Dec. 19, 2022

Permission to Feel More Human at Work

How not to give into toxic positivity

The holiday season can bring up a lot of feelings around work and life in general, so we’re sharing one of our favorite conversations from 2022. Nora chats with bestselling author Susan Cain. Fast Company named her one of its Most Creative People in Business, and her record-smashing TED Talk has been viewed over 30 million times on and YouTube combined. Susan’s latest bestseller is called Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole. For more info on our presenting sponsor, check out

Host: Nora Ali

Producer:  Bella Hutchins and Raymond Luu   

Video Editors: McKenzie Marshall and Christie Muldoon

Production, Mixing & Sound Design: Daniel Markus

Music: Daniel Markus & Breakmaster Cylinder

Fact Checker: Kate Brandt 

Senior Producer: Katherine Milsop


Full transcripts for all Business Casual episodes available at


Nora Ali: For Morning Brew, this is Business Casual, bringing you convos with people you know, and some you may not know yet, to make business less intimidating. Because money talks, but it does not have to be dull. I'm your host, Nora Ali. Now let's get down to business.

We talk a lot on the show about how to get ahead in your career. We hear from entrepreneurs who share their founding stories, creators who offer brand and marketing insights, lots of career hacks that we hope will inspire you. But one thing I've been thinking about and actually tweeting about a lot recently is how to be a good, pleasant human at work. And how it's just a vastly underrated characteristic. Many of us think about work differently after the collective trauma of being in a pandemic. How do we navigate all of this pain and loss when we're at our jobs? Should we even try to deal with it at work? 

Well, today we're speaking with author Susan Cain, who is a truly inspiring guest. Fast Company named her one of its most creative people in business. And her record-smashing TED Talk has been viewed over 30 million times on and YouTube combined. I became a fan after reading her first book, Quiet, which helped me realize, as it did for many others, that I am an introvert and that can actually be a superpower. We talked about Susan's latest bestseller, called Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole. She gives a voice to employees and employers who want permission to feel more human and honest at work, and not rely on relentless optimism. 

So I got a bit vulnerable myself in this conversation and brought up my therapist more than once. Some of the things Susan brought up are things I'm working through with my therapist: how we might feel forced to hide negative feelings and put on our emotional superhero costume at work. And how it can be emotionally draining to not be your full self in a world where we've been increasingly defined by the work that we do. I absolutely loved this conversation, and it honestly made me feel seen. Susan is the best, and I hope you enjoy this deeply personal chat as much as I did. That's next, after the break.

Susan, hello. Excited to have you on.

Susan Cain: Hi, Nora. Thank you so much for having me.

Nora Ali: I'm a big fan. Your book, Quiet, is what first made me realize I'm an introvert. Because I like people, I'm gregarious, but I thought I was extroverted for so long, and now I know the power of being an introvert, so thank you for that.

Susan Cain: It's such a funny thing. I can't tell you how many people say what you just said about not having realized who they really were beforehand, which is always interesting to me.

Nora Ali: I would love to start with a little bit of an icebreaker, if you're down.

Susan Cain: Okay.

Nora Ali: And it is workplace-related. So this is a segment we're calling Professional Pet Peeves.

Susan Cain: Okay.

Nora Ali: So if you could wave a magic wand and get rid of some uniquely accepted professional courtesy or some way that we operate in the workplace that annoys you that you'd want to get rid of, what would that be?

Susan Cain: Open office plans, for sure.

Nora Ali: Ooh.

Susan Cain: Which is a kind of campaign that I've been on since the year 2005 when I first started researching Quiet, and one of the first things I did was fly from the East Coast to Silicon Valley and plop myself down there for awhile, because I figured it was a nirvana for introverts there. And I showed up at all these different offices and all these people were whispering to me. They're like, "I hate this open office plan. I can't focus. I can't concentrate. I can't work. But I can't tell my boss because I'll be seen as not a team player, and what should I do?" And then I went and researched it and found that there's all kinds of reasons not to have open office plans, and yet they persist.

Nora Ali: One of my favorite parts of your book is the relationship to music that you write about. It's been transformative to you and helps fuel the focus of the book. You would listen to what your friends would call "funeral music" in your dorm room, the sad, minor key music. And it got me thinking about one of the most powerful musical experiences of my life, was performing Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio in A Minor. I'm a violinist, and the last movement literally turns into a funeral march at the end. 

