you need for this happen, without the learning happening in one direction. 

2. Who’s Leading the Charge?

Do not assume because someone is of a marginalized group that they want to be a part of the conversation. For some, the heightened scrutiny and attention may seem more like tokenism and will in the end be unproductive rather than the well-intentioned level playing field it needs to be. 

3. Who’s at the table? 

If you don’t have a Diversity and Inclusion position and you’re not sure where to start- find a resource. Whether it’s a consultant, a webinar, or even a book club, or fill the position with someone that knows what they are doing. Someone who has an interest is a great start, but if you’re promoting from within make sure that they have the resources in order to make their position impactful. 

4. Do we need a full-time position?

I know it may seem a big undertaking for many companies in transition but the hard truth is that most companies need the position and if you’re not ready yet, to find a consultant they can work with that will guide you in the direction you should be going. Diversity and Inclusion is not new as a position but as we know most positions don’t have the full authority to exact change throughout an organization, or their positions are relegated to HR-centered positions (I have my own theories as to why this is wrong) but the brief is that in order to create in Inclusive environment, there needs to be a re-thinking of what the company’s strategies, processes, and operations need to do in order to change company culture. That may require more than just a department-specific function. 

5. Are We Ready to get in the Trenches to Make Inclusion a Priority? 

Like all departments of a company, I believe inclusion is just as important. If things go badly, you don’t cut operations or strategy, you learn to pivot. When 2020 changed how most traditional firms work, we didn’t just shutter our doors and give in. We paused, created a plan of action and dealt with the changes we could control. The same goes for Inclusion. It’s not a band-aid fix to a moment, it’s a long process that creates impactful change throughout an organization for years to come. It can lead us forward as a leader in our respective industries or like many that will not survive 2020, it can be the resistance to change that will ruin us. We cannot pretend we can go back to business pre-Covid, that past no longer exists. What we can do is understand this moment and create the innovation and strategy that will propel us forward through 2020 and beyond! This is not short-term work, it’s life’s work. 

We have a lot of work to do, and it’s going to take a lot of un-learning, learning and uncomfortable conversations but if we’re willing to put in the work, creating a more inclusive and innovative corporate culture is within our reach!

Yours in kind,