The Happy Engineer Podcast

034: Injustice at Work – The 8 Stages of Alienation with Anton Gunn

How does workplace injustice show up in your workplace? Are you in the 5% of leaders who see injustice, are committed to change, and do something about it?

Do you know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of injustice, and become alienated at work?

In this episode, I have the privilege of speaking with former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, and the world’s leading authority on Socially Conscious Leadership, Anton Gunn.

When a 6’4″ and 290 lbs former college football offensive lineman steps up to the podium at the White House, everyone in the room listens.

From being the first African American in history elected to the South Carolina legislature from his district, to now working as a C-level executive for an academic health system and serving on multiple boards, he has spent his life helping people build diverse high performing teams and world class leadership culture.

Anton has a Masters Degree in Social Work from USC and was a Resident Fellow at Harvard. He is the bestselling author of The Presidential Principles, and has been featured in TIME Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, INC Magazine, BBC, NPR, and on Good Morning America.

But what makes Anton truly great is his heart for people, and desire to help courageous leaders overcome injustice at work.

So press play and let’s chat… with one of the truly inspirational leaders of our time!


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Do this, and you will be happier. You will experience more joy, more fulfillment, more life. 

Live fully into your uniqueness. 

What an amazing message from Anton Gunn. I could have talked for hours with Anton. He has had so many unique experiences and successes in his life. This first point is so important.

Living in your authenticity and your uniqueness is a pathway to experiencing more happiness. Do you believe that? Have you experienced that in your own life? I hope you have! If not, here’s my first challenge for you to take action on: 

Find one small thing about yourself that is true and authentic and unique to you, and take action to live it and experience it more fully. 

Maybe that triggers a little anxiety or fear at the beginning, but on the other side of that fear is happiness and joy. I’ve seen it in my own life. I have seen it in the engineering leaders who I coach in their lives. And Anton, who’s been sharing this message with thousands of leaders around the world has seen it time and time again. If you didn’t listen to the conversation yet and this doesn’t make sense… go download the episode or listen here on the website.

Let’s go back to the eight stages of alienation. Anton articulated so clearly the problem of what injustice in the workplace really looks like. Now it’s time to self assess, where are you? Where are you at in these eight stages of alienation? 

The 8 Stages of Alienation

  1. Stress, 
  2. Fear, 
  3. Distrust, 
  4. Resentment, 
  5. Isolation, 
  6. Separation, 
  7. Anger, 
  8. and Resignation.


Remember too, resignation does not mean that you have quit your job or changed companies or changed teams. Resignation often looks like you, totally checked out, not showing up and performing your best. This can happen well before you actually take action to get out of the situation. 

Learning about these eight stages is a really great diagnostic. Assess for yourself, “Is injustice in the workplace affecting me?

Realize how easy this propagates, and how we can be unconscious players in a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is a really simple model that I share with my coaching clients, called the self-fulfilling belief cycle.

It’s very simple. It begins with your beliefs. Your beliefs will trigger the actions that you take in your life. Your actions become the evidence for creating other people’s beliefs. And other people’s beliefs then influence other people’s actions and other people’s actions come back around as the information and data that form your beliefs.

And that’s the cycle, your beliefs, your actions, to others’ beliefs, and other’s actions. Let me give you a quick example. Let’s say you believe that your boss is a micromanager. They are extremely over-involved in your project and your work to the point where it’s slowing you down and it’s creating a problem. That’s your belief.

Well, if that’s your belief, one of the actions that might flow from that belief is to avoid including your boss on too many emails (or in too many meetings) (or in too many decisions). Because you know, as soon as they get involved, they always want to get into the weeds. They want to learn about everything. And they slow you down.

Well, now move to your boss’s shoes. What are they seeing? Someone on their team is avoiding them, leaving them out of key decisions, leaving them off of key emails. They see your actions.

Well, what belief does that trigger inside of your boss?

Probably something like, “My team may have something to hide from me. My team might not be making the best decisions without my input. My team doesn’t trust me. I need to get more involved and make sure that they’re doing the right things.” 

So what actions does your boss take? They ask more questions. They show up to more meetings unannounced. They ask you to be copied on every decision and they start looking at more details because of what they’re getting from you and the actions you’re taking and what happens when they take those actions. 

It reinforces your original belief that your boss is a micromanager! 

The same thing can happen with injustice. Everything that Anton shared with us in this conversation. When we hold a belief about a certain team or certain individual, and we act in a way that is congruent with that belief, those actions will then trigger the beliefs of others to reinforce the cycle.

