📫 3 Reasons Why

Having empathy is a fundamental skill when navigating the trials of adult life. This exercise will help you grow, reduce stress and have better relationships!

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Sometimes, people do, or say, really horrible, hurtful or just stupid things. Your immediate response is a flash of anger, or of disgust, perhaps it’s one of frustration or annoyance. Perhaps you vocalise those feelings; “You idiot!”, “What the hell did you do that for?”, “Are you stupid?”. Maybe you’re at work and so can’t say those things, but you think them instead; “Wow, Greg really is a dumbass”, “Sally is such a …!”, “How did Steve even get that damn promotion?”.

It leaves you feeling raw, emotional, sometimes drained, especially now. You wonder how it could have happened, how someone could be so slow, so simple, so obviously not cut out for whatever it is they were doing.

👉👈 Blaming the person

Here’s the thing. You’ve fallen for what psychologists call the fundamental attribution error. It’s one of a horrendously long list of cognitive biases (and I mean it’s a looong list). Cognitive bias are tricks your brain plays on you to make stumbling through existence easier by taking shortcuts in your thinking.

The fundamental attribution error goes along the lines of “That person did that thing because of some flaw in their personality”. It explains someones behaviour being caused by just who they are, not external factors. (This reverse is actually also true, when you do something bad, you don’t blame yourself, you blame external, environmental factors instead).

Someone pulls out of a junction in front of you causing you to brake hard? “Hey, what an a**hole!” or someone drops a plate, “Hey, what a clumsy a**hole!”, or someone get’s the clients name wrong on a report, “Hey, what a useless a**hole!”.

🕳 Avoiding the trap

So, to avoid the FAE trap and stop yourself getting angry, frustrated or upset at someone else's behaviour, try this exercise.

When something happens, and you feel that bubble of feeling rise, pause a moment and try to come up with at least three reasons that could explain that persons behaviour. Those reasons can’t be “They’re an a**hole Mike!”, but external reasons that could cause their behaviour.

For example - someone pulls out on you forcing you to brake. Perhaps they’re on their way to, or from, a hospital as a family member is ill and they’re distracted. Perhaps they couldn’t see your car as the sun is behind you, or you’re behind a bend.

A colleague misspells a client name on a proposal. Maybe they didn’t write that part. Perhaps Word aut0corrected it. Maybe it’s just a typo. Someone drops a plate. It was probably wet. They’ve got a bit of arthritis in that hand. Someone made them jump.

The great thing about this exercise is that it forces you to pause for a moment and put yourself in their shoes. It helps you exercise your empathy gland (there isn’t one of those, but you know what I mean). The pause puts distance between you and your feelings, slowing down your immediate reaction of anger or frustration and allowing you to practice empathy for someone. Ultimately, it might end with you asking R U OK? Which, frankly, can only ever be a good outcome to any bad situation.

👩‍💻 Some sweet links from the #people slack

Why we need more women in tech: https://redwerk.com/blog/why-we-need-more-women-in-tech/ @Tania Zhydkova

A return to work survey template for, you know, when we return to work: https://useworkshop.com/resources/covid-19-return-to-work-survey-template/ @Derek Homann

A bunch of resources around burnout: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/16rTwxOn6wgUkGPkmSNT0vLbft3DVSFM49zSpPX5OhYo/edit?usp=sharing @ Dan Newman

📪 End #post

Thanks for reading. Any feedback is warmly received, hit me up mike@hashtagpeople.co.uk.

If you enjoyed it, please hit the heart button - it helps spread the word.

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📫 Innovation, is it the secret sauce? 🌭

No. Not it isn't. Innovation is basically just "making things better", why do you need incubators, hothouses and other nonsense to "make things better"?

💯 Innovation

One of the things that really gets up my nose in the fancy pants world of business is how people think about, and action, the idea of innovation.

People seem to treat innovation as this golden god, a holy grail, the secret sauce of how to be successful.

Well, I’m here to tell you otherwise. Take a look out of your window. What do you see? You see the world and in that world are things that exist. They don’t need improving, they don’t need replacing.

They need maintaining.

The industries we work in are constantly looking for the next big thing, the leap that will help them go faster, do better, be stronger. Instead we should be looking for ways to maintain our existing systems, to make small, incremental improvements to the things we know already work.

🤏 Small things

For example, instead of trying to find a new tool or service to make your recruitment quicker try and find where your existing process isn’t working and make minor improvements. Perhaps you need to digitize one of the steps, or re-word a form to make it less confusing. Perhaps you can strip something out that you could do much, much later.

