Feeling Lonely at Work

Key Point: Too many darn people are just lonely at work. The most advanced cultures in organizations are making intentional strides in promoting, measuring, and achieving a much more inclusive environment. This strategy comes from the deep belief that everyone belongs and matters (unless they continuously clash with the organization’s values). When everyone matters and belongs, each person maximizes personal contribution. This workplace philosophy goes way beyond implementing diversity and identity representation. It also extends well beyond respectfully listening to all others. In my view, complete inclusion in our workplace is a leadership priority and involves the conscious commitment to also defeat workplace loneliness and isolation. I find it unacceptable and ironic that organizations now have all the tools of technology, social media and collaboration platforms yet we find too many people lonely at work. And this loneliness is having a material negative impact on employee’s physical/mental health resulting in increased workplace disability. According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, studies have linked social isolation to health outcomes such as high blood pressure and obesity, and lonely individuals have also been found to be more prone to depression and suicide.

Social isolation involves a lack of social interaction, contact or meaningful communication with other people. Socially isolated people also tend to have a lack of significant social networks such as family and friends, and hence may not see or talk to other people very often. Social isolation is the first cousin of loneliness. However, lets not confuse loneliness with being alone. Many of us are perfectly content when alone, and solitude is not necessarily linked to loneliness. Loneliness is a feeling of not having one’s social needs met, feeling isolated or feeling alone in a negative way. It is possible to be surrounded by people and have a lot of social interaction and still feel lonely, perhaps because these interactions are low in quality and/or do not lead to feelings of being understood or cared for. 

We need to recognize the signs of workplace loneliness or social isolation. And although there is somewhat of a personal self-accountability for people to want to become engaged and connected, most people do not make the conscious choice to disconnect or become isolated. It often happens like the proverbial frog sitting in turned up heat. Bit by bit, increased lethargy in contributing proactively in work conversation, decreased motivation in seeking companionship, and eventually there is more and more withdrawal. Loneliness and social isolation increases at work and often extends into personal life as well; and vice versa.

Let’s look after and commit to loving each other at work! Yes… That “LOVE” word is about what’s important in life, and what’s important in life is a sense of belonging, being significant, valued and appreciated for our unique imperfect selves.

Character Moves:

  1. If you’re a leader it’s your job to include, nurture, grow and develop your team. If anyone becomes socially isolated, you have a part to play in that.
  2. If you’re a teammate, get to know and include your colleagues. Accept their unique, imperfect selves and connect at a personal level. 
  3. If you’re feeling lonely and socially isolated, regardless of how hard and counterintuitive, reach out and give to someone else. However small of a step, extend and become a contributor. And know it’s more than ok to talk to a professional. If your employer has an employee assistance program, use it. If not, join that church group or others. They have a place for you. 

Included in The Triangle,

– Lorne

One Millennial View: I work strange hours (5 a.m. to 1 p.m.), and let’s just say that doesn’t bode well to out-of-work socializing. 1 p.m. is not happy hour, and we all have other stuff to do for the rest of the day. A self-proclaimed introverted comic that makes me laugh recently had a bit on “happy hour” and his dislike of it, with the punch line: “We’re done here. Let’s go home!” But truthfully, being able to socialize and grab a drink with clients, customers, co-workers or anyone at work, is a privilege many of us don’t have. If that’s a work perk of yours, don’t take it for granted. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Turn On the Radio

Key Point: Organizations are currently working in parallel streams of reality and in almost different “centuries” at the same time. There is a work revolution going on; some say it’s the fourth industrial revolution. Emerging institutions like Singularity University and leading companies are helping to bring an exponential mindset to advanced organizations and their leaders. Companies like ours are flattening out, looking to drop decision making to the most appropriate levels, facilitating unprecedented forms of team work, moving at lightening “start-up” speed to get things done, helping people integrate work and life, and much more. This includes huge investments in people and feeding their insatiable curiosity and hungry growth mindset. We are getting rid of restrictive and backward thinking like seniority based holidays and sick time. People work from where the need to in order to achieve the best results. Everything in organization design and people/technology systems is about driving a high adaptability and results quotient, while we become obsessive about delivering relentless value so that customers FEEL we are indispensable. This is stimulating, hard, and even mind-bending work. It is necessary for survival and not some goofy egalitarian system gone wild. We are constantly looking to disrupt ourselves for a greater good! (And yes, of course, we are committed to being sustainably profitable). 