(Music playing)

And I'm playing these high, almost painful notes on the violin. It's supplemented by low, sustained, deeply sad notes by the cello and piano. And I just felt like a different person. I was moved by it. I still think about that moment—it was many, many years ago—even more so than all the happy stuff I've played in my past. This pull towards sad music and sadness generally, what does that tell us about humanity?

Susan Cain: And I had goosebumps just now as you were describing your experience playing that music. I think partly because I know exactly what you were describing. And also it's very meta. The reason that so many people love this kind of music so much is because, above all, it connects us with each other, because the music is expressing the pain that is sometimes involved in being alive, and pain that we don't have that many avenues for expressing in everyday life. And the music is kind of saying, "Hey, you and you and you, we're all together in this. This is something that we all feel, and we understand each other and we're going to take this further step of turning it into something beautiful."

But I really do think, at the end of the day, it's connection and it's love that is getting expressed. And that this is one of the things that we humans automatically do. I mean the word "compassion," which has become such a commonly used word, especially now in the business sphere, but we don't stop to think about what it really means. We think it kind of means some vague idea of "be nice," but literally the etymology of the word is that it means to suffer with someone, and there's a capacity that we all have to do that. It's one of the great bonding mechanisms that we have. And so it's a shame not to be using it.

Nora Ali: Sadness is universal. I've had conversations with my friends, lately especially, where maybe it's the pandemic, it's the environment that we're in now, but there's just more underlying sadness, I think generally, that we're open to admitting now. And our listeners might be thinking, "All right, we're talking about sadness and sorrow and longing and compassion. What does that have to do with work?" So how do you think about the idea of bringing your full self to work, whether it's the good, the bad...I've been in jobs where I have to be "on," and there has to be this air of positivity. So how do you reconcile that? How do you embrace that sadness, even in the workplace?

Susan Cain: I want to start by saying that it's a very complicated question, because, first of all, there's a way in which no one wants to feel obliged. I mean, there's the ideal of bring your whole self to work, but nobody wants to be obliged, therefore, to have to disclose everything that they might be feeling or going through. 

I mean, I had this experience back when I was a corporate lawyer where I might be going through a difficult thing in my life or whatever, and then I would get to the office and the environment was very much that you weren't supposed to talk about those things, and so I didn't, and I put the smile on. And there is a way in which after a few hours, you kind of even forget about what was bothering you and you start feeling better, because it's all kind of tamped down that way. And that has something to recommend it. So I want to admit that, on the one hand. But then on the other hand, there was also this feeling over the long term, this feeling that every morning I would get to work and have to put on my emotional superhero costume where it wasn't really me showing up—it was someone else. And that can work for awhile, and then you can get burned out pretty quickly, because it's real emotional labor to be disguising your emotional state over a prolonged period of time.

Nora Ali: In fact, my therapist has said exactly that to me.

Susan Cain: Oh, interesting. What exactly?

Nora Ali: Because I've explained to her, I have a job where I have to be in front of people, in front of a microphone, and this translates to my personal relationships where I don't really let my friends and family know when I'm feeling sad or down or anxious, and I tend to be the one to receive their negative feelings, and it makes me feel burnt out. And she said, "It's because you're putting on a front; you're putting on this mask." And Susan, this does remind were talking with these open office plans, where I started my career on a trading floor, which is as open as you can get.

Susan Cain: Yeah. 

Nora Ali: And I remember this one moment where I was sitting at my desk, head down. I had just gotten bad news about some family thing over email, and I saw an out-of-country coworker who was wandering up and down the aisles, meeting people for the first time. And I was trying to hide, because I was not in the mood to say "hi" to a new person. 

He came up to me and he said, "Hello. I'm so-and-so." And I panicked. I said, "I'm sorry. I'm going through something." And I scurried away and I hid in the bathroom and I just cried for an hour. I didn't know what to do in that moment. So I guess my question to you is, what should we as coworkers, leaders, keep in mind to support those who are going through something in the workplace, when maybe it isn't appropriate for us to just air our dirty laundry in that moment? And you might not know what to say, but what should we keep in mind as good coworkers in those cases?

