“Just like in an airplane safety video where you put on your own mask before you put on a child's mask, we’ve got to take care of ourselves first before we can give of ourselves.” - Carol Markwei, Paladin Training and Development Manager.
February marks the official start of Black History Month 2022, which this year aims to focus on the multiple facets of "Black Health and Wellness."
We spoke with Paladin’s Training and Development Manager, Carol Markwei, who shares her passion as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) expert and talks about emotional work, mental readiness, and the healthy balance that we need to find in social and professional spaces. She is fascinated by cross-cultural communications and focused on improving workplace experiences by integrating a diversity-first approach for employee training.
“Wellness to me is being intentional about my safety. I think that when we imagine safety, we often refer to physical safety. But for myself, as a black woman, I find that safety also includes caring for my mental health in many social and professional spaces. It is not easy to manage just how much emotional work we are actively willing to do in our friend groups and workgroups.
Emotional wellness can be practiced in many of our social interactions. We have to be intentional, about the spaces we are in and prepare our minds for the kind of conversations that may arise. Part of wellness for me is choosing when I’m willing to participate, give my all, and accept the emotional work that comes with sharing my lived experience as a black person.”
Carol covers some of the major components of maintaining your health and wellness; emotional balance and rest, asking for help and identifying areas for change.
Emotional Balance and Rest
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be challenging. Each day, we make choices and act in ways that often have consequences for other people. These interactions generate emotions that are a natural part of being human. Being aware of our emotions can help us to manage them in a way that is wise and identify when we need to take a moment to recharge.
“Trying to have an emotional balance is also important. I would like to give a shout to my manager at this point, Cheryl. We've built a relationship where she actually knows how to read the team’s energy, be aware of our emotions, and help us recharge when we need to. What I am trying to say is that looking after your team’s well-being takes an incredible level of empathy from leadership and it really helps the team’s performance. I feel that Paladin promotes that a lot! That is our people-first approach. Each person I'm interacting with and each person I'm talking to cares about the other one and this creates a super friendly and supportive environment.
This has also helped me to replicate the model and pass it throughout my whole team. We understand that wellness and rest are really important just so that we can recharge ourselves and give our 100%. That's an amazing thing about working at Paladin, I can find a responsible balance between rest and productivity. We build healthy team environments and relationships; we recognize when our workmates and leaders need to recharge. It is not only about work; everyone has to be able to bring their whole selves.”
Asking for Help
Asking for help can take a lot of strength to do because it usually means you have to be “vulnerable” in front of another person. It means admitting that you don't know the answer to every question, and that is OK! Sometimes we ask too much of ourselves and what we think others are expecting from us, might not always be right in our heads, affecting our confidence and our performance. That is why it is important to be open with our leaders and our team members when we need any kind of support.
“We have to learn to ask for help when we need it. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness at all. Don’t try to take on everything on your own because there are many people at Paladin that will help and support you without hesitation. Everyone is there to back you up!
When it comes to black professional life, the conversations that happen inside your head are key to finding that wellness and confidence in the workplace as well. There are times when there can be a lot of mental pressure in regard to what is expected from you and your performance. The conversations that go inside your head might be like, “I have to give my all. I have to show them because they're probably not expecting much from me. I have to be amazing at this or someone who looks like me is not going to get this opportunity after me.” Firstly, those negative inner conversations should not take place because they don’t help your performance; they are only bringing you down. And secondly, your team is probably not thinking that at all, but you can end up taking on way more than you should.
Really, it depends on the type of leader you have and the environments that are created. If you're taking on too much or you feel like you have too much on your plate, leadership can bring it to the team to talk about it, assess the situation, and act so you feel like you're in a collaborative and supported space. I find that with my team and with the HR team, it is a really cool feeling!”
The Narratives that we Need to Change
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are vital to creating and maintaining a successful workplace where everyone can thrive personally and professionally. We need to create environments where every employee feels comfortable and supported by the organization when it comes to being their authentic selves.
“I keep saying diversity, equity and inclusion have so many fronts in terms of the narratives that we need to change, and unconscious bias is one of them. There are stereotypes that we have built in our heads or that we have sort of adapted into our brains. That's why I bring up “covering” in The Difference Makers podcast about diversity and inclusion in the workplace because everyone can identify with covering up and hiding a part of themselves in order to be seen as fitting.
It's an interesting world in DEI, and wellness is very important because creating an equitable environment is not something that we can fix in two days; it's going to take more than our lifetime. Just like in an airplane safety video where you put on your own mask before you put on a child's mask, we got to take care of ourselves first before we can give of ourselves.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are about everyone. It's really about making our corporate world look more like what we see outside every day. That's my goal. That's my mission.”
At Paladin, we are taking steps to better equip our teams with information about mental health and wellness. Learn more about our culture.
Paladin has committed to supporting mental health. As of September 2021, we have added in the Dollar a Day Foundation as our fall season of giving. This past fall, we raised over $12,000 for mental health organizations within Canada. Learn more about our four Seasons of Giving.