Choose a new belief, take a new action, and watch your world change.  Want to dig deeper into this and more? First, listen to this episode of The Happy Engineer Podcast because the written debrief is just the tip of the iceberg. Second, book a free call and let’s chat about exactly what you need to break through, avoid burnout, and reach the next level.

Previous Episode 33: Break All the Rules and Win Your Career with Tammy Alvarez




Anton Gunn is a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama and the world’s leading authority on Socially Conscious Leadership.

He has a Masters Degree in Social Work from USC and was a Resident Fellow at Harvard. He is the bestselling author of The Presidential Principles and has been featured in TIME Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, INC Magazine, BBC, NPR, and on Good Morning America.

As an international speaker and consultant, he has worked with organizations like Microsoft, Sodexo, KPMG, Verizon Wireless, Aetna, Blue Shield of California, American College of Surgeons, FINRA, and the Boeing Company.

From playing SEC Football and being the first African American in history elected to the South Carolina legislature from his district early in his career, to now working as a C-level executive for an academic health system and serving on multiple boards, he has spent his life helping people build diverse high performing teams and world class leadership culture.





Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.

[00:00:00] Zach White: Welcome back happy engineers. You’re in for an incredible treat. Today. I am with my new friend, Anton Gunn, who has a bio that you just heard that you could read all day in terms of his achievements and accomplishments and the diversity of his experience. I can’t thank you enough for just making time for us to be here, to share your leadership, your wisdom and insights with me and the engineers listening.

[00:00:38] It’s a pleasure to have you on the show.

Expand to Read Full Transcript

[00:00:41] Anton Gunn: thank you so very much, Zack, engineers are close to my heart. I’ve got a few in the family and I thought this was going to be my career path one day, but I realized that I’m not good at math. And so I chose a totally different path because of it. 

[00:00:54] Zach White: It would be an uphill climb to land your engineering degree.

[00:00:58] If math isn’t something you get along with. That’s for sure. For sure. I love that. Well, Anton, it really is. Almost impossible for me to set the stage fairly, even in a bio and what you’ve done. And so I thought what would be kind of fun is for you to take us back to a moment with a really cool picture of.

[00:01:19] Stand-in looking incredibly sharp, live on TV on MSNBC during one of the most heated times in politics with Obamacare and supporting the Obama administration. And I think even the headline reads the healthcare fight and just a really powerful image. But can you help us kind of go back to that moment and tell me what is a former SCC or offensive line?

[00:01:45]  football player, who’s now live on MSNBC thinking at that moment, like what’s going on in your head, man? 

[00:01:53] Anton Gunn: You know, to be honest with you, Zack, what was going on in my head is the same thing that goes on in my head every day. And that is. How do I use everything that I’ve been through to help somebody else and, being on MSNBC, talking about a difficult subject to me is no different than lining up across from Alabama in the sec.

[00:02:19] during a football game, you know, that there’s opposition on the other side. Their whole goal is to dominate you at every level. And your goal is to not get embarrassed in front of TV, where your mom is, watching you. So every time that I’ve been on MSNBC, my whole goal is to not look like an idiot and get embarrassed.

[00:02:37] And my mom will call me and give me some bad news about how I let the family down. And I was embarrassed by the family name. So that’s my, most of my lighthearted way of really saying the whole goal is just in any inexperience is how do you use what you’ve done in life to add value or to help someone else.

[00:02:55] And that is the premise of my whole journey is using everything, the good, the bad, the ugly, the ins and outs, uh, to make a difference for someone right where they are right now. 

[00:03:08] Zach White: Is a really powerful belief to start from. Can you tell us, Anton, where did that seed get planted in you? Where was it in life that you really bought into that belief?

[00:03:23] That’s everything about who I am. I just want to. It’s a full work in service of others. What, where did that begin? 

[00:03:29] Anton Gunn: So, you know, you don’t find this funny when I answer this question, that began as a teenager when I fell in love with hip hop music and culture. and I say in all honesty and in all sincerity that,when I introduce myself to people, I say hip hop is who I am.

[00:03:50] Leadership is what I do because that’s how I see myself in the world is a hip hop kid. And so the context is in the origins of hip hop culture, it was all about your uniqueness. Nobody tried to sound like other artists. You wanted to be your total unique self and to share your experience. In the world with a wider audience to give them a lens inside of your life, but also to give them some perspective that they can take and add to their own lives.

[00:04:22] And that’s what I grew up on listening to public enemy and NWA. And EPMD. I mean, all of those great artists from the early eighties, mid eighties, late eighties with artists that shaped my life. And so I learned how to tell my own story and not just tell a story for the sake of telling it, but what’s the point of the story?

