The only difference between the word employer and employee is a small r, and the weight, practice, and understanding of these two words and roles are vastly different. In the United States, most of us have to work, and the majority of workplaces do not center all of our 37.2 trillion cells. I’ve been researching best methods of hiring and retaining workers. I know there are many groups out there that have created places centered in the dignity and health of everyone. Unfortunately, dominant workplace ethics and practices are still heavily steeped in extraction, urgency, and competition. How much can the worker do for the workplace, with the underlying assumption that the worker is already benefiting because, hey, they at least have a job. We can do better than that, and we should want to.
It’s true that trying to do things differently puts you in the minority, that’s not a bad thing here. Yes, it takes time, energy, and resources. Yes, there is a ton of trial and error and risk in it. AND, at the heart of moving from a place of harmful business practices to a truly healing and equitable process that centers the wholeness of you and your employees, only makes the work more life enhancing and FUN!
How many of you know and understand your hiring processes? How do your hiring practices speak to your mission and values? Do you take the time to check in and offer feedback with the interviewee to see how the process was for them? Here’s how Threshold Philanthropy showed one of our newest hires who Threshold was and what we are about!
(Light Seakers: First Series (Raven) mixed media on canvas, 2019 by Liz Rideau)
Finding the job + Applying
I saw the job announcement for a position with Threshold Philanthropy in March of 2022. I skimmed the page, felt a little flutter in my heart and immediately went back to my workday. Change is scary…but so is staying the same. The past several years have drained me emotionally, personally and professionally. My voice, my anger and my truths had been stifled and somewhere along the way I stopped speaking-out because silence was safer than conflict and dishonor. Then I received 2 messages from 2 different people within 2 days of each other who expressed that there was a job posting that would be “perfect” for me…at Threshold Philanthropy. So, I applied.
I am a classic introvert who prefers to work behind the scenes and observe rather than speak aloud. Most of my professional life was spent on the other side of the interview table, writing job announcements, posting to multiple platforms, developing appropriate interview questions, coordinating and conducting interviews. I am quite familiar with the nervous tension in the eyes of interviewees and now I was the one under pressure.
Before each interview, I smudged my room, and did some breathing exercises to calm down. Thankfully there was an itinerary provided before-hand with what to expect; submit writing samples, one-on-one conversations with each Threshold team member, and a group conversation before decisions were made. I was relieved that I was not being evaluated ONLY on my conversational and task related skills.
After each communication I would be overcome with a wave of emotion, fear, excitement, anxiety and finally, acceptance. I also, began to grasp that Threshold was not just a place of employment but one of growth, community care and collective healing. Something I needed so badly. Until now, I had been treading water in oppressive colonial systems grasping tightly to culture and community in hopes they would save me from drowning. When really, I just needed a hand to help me climb out of the waves so I could get a different view of what is possible. I want us all to do the work of decolonizing and re-humanizing the people who work at our organizations and I am proud to be part of Threshold Philanthropy that is leading the way in this healing and restorative work.
(photo of Threshold Philanthropy staff on a zoom meeting)
I was offered a position with Threshold Philanthropy and so was a new work buddy, Metasabia! The original job and duties were split into two full-time positions to highlight and amplify our individual genius. This was how the Threshold team showed their abundance mindset. They had planned to hire one person for the role and with guidance and challenging conversations welcomed two.
Intention, Change, and Learnings from our CEO’s
The hiring processes that I have experienced have been tedious and extraneous on the employer side and stressful, confusing, and sometimes intimidating on the interviewee. I wanted our hiring practice to be people centered, joy infused, loving, and accessible. Historically, hiring structures were not set up for our identities to feel welcome and safe. We were committed to compensating the interviewees, checking in with them throughout the interview process, and giving and receiving consensual feedback.
We wanted to be transparent with them about the knowns and unknowns of our work and our roles. It felt honest, equitable, and authentic. That way the interviewee can get a sense of how we role and if this was a good fit for them. During this interview process, I understood why mainstream hiring is done the way it is. Being intentional in welcoming, acknowledging, and tending to people’s needs and labor takes a LOT more thought, which takes time. Our three-person team had to pause on other work in order to have the hiring process that we wanted. It was worth every moment of our time.
Sometimes the universe doesn’t give us what we want, it gives us what we need. After incredible conversations with Liz and Sabia’s reference checks and thinking more about our team’s needs, I couldn’t shake the notion that both of these remarkable women were meant to join our team. Bringing on two members at the same time could help mitigate feelings of isolation that one team member might feel. I was keenly aware that suggesting a shift at the 11th hour might bring stress and tension to my team and our founding funder. If we were considering bringing on an additional person in the next year, why couldn’t we adapt the original job description and create two roles and bring two people on? During the offer and negotiations we can invite Liz and Sabia to co-create their positions with the understanding that their’s’ will be an evolving process? In communicating my thoughts, I said that I would not prevent the process unless it felt right to everyone that we shift.
After initial reservations, Morgan, Cristina and Beth agreed to move forward with the two offers. Sabia and Liz seemed energized and excited (after an initial period of being stunned!) at the prospect of co-creating their roles at Threshold. When we gathered as a newly expanded team, I was overwhelmed with a similar feeling/energy that I have had after birthing and meeting each of my children – a sense of coming back into relationship with someone I have always known. “There you are!” Liz and Sabia have helped us to become more whole, healthy, and liberated as a work community. I have personally been challenged, supported, and inspired to do our work in more values-aligned, holistic, and joy-centered ways. When we allow for creativity, emergence, and center our relationships, we do our best work.
(Light Seakers: First Series (Hop the Fence) mixed media on canvas, 2019 by Liz Rideau)
Commitment + Practice
Throughout the hiring process, our team made sure to reiterate that this is new for us too, and we want to create an accessible process that feels right for all of us. Power dynamics are always at play, and we wanted the interviewee to know and feel that we honored their time and effort to be here. Our commitment is to the whole and sacred person, we believe that our communities need to know that their life and time are precious.
In the intentional slowing down and putting one’s humanity first, a mundane and strenuous process like hiring, has the possibility to offer everyone an opportunity for growth and healing. It doesn’t have to be wrought with anxiety, pressure, and extraction, it can be a space to connect with people’s ideas, talents, experiences and hopefully at the end, everyone leaves feeling appreciated and heard. Workplaces cultivating joy, humility, curiosity, and love are sprouting everywhere! Please search, ask, learn, and CREATE them. Some of our learnings came from the Disability Justice movement and framework. We find that these toolkits and practices are helpful in supporting a liberatory work environment that honor all people and identities.