Susan Cain: What I'd really like to see happen is a kind of normalization of the full spectrum of human emotions, so that it's not so much a question of, "What do I say or do in this moment?" It's rather that we're all kind of operating in a culture where we understand that every so often somebody has a crisis where they're going off to cry in the bathroom or whatever. And that's just part of everyday life.

And I think of this one case study that I talked about in my book called Midwest Billings, which is about this organization where the primary function of this office is that they have to collect the unpaid bills of people who have been in the hospital. That's their job. No one likes this job. The turnover in this industry is really, really high. But in this particular organization, they had created this kind of culture where not only was it normal to talk about the bad cold you were having or the domestic abuse you were going through, like everything. It was also normal for people to kind of proactively try to help each other out.

And they would interview people from this office and they would say things like, "Even if you were somebody who wasn't so oriented to doing that type of thing, like to rallying to someone's side, you would get into it once you were here, because this is what we do for each other, and it feels so good." And this organization, their turnover rate was 2%, which was like nothing in this industry, and their productivity was through the roof. So that comes from normalizing these kinds of experiences, and that often comes from leaders just demonstrating it. And it doesn't have to be a big dramatic declaration of a problem they're going through. It can be done through a series of everyday interactions.

Nora Ali: All right, let's take a quick moment to take a break. It's getting pretty heavy, but I'm loving this. More with Susan when we come back.

Back to Bittersweet. You write in the book that "bittersweetness is the hidden source of our moonshots, masterpieces, and love stories." I love that. What does that mean, exactly?

Susan Cain: All of us humans, at the core of our emotional DNA, is a kind of longing or reaching for that we all have for a kind of better world, a more perfect world, a more beautiful world, a more shining world. You see this longing expressed in religions. You see it expressed in our literature, in our movies, in our children's books. And it's also what propels us forward to engage in any kind of creative act, to turn nothing into something. It's because someone has some kind of a shining vision of what the world could be in some improved manner. And so you write the play and so you create the invention and so you have the love story. 

The word "longing," which we think of as being a word having to do with negative energy, let's say, but the word literally means to grow longer, to reach for something. I think if we could understand that better, we could better create the conditions that would give rise to create more creativity, more innovation in the workplace. I mean, excitement is a great ingredient for creativity, but it's not the only ingredient. There's this other ingredient of tuning into what we're feeling on a really deep level that is also part of the creative sauce. And we're not tending to let that in enough of the time at work.

Nora Ali: This idea of turning your sadness or longing into creative endeavors...I wonder if there's something that could be sort of unhealthy there, where you're in your sadness and you feel like you have to create some piece of content around it. There's kind of a joke amongst TikTokers, Gen Z TikTokers especially, where they film themselves crying. You're crying, you're sad; now's the time to make a piece of content because people will relate. But when do you think it's okay to just sit with your emotions and let them happen, versus when it's makes sense to push it or funnel it into a creative endeavor?

Susan Cain: Well, if you're doing it for performative reasons, you know that you're not in the right state of mind already. So when you talk about the TikTok videos, if you're thinking, "Oh, I should really perform this emotion right now," that's probably a good sign that it's not a helpful place to be. And we usually do have to be with our emotions for a while before we do something with them. 

Your question is something that I do struggle with, because the last thing anybody who's going through a difficult time needs is then the further self-pressure or cultural pressure to be like "and now you should go paint a painting." So it's not that so much; it's more leaning into this desire that humans have to make meaning out of the things that happen to us. And we tend to just do this instinctively, whether we're thinking about it or not. Like with the pandemic, suddenly there's a lot of people applying for medical school and nursing school, and after 9/11 there were suddenly a lot of people applying for jobs as firefighters.

So there's just this thing that we do where something bad has happened, and then you're searching for meaning one way or another. And everybody's got their own way of doing it, and it doesn't have to be performative. I want to stress that, because I've been on a kind of anti-performative crusade for the last 20 years. I don't even think good creativity comes out of the performative notion, again, because of what you said at the beginning. When you're being performative, you're not really telling the truth. You're more presenting something that you think someone else wants to hear, which is very different.

