“My parents don’t know that I know”

This is what scares me about current struggles in our world today:
It was posted on We are the 99%:

“My name is Allison, I’m a 13 year old 8th grader. I only get a few hours of sleep at night, but I don’t tell my parents because they don’t need to know that I need sleeping pills. I’ve been showing symptoms of Schizophrenia but we can’t afford for me to go see a doctor about it. My parents get really scared when they have to pay the morage because it really cuts down on our money. I’ve stopped eating alot so there’s more food for everyone else. My parents don’t know that I know we’re the 99%.”

The up side, is that when I get scared I just work harder, but with better focus on why I bother in the first place.

The Managers’ Kuleana

Those who have heard me speak know I make this point as often as I can about Kuleana, our profound responsibility as managers:

If the children of your employees believe that working imprisons their parents and makes them grumpy people, it’s your fault. Hold yourself accountable for that, and fix it. Those children are going to grow up, and be our workforce one day: What attitude do we want them to bring to the workplace with them?

I do what I do, and with the passion I have for it, because I was an exception to the rule and I know it. I was one of the truly lucky ones, not just lucky in the way Allison describes it above. What my parents illustrated for me, was that work was what they made it, and making it great was entirely possible. They did this in spite of the bosses they had, and they partnered with my teachers in demonstrating it for me.

Well, I wanted to be a boss; I wanted to be a manager. I knew we could do better, and be better, and support parents like mine. This, is essentially how Managing with Aloha came to be: My dream, is that all managers become the teaching boss my dad never had, but taught me was possible.

Here’s the drill in life:

Everyone has to work.
We work our way up what Maslow called our hierarchy of needs: We work for our basic sustenance to start, but hopefully we will progress, reach higher, and work our way through the other levels; through a sense of belonging, through self-esteem, and toward the stuff of self-actualization which makes legacy possible.

Jobs are what we have to do in the economic machine of society.
Work can be what we get to do in an inspired life (what we call the value of Ho‘ohana).

We managers shape working culture.
Managing with Aloha is a way we do that, and do it well. I believe it’s the best way, because to manage with the values rooted in Aloha, is to manage with your own humanity.
For what’s a culture? It’s a group of people with a common set of values and beliefs.

To “shape working culture” is to create an environment in the workplace which is ‘good’ in every definition of the word.
Good is healthy, and good begets more good.

The workplace environment is a contagion. It infects and thereby affects everything connected to it through the people within it: It affects their homes and their families, it affects the quality of their play and the rest in their sleep. It affects people individually and on a very personal level, and it thereby affects entire communities and their attitudes, whether that be their despair, or their sense of hope.

Understand “the drill” and understand it well.
Then, understand this:

Alaka‘i Managers help the human race

You don’t get to be a manager, and a truly great person, unless that is who you choose to be.
You don’t get to be a manager, and a truly great person, unless you work on it intentionally every single day.
You don’t get to be a manager, and a truly great person, unless you accept personal accountability for The Manager’s Kuleana, and can look into a child’s face and feel Pono, your rightness in our world.

On that pyramid, that hierarchy of human needs, I see rightness above Sense of Belonging and before you get to Self-Actualization: Rightness is personal, and it’s right there where Maslow put Self-Esteem.

We may have a long way to go before we get to Sense of Belonging for everyone.
We continue to work our way there, knowing we have to: Quitting, or opting out, are not included in our viable options.

However Sense of Belonging doesn’t cut it; it’s not enough.
Just ask Allison.


  1. says

    Thanks for this post Rosa! ( I have added it to my Twitter Stream today) I have been working with teenagers and young adults for years, and know something about how they think and feel. As leaders we have to take the whole person into consideration, not only the “employee”. The Danish Philosopher Knud Loegstrup says “As human beings we hold a part of each others lifes in our hands” As leaders we must never forget this dimension. Thanks for a good reminder! Best, John @BoostLeadership

    • Rosa Say says

      I appreciate your commenting to share your own experience with this John, thank you. I think that phrasing of “the whole person” is very helpful to both managers and educators. Managers will sometimes say, “…but I don’t want to be nosy, and snoop into their personal affairs” in regard to bridging the professional and personal spectrum in the workplace, and it’s seeing this wholeness that will always help them.

      The quote you shared reminded me of this photo: It’s a paver tile at our local community hospital:

      With Aloha

  2. Rosa Say says

    Great post by Mike Konczal is making the rounds this morning (as is the discussion about it in his comments): Parsing the Data and Ideology of the We Are 99% Tumblr

    In order to get a slightly better empirical handle on this important tumblr, I created a script designed to read all of the pages and parse out the html text on the site. It doesn’t read the images (can anyone in the audience automate calls to an OCR?), just the html text. After collecting all the text on all the pages, the code then goes through it to try to find interesting points…

    He posts his graphs (you’ll love them if you’re a visual person, or a “show me the data” person) and tries to sort through what it all means:

    The people in the tumblr aren’t demanding to bring democracy into the workplace via large-scale unionization, much less shorter work days and more pay. They aren’t talking the language of mid-twentieth century liberalism, where everyone puts on blindfolds and cuts slices of pie to share. The 99% looks too beaten down to demand anything as grand as “fairness” in their distribution of the economy. There’s no calls for some sort of post-industrial personal fulfillment in their labor ”“ very few even invoke the idea that a job should “mean something.” It’s straight out of antiquity ”“ free us from the bondage of our debts and give us a basic ability to survive.

    That direct hit lower on the pyramid, before people can get to Sense of Belonging… it takes considerable courage to submit a post on that Tumblr, and show your face to the world.