Innovation, for all it’s incubators and facilitators is really just a fancy way of saying “improving things”. Some companies (big, lumbering, sea freighters sized ones usually, but not always) think the best way of getting ahead, is to create an incubator, or an innovation division or a hothouse or whatever you want to call a group of people who get together to work out what the next Big Thing is.


What we really need is for everyone to innovate all the time. Instead of making innovation this big, shiny thing, it should be an every day thing. Instead of anointing people innovators, just agree that everyone should be innovating and offer the time, space and tools to do so.

🤔 Who knows? You do

What we know for a fact is that the people closest to the work, know the best way to do the work. They also know how to improve the way the work is done, but either don’t have the autonomy, authority or knowledge to improve the work - give them those things. Explain that innovation ISN’T big bang, it’s small changes that add up.

You’ll soon have innovation coming out of your ears as well as a faster, more accurate process and much, much happier people.

🗣 The #people channel

This section is part request, part gripe and part grovel.

I’ve noticed that often, someone will post a question, “Hey, does anyone have a template for a thing?” and someone else will reply, “Yeah, I’ll DM you.”

Which is nice, as it’s one person helping out another. The thing that could make that interaction better is if the person helping shared the template for a thing with the whole channel.

Then everyone benefits.

So, my ask/gripe/grovel is that we all behave a little more “open source” - if someone asks a question and you can help, please help my reply, or in the channel, then everyone benefits and we could even have a conversation about the thing!

📪 End #post

Thanks for reading. Any feedback is warmly received, hit me up mike@hashtagpeople.co.uk.

In the meantime, tell your friends about the email and the slack channel: http://hashtagpeople.co.uk/.

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📫 Clarity is Kindness

Being clear with your colleagues, or your reports, is kinder than trying to avoid hurting their feelings.

We’ve had a pile of new subscribers (not sure what the collective term for people people is), so welcome to you all! I’d love to know how you heard about us, drop me a reply and let me know! Also, if there’s any topics you want to hear about in this newsletter drop me a line, I’m happy to do some learnin’ on your behalf!

Stay safe,


Reading time: 3mins

Quit the bullsh*t

Giving someone feedback, especially negative feedback, is hard, right? You want to mind someones feelings, ensure they get the message, but don’t get upset. You want them to still like you after the conversation and you want them feel good and look forward to whatever it is they need to do to get better feedback next time.

So, you might deliver the age-old crap sandwich:

“That work did on the doodah was excellent.”
“The work did on the wotsit was terrible though.”
“But the work you did on the widget was great!”

It feels good to give people good feedback, it feels like it might temper the bad feedback and make the person feel less upset, still like you etc.

Except, it’s not very kind.

It’s not about you

The thing is, you think that you give them a crap sandwich, or whatever method of being kind you use is for them. But it’s not.

It’s for you. It’s so you don’t have to feel bad. It’s so you don’t have to be the bearer of bad tidings.

It’s to make you feel better.

Remember though, the feedback is for them, it’s to help them improve, to change a behaviour or to be mindful of a relationship. It’s about helping them to be better and, if you can’t be clear, transparent and open about the feedback in order to help a colleague, then you should get someone else to deliver the feedback instead.

But, it is also about you (just not in that way)

It’s about you in that:

  • You have to show up for a hard conversation.

  • You set an example, as a leader, that is easy to follow.

  • You can have an open heart, open mind conversation.

Those things will help you grow. Clarity is kindness, it’s a win-win conversation.

📪 End #post

Thanks for reading. Any feedback is warmly received, hit me up mike@hashtagpeople.co.uk.

In the meantime, tell your friends about the email and the slack channel: http://hashtagpeople.co.uk/.

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📫 Am I accountable or responsible?

I am accountable for you getting the work done. You're responsible for doing it properly, otherwise you become accountable to me.

You’re receiving this email as you’re a member of the #people slack channel (or you signed up for it!), if you’d rather not receive it, please hit the unsubscribe link at the bottom. Thanks, Mike.

I've just got back from some time with family and I feel like I've either been driving, eating or drinking! (not all at the same time!), so I thought I'd start the first in a new series of "Mike wrestled with this idea for a bit, so now he's teaching you as that's the best way for him to internalise the idea."

And who knows, you may learn something to (or, I'm teaching you to suck eggs).

Accountability vs responsibility

It's common for people to conflate these two terms or even mix them up, so here I am to help you not do those things.

👉 Accountable

When you're accountable for something the buck, literally, stops with you. It's unlikely that you'll have shared accountability as you are the one who will "answer for" whatever it is you're accountable to. (Also, shared accountability can lead to finger pointing).

You shoulder the burden of the work you are given, you are accountable for it. You can make others accountable, but only with their consent.