Nora Ali: On the topic of being performative, you write about this concept called the "tyranny of optimism." And we talk a lot about toxic positivity and workplaces where you have to be positive all the time. First of all, what is the tyranny of optimism, in your words, and how should leaders be thinking about remaining positive, but also accepting that there is a lot of negativity and sadness that can come in the workplace?

Susan Cain: It has to do with all the things people have been talking about for the last couple years with toxic positivity. There's one story that I tell in the book that I'll look to now, because I think it speaks really well to something that leaders could do. And I tell this story of my friend Susan David, the psychologist. And Susan—you have to know before you hear this story—she's like a really upbeat, cheerful person, just by her nature. Her temperament is like that. And when she was 14, her father died of colon cancer. And because of her nature and because of what she sensed were the preferences and expectations of the people around her, she immediately went back to school, smiling through her days. People would ask her, "How are you doing?" She would say, "I'm doing okay, I'm doing okay, I'm doing okay." And she really wasn't doing okay. And it started expressing itself through bulimia. She was going off to the bathroom and throwing up her lunch.

But she presented as if she were doing okay. Until the day came when she had this English teacher who had also lost a parent at a young age. And the English teacher handed out blank notebooks to the class and said, "I'm now inviting you to just write down whatever you're experiencing, feeling, thinking." And the teacher said, "I'll read what you wrote; I might comment a little bit, but really this is just yours. This is your space to write these things down." And as she said this, she was looking directly into Susan's eyes. So Susan understood that the teacher was talking to her. And it was the first time, she says, that she was invited to show up to who she really was and what she was truly feeling.

And she calls it now "a revolution in a notebook." That was her experience of this. And this story operates in both a metaphorical way, but also in a literal way. Because I think something we could be doing is inviting people to just write things down every morning. There could be notebooks that are shared with our...when I say shared, I mean passed out among our teams, and people could be invited to share what they've written or not. But we know from the work of James Pennebaker, who's a psychologist at UT Austin; he's done all these studies that show that the simple act of writing things down for two or three minutes a day, just writing down what you're going through, makes people more productive and successful at work. It lowers their blood pressure, it increases their sense of well-being. So this is one simple little hack that can really work a lot of wonders.

Nora Ali: And with people maybe being more open to accepting and being transparent about what they're feeling—the sadness, the longing—at work, and all the grief we've collectively gone through during the pandemic, do you think there's been a shift or will be a shift in how we think about productivity and hustle culture, and work, work, work, work, work, in this still-pandemic environment, post-pandemic environment?

Susan Cain: I think there has been a shift. I think the shift is continuing. I think we're talking about such a profound cultural shift that it's going to take quite a bit longer for us to see where it really ends up. We're only at the very beginning of it. Talking about shifts, I'm thinking of a friend of mine who is a CEO of a small company, and I remember him telling me—it was probably five or six or seven years ago when I first started researching this book. I remember him sort of confiding in me and saying, "The truth is, I really don't want to hire someone unless they're happy. Because it's hard. It's hard when you have unhappy coworkers." 

And at the same time that I'm saying everything I'm saying with you, I also totally understood what he meant, because we all know that when we're going through a hard time or unhappy, it's harder for us to be our best selves at those moments. You can do it, but it's harder. So I was sympathetic, but at the same time, it's a comment that really stuck with me. Well, anyway, fast forward to now, and we were just chatting about this a month or two ago and he said, "Oh, no, I don't feel that way anymore. Now, on our team, we just tell each other everything. And everybody's going through stuff because we're all humans." And he had just kind of completely relaxed around that whole expectation. And I don't know if that's because he and his team just lived through the pandemic or because we've been as a culture shifting in this direction, I think, for the last 20 years. It's hard to pinpoint it. But it was a very illustrative shift.

Nora Ali: I love that story. We'll take another quick break. More with Susan when we return

Sticking with workplace dynamics, at least what I've found and seen is, a frequent way to connect at work with other people is through the negatives. You complain about coworkers, you're lamenting the system, you're lamenting management. It's almost easier to connect on the bad stuff than on the good stuff. Do you have a hypothesis as to why that is? And do you think it's a good or a bad thing?