At the same time, I talked to someone recently who works for an organization where people could not get top leadership permission to turn on the radio in the “shop,” because workers might get distracted or pampered. Everyone knows working while listening to music results in a downward shift in productivity? Huh? People work in places just down the road from us where they still punch time cards. Or leaders genuinely still believe that people are out to screw them and have to be watched. I know employees who work for “bosses” that believe they ought to “kick ass” everyday and “recognition is for sissies.” Some organizations still require people to ask for permission to act like an adult. They believe people are replaceable and simply just a necessary component to running a business. If you ask the people managing those organizations what their purpose is, they will often describe what they transact at, rather than passionately outlining a deeply important reason to exist. Their “vision” is most often defined by EBITDA or revenue/net income (or the ever elusive “exit strategy”). Up-sell, cross sell, spin sell are part of their everyday vocabulary. And many of these companies are very financially successful, sometimes for decades. My question is, for how long? 

My hope and encouragement is for every entrepreneur out there to fiercely attack and put these backward organizations out of their fat, lazy, margin rich business. Look at companies that have high margin and yet have lots of friction and go after their market with a vengeance. Define a higher purpose, and be obsessively compulsive about real value for your customers. Measure how much you’ve helped and made a difference to them rather than squeezing them for every sales dollar. Your most important sales pipeline are crazy, happy customers that will publicly want to associate their brand with yours. Develop a people first system that attracts teammates who care about customers and the purpose of the business as much or even more than you!! And, right from the beginning, put in the latest technology and processes that make your customers literally say… “Wow.” Be relentlessly committed to having customers line up, metaphorically or actually for your product and service. Now here is the fun part: Create a business model that makes you 10x better than your competitors. This is not fantasy. It’s what the best entrepreneurial companies are doing! If you’re not willing or able to be an entrepreneur, then go work for someone who is. Stop working for people that treat you as a replaceable part because they will gladly oblige; it’s just a matter of time. Also, the “Christmas party” and mysterious annual bonus is NOT reflective of an advanced company. Here is a situation where size does NOT matter. A five person electrical contractor can apply all the modern leadership and reflect a great culture just as much as Google, Facebook, or ATB. Some might argue it’s even easier. 

Character Moves:

  1. If you haven’t already, join the revolution! You’re worth it! Become part of and fiercely contribute to something you deeply care about, and be sure that organization also deeply cares about the authentic, unique you! 
  1. Remember that you’re already an entrepreneur in a lot of ways. You likely are always looking to make things better (and not just a little better, but insanely better)!!  We are BIG VERBS! Be 10x big and think 10x BIG!

Tuned in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: I’ve never worked directly in sales, but I know that if I was selling I’d have to completely, 100 percent believe in the product. I would have a tough time selling anything I didn’t fully understand, buy into, or hold dear. That said, an important question might be: Could you sell yourself your own job? Why is it worth 40 plus hours a week of investment to you? Or do you just own it because it’s better than nothing? First question: Do they even let you listen to the radio?

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Social Physics, Slack, Google and More

Key Point: The nature of work is being transformed right in front of us. One way or another, we are all impacted and involved. The connected digital world is giving us new collaboration and communication tools that are mind-blowing, really. Legacy systems like email may soon be gone from the work place. If you think this is unlikely, ask anyone under 30 how often they use personal email today. 

I’m writing this blog from the Google Next conference in San Francisco. The Moscone Convention Center is filled with thousands of people from around the world, all committed to determine how cloud-based solutions (including new productivity tools like Google’s G Suite) will reinvent business models and ways of working. Honestly, after sitting in one presentation after another, it feels a little like I’ve just dropped LSD. I’m on a somewhat weird and exciting trip where part of me wants to stop the room from swimming, while the other can hardly wait to see what’s next. (I’m a product of the 60’s, and for the record, have never dropped acid).

One simple live demo at the conference today involved seeing a team working together, real-time, from multiple locations, connected visually and collaborating on the rollout campaign for a new coffee company. The live demonstration only lasted about 10 minutes, yet one could actually see how a distributed team of people in both San Fran and New York (including an outside ad agency), could creatively explode from scheduling a meeting to completing one, (with the outcome being a fully completed product launch campaign in HOURS). That historically would have taken weeks, at best. Organizations where people need assistants to schedule meetings (instead of using a meeting bot), or send things to others in attachments, wait for approval from central sources, and have things handed to-and-from other groups, will get CRUSHED.