Being accountable means you have to "account for" or "give an account of" the thing. It doesn't necessarily mean you have to actually do the thing, but you'll face the consequences of a bad outcome of the thing.

Being accountable usually happens after the thing.

Results focused.

👁 Responsible

We're all responsible for picking up our rubbish, or washing up our coffee cups in the break room (or, your own kitchen). We're responsible for answering emails promptly and acting professionally. We're responsible for contributing to the successful running of the company by doing our work accurately and well. But we're not accountable for the success of the company - that lies with the big cheeses.

If, on the other hand, you shirk your responsibilities and do a bad job of something, then you are accountable for the consequences of that behaviour.

Multiple people can be responsible for a task, or set of tasks, but they cannot be given a responsibility, it must be assumed. Someone most take responsibility for a thing (which your employees do when they sign a contract, or agree to abide by a code of conduct for example).

Being responsible usually happens during the thing.

Task focused.

An example

A manager is accountable for their team in delivering a project. The manager is responsible for ensuring the team has the resources and tools they need to deliver the project.

A team member is responsible for doing their tasks as part of that project. When they do not do that, they are accountable for their behaviour.

A team member can take accountability for a particular piece of work being done. For example, if they choose to lead a working group and ensure they meet and deliver an agreed output.

📪 End Post

Was this useful? I found it useful to think and write about this to get my head around it, so you’ve all been a wonderful audience, thank you!

If you’d like to get in touch, please reply to this email or send me a message on mike@hashtagpeople.co.uk

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📫 When is it OK to ask R U OK?

When do you ask R U OK? Can you ask any time? What if they are OK? Will they be upset? How do I know someone needs help?

You're receiving this email as you're a member of the #people slack channel, if you'd rather not receive it, please hit the unsubscribe link at the bottom. Thanks, Mike.

This newsletter is a little less fun than others; it talks about depression, anxiety, stress and the consequences, including suicide. I can be an uncomfortable and unpleasant topic, but it is essential to talk about, especially in the situation we currently find ourselves.

My hope is that, by reading this email, some of you might be able to help a colleague who might otherwise be suffering in silence. If you do, please let me know, we all need good news stories right now.

Additionally, I'm not a medical professional, and so if any of the below resonates with you, either for yourself or someone you know, then reach out and talk, there are some links and phone numbers at the bottom of the mail. Although, if you want to reach out to me, I'm more than happy to talk. 👍

Reading time: 6 mins

👂 Listen to this newsletter as a podcast. 🎧

Leave me a message for the podcast!

Depression at work

In 2019, 1,800 out of every 100,000 workers suffered from anxiety, depression or work-related stress in Great Britain. Each of those cases accounted for 21.2 days of lost work. [^1]

That's 12.8 million days, just in Great Britain.

"In 2019, there were 5,691 suicides registered in England and Wales, an standardised rate of 11.0 deaths per 100,000 population and consistent with the rate in 2018. "[^2]

Three-quarters of those deaths were men.

These figures are shocking. But they highlight a problem that has been around for a while and will continue to be around as long as going to work is a thing. Next year, when the real cost of the pandemic is known, it's likely these stats will be higher.

As people battle with uncertainty, loneliness and job losses, it's crucial now, more than ever, to take care of each other. 🤗

How does depression feel?

Spotting depression is not always easy. The symptoms and signs can range from feeling a bit blue, to an overwhelming sense of despair and hopelessness.

This latter end of the scale may impair someones thought processes; their ability to focus and apply attention could be low or non-existent and negative thought patterns, and loops, which could lead to suicidal thoughts are also possible.

The UK mental health charity Mind says that people with depression may also feel restless, guilty, numb, isolated, a sense of unreality, no confidence or self-esteem and unable to find pleasure in things. [^3]

What does depression look like?

It feels awkward, asking R U OK? What if they're not OK, what do I do then? What if they are OK and just having a bad day, will I upset them? It's better to ask than not to ask, someone who is just having a bad day may snap at you, but they'll get over it, someone who is depressed may appreciate you asking.

That said, here are some behaviours that people suffering from depression at work will exhibit:

  • Avoiding social events:
    This will be harder to spot as everyone is at work. But if a colleague is skipping the virtual drinks or coffee chats you've been organising this might be a time to ask R U OK?

  • Difficulty speaking, thinking or concentrating
    A usually eloquent colleague that has begun to repeat themselves, mix up their arguments or start a different conversation from the one you thought you were having might need a chat. Equally, someone who isn't delivering and cites being unable to concentrate may need to talk.