Susan Cain: As to why it is that mutual and collective complaining can feel so bonding, I think it's a kind of mini-tribalism that we're acting out. I mean, we all know, humans, by our nature, we tend to form ourselves into tribes, and part of the way that our tribes bond is by being united against another tribe. And so if you turn yourself into the tribe of people who are complaining against the other ones, then you're automatically going to be bonded. It's obviously not productive. It can create a toxic environment pretty quickly. I do believe that we need to distinguish more between or among negative emotions. Not all negative emotions are alike. So the emotion of whatever that thing is that makes us want to gripe and complain and those kinds of things is very, very, very different from the emotion that expresses sorrow. It comes from a very different place, and it has very different results in the world. 

And in fact, some of the studies that I looked at talk about the way in which states of sadness and sorrow are predictive of creativity, and that is the only negative emotion of which that is true. So, like, anger doesn't predict creativity, disgust doesn't predict creativity, but sadness does. So they're not all created alike.

Nora Ali: Yeah, complaining will not necessarily make you more creative.

Susan Cain: But it does feel so good in the moment. It's like a false god.

Nora Ali: Yeah, it's a stress relief. Venting. We all like venting. 

Susan Cain: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Nora Ali: Let's talk about this idea of melancholic leaders. You write about the advantages of melancholic leaders in the book. What are their hidden superpowers, and what does it mean to be a melancholic leader?

Susan Cain: Management researchers have looked at the different types of power that different kinds of leaders hold. And one type of power is what's called "positional power." This is held by leaders where people are kind of acutely aware of the leader's ability and willingness to hire them, fire them, promote them, all that kind of thing. And people tend to respect slash be afraid of those kinds of leaders. They're not necessarily aligned with them. Then there's another type of leader where it's more a relational leadership style, where there's probably a little bit less fear of what the leader might do. You could say less healthy fear also, I suppose. But more of a sense of being on the leader's side and wanting the best outcome for the leader and the led, like as a collective. So melancholic leaders, the thinking is, hold more of that kind of relational power. And there are different kinds of situations where different kinds of leadership styles may be more adaptive. 

So there's a researcher, Tanja Schwarzmüller, at the Technical University of Munich, and she looked at these differences between so-called angry leaders versus melancholic leaders. And she gives the example of a situation, for example, where a company or an organization is experiencing some kind of an outside threat. In that case, you might want more of the positional leader who expresses themselves in more combative terms. But in a situation, for example, where let's say a company or an organization has put out a product that has harmed people. That would be an example of a situation where a leader who's able to express sorrow is exactly what the company and the company's constituents really need.

So this is a smaller version of a larger point, which is, there are many different types of power in this world, and many different types of leadership styles and types of powers that different leaders can access. And a lot of the game of, well, of having a good life and of having a good work life, is using well the kinds of powers that come most naturally to you. And learning to use the ones that come a little less naturally, as needed, but really being able to lean in to the powers of your own particular style.

Nora Ali: Yeah. And back to our earlier point of, if you lean into what's natural and your actual self, you're less likely to get burned out, and that can be a more sustainable way to operate at work. 

Susan, I want to leave our listeners with some action items, some tips. You talked about your own bittersweet practices in the book. One specific Twitter-related habit you developed during the pandemic was particularly interesting. Can you share that, and maybe other tips for people who want to be a little bit more mindful generally?

Susan Cain: The biggest tip that I have is not about sorrow or longing per se. It's about really leaning into beauty. Not in a passive way of like, "Oh, yeah, it's a beautiful day today." But really proactively looking for beauty in your life. And we actually know from research that in our culture we put a lot of emphasis on creating art, but consuming art has just as profound an effect on us. It releases in us the same feelings that being in love does; the same feelings of reward and joy come to us from engaging with beauty.

So the story that you're talking about that I wrote about is, during the pandemic, I found myself getting into this habit where I was waking up every morning and doomscrolling Twitter. And I decided to turn that around, and I started very deliberately asking people to send me the names of their favorite art accounts. And I started following all this art. And before I knew it, my whole feed is full of art now. And then I started every morning, especially when I was writing, by choosing a favorite piece of art and sharing it on social media. 

And it was such an incredible practice because, I mean, first of all, I was beginning my day with a grounding in things I found deeply beautiful, but that also started to attract a community of other people who cared about the same thing and liked the same art, I guess. And so it was this kind of community of kindred spirits where we were all gathered around for nothing other than beauty itself. And beauty is really just a proxy for everything that we think is most deep and true and expressive of love. So it's the state we really all want to be in, and we would want our organizations to be in. So I think that this is a practice that companies could use very easily and constructively, to just have moments where people share with each other something they find beautiful, and maybe to create spaces physically around the company or online where these things could be posted.