I am not overstating this. As an example, one of the world’s most prestigious management consulting/accounting firms, PWC, migrated to the G Suite with 250,000 users in 150 countries and their internal study found that on average, employees gained NINE HOURS of increased productivity per PERSON/WEEK.

More importantly, it increased the quality and speed of innovative work from the right people in the right roles at exactly the right time. Case studies showing breakthrough results from companies in all industries are just beginning to get published. Look out if you’re not on this flight path. 

Yesterday, I met with execs from Slack, the sizzling hot Silicon Valley company that millennials and project teams like to use for real-time messaging and communication. Slack has been a viral consumer-type product; now growing up to become enterprise and Google is zipping up their Hangout product to take Slack head on. At Slack, their best thinkers are leaning on research from people like Dr. Alex “Sandy” Pentland of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to Pentland, creativity is born of two processes: The first is exploration, where people move out of their comfort zones and actively seek people with different views and ideas. The second is recognizing that engaged groups have a collective intelligence that is mostly independent and better than the intelligence of individual participants. However Pentland, whose book on the matter is entitled Social Physics, also points out that by cleverly processing  “big data,” it is possible to identify patterns of behavior, just as scientists once worked out the laws of the physical world. Pentland asserts that understanding social physics lets people “tune” social networks and obtain the results they want. This allows certain aspects of human life—from how companies operate to even how communities work—to be “re-engineered” to make them more efficient.  And of course if you actually “Google” Pentland, you can watch one of his videos taken from… You guessed it… Google’s campus. My point is that this not just rewarmed “team” stuff. This movement involves the best brains in the world using data and science to reimagine teamwork. 

We know that accelerating peer-to-peer collaboration will unleash greater creativity, harnessing groups that become more engaged and autonomous. Work will likely be more rewarding. In full flight of exploration is the relationship between group effectiveness in conjunction with machine learning/artificial intelligence, and data science. And that whole world is rapidly evolving.

Character Moves:

  1. Learn how to use EVERY part of the G Suite or a similar tool set in your personal life if you can’t at work. Get darn uncomfortable with this new way.  And by the way, I sure as heck am. How fun and exciting! 
  2. Learn everything you can about the Cloud, AI, Big Data, and do not think it’s for tech folks because we are all tech people now. In fact, I think the coolest fusion is “Geeks & Jocks.” Be hybrid (and recognize that no amount of reading helps me understand why the market values Snap at $30+B???? Haha).

Socially Physical in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: This is the best “if you can’t beat em, join em” situation that most of us could ask for. Resisters have already lost without knowing it, so everyone might as well enlist! I certainly don’t see any negatives, and it truly is exciting to start incorporating G Suite and Slack into your professional lives (I use both). Find your gurus, read their stuff, follow their Instagram, listen to their podcasts, and start figuring out how to implement their practices into your own routines. Gosh, remember when science and technology may have been boring in the classroom? Times have changed.

– Garrett Rubis

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Head in the Cloud

Key Point: We can’t afford to waste time redoing work. I was reminded of this the hard way last Thursday night. The experience negatively impacted my readers, writing partner/editor, company team members, dinner guests, and me. I was very frustrated and this cascaded to my executive assistant and IT support team as well.

I write my blogs in advance of the night Garrett and I review it and schedule publication. We know it’s important to our readers to receive the blog consistently (every Tuesday and Friday like clockwork). Quite a few of our North American readers make it part of their personal routine to read it first thing the morning it’s published. So it’s important not to miss. It usually takes me 1.5 to two hours to write the draft of one blog. This past week, I wrote blog No. 2 of the week on a Tuesday flight to Toronto. After getting the draft done, I saved it on my device, an iPad Pro. I knew I had meetings all day Thursday and a dinner meeting Thursday night, resulting in a very tight timeframe for Garrett and me to review that night before scheduling publication for Friday 5:00 a.m. PST. As soon as my Thursday all-day meeting ended, I grabbed my iPad and expected to pull up my draft, add a few finishing touches, send to Garrett and head out to my dinner. Easy, peasy.