  • Difficulty making decisions
    Making decisions can often be challenging. Sometimes work throws things at us that are more challenging than life's regular pros and cons. Still, someone who repeatedly makes easy decisions look difficult, or procrastinates on simple binary decisions may need help.

  • Being offline, or un-contactable more frequently or longer than usual
    This may be a sign that they're sleeping too much or simply unable to bring themselves to work, even at their kitchen table.

  • Getting angry or agitated easily
    Frequent, out of character angry outbursts, emails or chats my indicate changes in mood that can be linked to depression.

Be considerate - the odd example of these from a colleague, or a someone consistently only exhibiting one behaviour may not be depressed. After all, some people don't like social events, and others struggle to make decisions. If you spot multiple of the behaviours consistently, it's worth reaching out.

Also consider talking to mutual colleagues to see if anyone has witnessed the same behaviours, or is similarly concerned. But be mindful of gossip though - sometimes you know your colleagues better than their friends and family, we often spent more time with other humans at work than we did with humans we consider friends and family.

Pay closer attention to those people you know live alone. I've colleagues in Melbourne and Sydney who I know live alone and check in regularly with them. But being alone, especially in a lockdown, can be extra tricky.

How can I help someone with depression?

The most valuable thing you can do is listen. Be open and honest about depression and difficult emotions. You may not even need to say anything, just being there to listen might be enough.

Asking someone, out of the blue, R U OK? can still feel a bit … forced and unnatural. A good friend of mine, Matt, gave some great advice:

Give your question some context. If you’ve noticed someone isn’t coming to work drinks [virtual or otherwise], asking “R U OK?” is a bit out of the blue and your colleague might thing ‘What? What have you noticed?’.

Instead, asking something like “Hey Bob, you used to come to all the drinks, but we haven’t seen you recently, R U OK?” or if the behaviour is affecting performance, then as a manager, you could ask “Hey Emilia, your last two reports haven’t been as polished as usual, is there anything I can help with, R U OK?”

Providing context allows your colleague to say “Yeah, the wife has arranged a rock climbing club on the drinks night, that’s why I don’t come anymore.” or, “Yeah, I tend to get a bit down after alcohol, so avoid it now.” This gives you both an opportunity to talk about what’s happening.

Support them to get help. Don't force anyone to get help. Reassure them that it's OK to ask for help, we all need it from time to time. We spend a pile of money on making our bodies look great in a gym, but little to no time is spent on one of our most important muscles - our brain. Also, don't do everything for them if they're struggling. It might be tempting to take as much off their plate as possible, but ask if they need help and encourage them to do some things themselves.

Keep in touch with them. Make sure you initiate conversations. It might be hard for someone with depression to reach out - they may not have the energy to, they may feel like they're being a bother. Something as simple as a Slack or Teams message saying hi, or asking how they are can make a big difference.

Don't criticise! Unless you've experienced depression yourself, it's hard to comprehend what someone is going through. It's not just being a bit sad, it's much more than that and suggesting someone "Snap out of it" or "smell the roses" definitely won't help.

Also, check what kind of things your organisation provides already for this kind of thing. Some orgs have an employee helpline or similar that you can use for help and support.

What about me?

Finally, make sure you take good care of yourself. It's hard to be useful to anyone if you're also struggling. It's like being on an airplane, and the oxygen mask drops down. Fit yours before helping others, passed-out people can't fit oxygen masks on those who need their help.

Practice and look after your own mental well being and don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

If you, or someone you know needs help

Here are some numbers and addresses:


  • Samaritans: 116 123

  • Mind
    https://www.mind.org.uk/ for help with depression.

  • Anxiety UK:
    03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm)

  • Men's Health Forum

  • Sane


  • Samaritans: 1 (800) 273-8255 (TALK).

  • https://www.mentalhealth.gov/

  • Crisis Text Line:
    Text SIGNS to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free crisis counseling

  • Veterans Crisis Line:

  • Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline
    (1-800-662-HELP (4357)


  • Samaritans: 135 247

  • Head to Health

  • Beyond Blue
    1300 22 46 36

  • Black Dog Institute:

  • Lifeline:
    Phone: 13 11 14 or Text: 0477 13 11 14 6pm - midnight AEST

📪 End #post

Thanks for reading. Any feedback is warmly received, hit me up mike@hashtagpeople.co.uk.

In the meantime, tell your friends about the email and the slack channel: http://hashtagpeople.co.uk/.

You're receiving this email as you're a member of the #people slack channel, if you'd rather not receive it, please hit the unsubscribe link at the bottom. Thanks, Mike.


[^1]: https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress.pdf

[^2]: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2019registrations

[^3]: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/depression/symptoms/#CommonSignsAndSymptomsOfDepression

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