Nora Ali: Oh, that's wonderful. Embrace the beauty, be proactive about the beauty, if you're a company leader. Okay, Susan, before we let you go, it is time for a bonus question in a segment we are calling Shoot Your Shot. And I would love to hear from you, Susan: What is your moonshot idea, your biggest ambition, your biggest dream? This is your chance to shoot your shot, so go for it.

Susan Cain: Well, okay, so I've already experienced my wildest dream, because since I was four, my wildest dream was to become a writer. So that then happened. But I will tell you that when I think about...I'm going to give you an unorthodox answer to this question. When was this? When my husband and I first met, it was pretty early on, so this was like 15 years ago or something like that. We went to see this documentary about the poet Billy Collins. And Billy Collins, in this documentary, he said something like, "I don't have a lot of money, but I am a millionaire in time." By which he meant, he could spend his time the way he liked to. He would wake up every morning and look forward to a day of time to do things he liked best, to spend it with people he liked best. And that's what I think is the real goal, at the end of the day: to be a millionaire in time.

Nora Ali: Oh, that's beautiful. All right, Susan, let's leave it on that note. Thank you so much for the time. I feel like a different person after this interview, for some reason, but I think it's all for the better. So thank you, Susan, for joining us on the podcast.

Susan Cain: Oh my gosh. Thank you so much, Nora, for having me.

Nora Ali: We are kicking off a very special new segment on Business Casual that we are, for now, calling Brew's Tweets, featuring our very own super duper awesome producer, Bella Hutchins. As if Bella didn't have enough to do already, we're making her do this. Hello, Bella.

Bella Hutchins: Hi.

Nora Ali: This is your debut, your vocal debut, on Business Casual. I'm glad you're here for this first Brew's Tweets, because it has to do with workplace culture. So the concept of this segment is simple. We choose a question that's been posed by the main Morning Brew Twitter account, and we react and respond to the comments that came out of that question. So, for context, before we get into the question itself, when did you graduate? And what has your workplace experience been like? Because it's very different from mine.

Bella Hutchins: Yeah. So I graduated college in 2020. Working at Morning Brew is my first job. I've never been in an office. I've never not worn pajama pants.

Nora Ali: Yes. 

Bella Hutchins: While working. Yeah.

Nora Ali: I love that. So you haven't had a lot of in-person shenanigans in office places. It's all basically virtual for you.

Bella Hutchins: Yes, fully.

Nora Ali: Fully virtual. Okay, so this question is perfect, this tweet from Morning Brew. The question was, "What is your workplace pet peeve?" So neither of us have seen the answers yet, and we're going to open them up in real time and react, see if we agree or disagree with the comments, and see if you even know what we're talking about, because you haven't been in an office.

Bella Hutchins: Yeah, I think that's going to be the main thing.

Nora Ali: Okay. So again, the question is, what is your workplace pet peeve? So we're both clicking on the first comment. The first thing here is "thermostat battles." Do you even know what that would reference, Bella?

Bella Hutchins: Oh, actually, okay, I had an internship once and it was always really cold. Is that what we're talking about? 

Nora Ali: Yes, yes. 

Bella Hutchins: And like the men want it cold and all the girls are like, "I'm really freezing."

Nora Ali: Exactly. That's exactly right. Women are inherently colder. So in the office, the coldest office I ever worked in was a trading floor, and all the women had blankets on their laps, sweaters, vests, because it was always set to the level of what the men preferred. So okay, you get it.

Bella Hutchins: Okay, look at me. I know temperature stuff. Amazing.

Nora Ali: "I had an internship once in the office." Okay, the second thing is "unnecessary reply all emails." This one's obvious. No one likes those, right?

Bella Hutchins: Yeah, that one's obvious. No one likes those. I feel like, yeah, I mean, I'm with you there.

Nora Ali: Have you accidentally ever replied all when you didn't mean to?

Bella Hutchins: Yeah. And it's really awkward, because then you have to follow up and be like, "Sorry, I didn't mean to reply all."