Surprise… All my company email had completely disappeared off my device. My blog, sitting in a draft folder in outlook, was inaccessible. Two hours later, after heroic efforts by my exceptional assistant and a top notch IT teammate, my email was restored. However, the event permanently wiped out my draft blog with zero recovery options. So two hours late for my dinner meeting and having to do a complete rewrite, well frankly, I lost my energy and practical window to create a new blog. Garrett, his ever creative and resourceful self, wisely chose to write an apology blog and attach a helpful article. You know the rest.

With current advanced cloud based networks like Google’s, the process of digital work is changed forever. I’m writing this blog in my Gmail account, and that is now securely stored in the Google cloud. So what happened last Thursday will not happen to me again. I will never press “save” again and store content in a folder held on servers behind a fire wall and/or on any device. With my drafts in Gmail, Google Docs, Google Drive, etc, my blog will always be available. All I need to do is grab ANY device, log in and my stuff is always there. There is a remote chance that the Google network could go “down,” but if that happened we’d likely be experiencing some catastrophic “world” event in which having access to my data would likely be a secondary priority.

Cloud based storage and fantastic productivity/communication platforms like Google’s G Suite results in the work experience changing for the better, forever. Accessing content from anywhere there is internet access, on any device, at any time, allows us FREEDOM and CHOICE; two huge contributors to personal happiness. And how we work is being transformed as well. Being able to video connect individuals and groups easily, having multiple people from anywhere working on a single version document, resulting in one version of truth, integrating with search, etc. etc; well the possibilities regarding reinventing work are limited only by our imagination. It is very exciting, and possibilities for 10x work improvement are literally endless.

In my new role as Chief Evangelist, my team and I have the unique opportunity to make Google’s G Suite platform available to 5,000 of the best teammates in the world. Thinking about how these superb workers are going to apply this tool set/platform almost makes me giddy with excitement. The key thing to understand is that this initiative includes superb new technology AND is also first and foremost about being able to contribute and create more effectively, individually and collectively. We will also be able to more seamlessly integrate work into the way we want to live today!! This is BIG and it is TRANSFORMATIVE! Lucky us.

Character Moves:

1. Commit to working and creating with the most modern collaboration, communication and innovation tools/platforms/systems available. In today’s work this means your digital device has platforms like Google’s G Suite and applications like Slack, WhatsApp, Linkedin, etc.

2. Recognize and embrace these modern platforms from the perspective of living with more autonomy, unleashing your creativity, connecting better with others and becoming richer in every way. And as I often say: Do it now because you’re worth it.

Clouds in the Triangle,


P.S. if you need any help learning to use these digital tools /platforms find a 9-year-old like my grandson; they are excellent tutors and fun to hang out with too!!!

One Millennial View: As my Dad knows, I often have to push myself to “do it now.” I can be a world-class procrastinator, and sometimes try to convince myself that I’m magically “more effective” if I’m on a tight deadline (probably B.S.). Thankfully, these easily accessible applications play a huge role in my professional and personal life, and despite any challenges that 2017 might bring, it’s incredible what we have access to. What a time. There’s no excuse not to utilize them.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Lorne Rubis

Lorne Rubis

The constant in Lorne’s diverse career is his ability to successfully lead organizations through significant change. At US West, where he served as a Vice President / Company Officer, Lorne was one of only seven direct reports ...
Read more about Lorne Rubis

Listen to Lorne's latest podcasts

Confidence, Patti Smith and Dylan: Failing authentically

Breathe fire: Leading and inspiring ourselves

Asking for feedback: The why

Taking on a new role: Lorne's journey

Lessons from Dot: Integrating technology into workplace culture


The Character Triangle Companion


Download the New eBook Today


The Character Triangle

Character Triangle Book CoverBuild Character, Have an Impact, and Inspire Others



Character Triangle

Our character is exclusively ours. We define it by how we think and what we do. I believe that acting with Character is driven by what I call the Character Triangle.

What, exactly, is the Character Triangle (CT)?

The CT describes and emphasizes three distinct but interdependent values:

Be Accountable: first person action to make things better, avoiding blame.
Be Respectful: being present, listening, looking again, focusing on the process.
Be Abundant: generous in spirit, moving forward, minimizing the lack of.

Read more about the Character Triangle


Be Accountable

Be Respectful

Be Abundant

Free Resources