Nora Ali: And you have to do that via reply all.

Bella Hutchins: Via reply all.

Nora Ali: Like, "Sorry, please ignore." 

Bella Hutchins: Literally.

Nora Ali: Yeah. Oh my gosh. I have definitely been the one to reply all and say, "Unsubscribe," when there's a chain of emails and responses happening where everyone's replying all. And I'm like, "Unsubscribe. Please stop. I'm done."

Bella Hutchins: Wow.

Nora Ali: Yeah, I used to be rude on...

Bella Hutchins: Savage.

Nora Ali: I'm such a savage. Okay, next one is "unnecessary meetings."

Bella Hutchins: Okay. Yes. Yes, definitely. But I will say I feel like I interact with people so infrequently that I don't think it bothers me as much as it would if I was in an office and had to go sit in a, what do you sit around? A circular table?

Nora Ali: Do you know what a conference room is?

Bella Hutchins: Oh, yeah. I've seen those in movies.

Nora Ali: What is this? Circular table? Yes. There's even doors sometimes. 

Bella Hutchins: Wow.

Nora Ali: In the rooms. You can book meeting rooms as well. Yeah.

Bella Hutchins: Wow. 

Nora Ali: It's pretty great. I disagree on the meetings thing. I hear you. It's good to interact with people because you're often just alone on your computer. But I like it more when it's in-person. I like in-person meetings and if there's a lot of them that's fine, because I feel like there's less energy expenditure for me if I'm having lots of in-person meetings. But back to back to back Zoom meetings for me is just very exhausting. So I think maybe...

Bella Hutchins: That makes sense.

Nora Ali: ...we disagree a tiny bit there. 

Bella Hutchins: Yeah.

Nora Ali: Okay, next up is "lack of ergonomic equipment." Bella's like, "What's that?"

Bella Hutchins: Yeah.

Nora Ali: What equipment is in an office?

Bella Hutchins: Oh, isn't that like video game chairs?

Nora Ali: That's such a Gen Z thing to say. Yeah, because it's like Twitch streamers and TikTokers and stuff, YouTubers, do sit in video game chairs.

Bella Hutchins: Yeah.

Nora Ali: But most offices don't have video game chairs.

Bella Hutchins: Oh.

Nora Ali: But you are on the right track.

Bella Hutchins: Do people want them?

Nora Ali: Probably, but most ergonomic office chairs are, I don't know, just like...

Bella Hutchins: I feel they look a little hardo. Like, relax.

Nora Ali: What?

Bella Hutchins: You don't need...

Nora Ali: Hardo?

Bella Hutchins: Yeah, hardo.

Nora Ali: What does hardo mean?

Bella Hutchins: Like you just don't need that.

Nora Ali: Hardo. That's like one word? Hardo?

Bella Hutchins: Yeah.

Nora Ali: Is this a slang term that I'm learning?

Bella Hutchins: Like you're trying too hard.

Nora Ali: Wow. All right. Video game chairs are hardo. Okay. Ergonomics is something that you need to learn about, and hardo is something I need to learn about. Okay. Okay, Bella, this is really fun, and I feel like you probably need to get yourself into an office to figure out what a conference table is, but this was fun. Thanks, Bella.

Bella Hutchins: This was so fun. Of course. Thanks for letting me on the mic. Is that a saying? Nobody knows. I'm ready for this to end now.

Nora Ali: Bella's my favorite guest we've ever had.

This is Business Casual, and I'm Nora Ali. You can follow me on Twitter @NoraKAli, and I would love to hear from you. If you have ideas for episodes, comments, thoughts on episodes you loved, fun segment ideas, shoot me a DM and I'll do my best to respond. You can also reach the BC team by emailing, or call us. That number is (862) 295-1135. And if you haven't already, be sure to subscribe to Business Casual on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. And if you like the show, please leave a rating and a review. It really, really, helps us. Business Casual is produced by Katherine Milsop and Bella Hutchins. Additional production, sound design, and mixing by Daniel Markus. Kate Brandt is our fact checker. Sarah Singer is our VP of multimedia. Music in this episode from Daniel Markus and the Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. Thanks for listening to Business Casual. I'm Nora Ali. Keep it business, and keep it casual.