[00:04:45] What, what can you take away from my story to help you? And that’s where, you know, it kind of crystallized for me is Anton show up unique in the world. Don’t be like anybody else, you can be. Uh, second best version of someone else. Oh, you can be the very best version of yourself. And I’m from a very early age.

[00:05:03] I just tried to do me and be me in my own uniqueness. And that’s, what I bring to 

[00:05:09] Zach White: the universe. Right. Love that. What is it? If somebody struggles to. Even connect to that idea in their own life. Maybe they’ve been chasing an ideal, someone else put in front of them or just the social pressure to conform or, you know, within the company, the pressure to look or act a certain way.

[00:05:30] What would be the biggest thing you’ve learned from a lifetime of leaning into your own uniqueness in how to step towards that? If it’s something that is not a part of your. 

[00:05:41] Anton Gunn: Yeah. So, so I would say, this, this has also been a, what I call their grades or gradiations of your uniqueness, if you will. So, you know, being an athlete and playing sports, you’ve been on.

[00:05:54] Teams. And we all know sports seem sometimes take on the identity of a coach. So if your coach is a hard nose, you know, knock them in the mouth kind of guy, then he wants his team to be just like that. And if your coach is an easy going pass first, you know, finesse. He wants his team to look like that. So we all have that pressure to conform to the organization or the entity that we are part of.

[00:06:20] And so sometimes you can’t totally go against the grain in that space, but what you can do is. Really focus in and understand what makes you, you, what’s one thing about you that is different than everybody else. What’s the thing that you think about that other people don’t think about. What’s the thing that you read about that other people don’t read about?

[00:06:43] What’s the thing that. Talk about that other people don’t talk about and maybe find a way to share that uniqueness in the spaces when you’re forced to conform. So one example of how I did it when I was in corporate America, you know, I wore suits and ties just like everybody else to work, but my ties were always a lot more.

[00:07:01] Well, I wore the blue suit like everybody else, but I had on happy socks and my socks were going to be of a different color. That was my uniqueness. And sometimes we’d be in a meeting and everybody’s serious and talking about business and I would interject a hip hop quote from Jay Z or biggie smalls or NAS into the conversation and people around the table with sometimes snicker and sometimes the laugh.

[00:07:26] But what I learned very quickly. Is that most people could identify with that uniqueness, but they were all afraid to share it in real time and the space that they were in. So I would say take it slow, take steps into it. Uh, do what’s comfortable for you? If it feels too uncomfortable to do, then don’t do it.

[00:07:43] But the more you. Lean into your uniqueness, the happier you’ll be in your workplace, the happier, happy, your being your life. Because we all get told to suppress who we are. I mean, you know, you ever heard in a job interview, someone say to you, you know, um, leave your personal life at home. Or when you come to work, don’t bring your personal life.

[00:08:03] How do you really divorce yourself? From yourself to do a job I’ve never been successful at that because I know the things that I deal with at home are going to be with me everywhere. I mean, my wife is always going to text me, you know, my daughter’s going to call me, uh, I’m going to be thinking about my mom.

[00:08:19] So I can’t divorce myself. Uh, from my life when I show up in any kind of business setting. But, uh, if I get the opportunity to share that in the, be myself at work, it makes me happier. It makes me healthier, less stress. And I really do feel like that the people I work with here. 

[00:08:35] Zach White: I love how you describe. So for one to just start small, you don’t have to be this way out in left field, you know, sort of going against the grain at every turn, but the connection, and I agree a hundred percent that the more you live into your authentic, unique self, the happier, the lighter, the more energetic and enthusiastic the experience of work becomes.

[00:08:59] And maybe to use that as a segue, then. Yeah, we can talk about that all day on time, but you have so much expertise as a leadership consultant now, and it’s international recognition for the work you do, and helping organizations in this challenge of the workplace. I talk to my clients a lot about the reality that the quality of your life, which we’re all seeking to improve.

[00:09:24] And that’s why people listen to podcasts like this. It’s why they seek help from leadership consultants and coaches like yourself. The quality of our life depends on the quality of our work life. And the workplace is a big contributor to that experience. And you say that workplace injustice is one of the greatest challenges.

[00:09:46] Leaders face today. Yeah. And that’s such a powerful statement. Can you just tell us where, where did that come from? Why do you say. 

[00:09:55] Anton Gunn: so let me first define injustice for your audience, because I want people to understand now we all know what discrimination is in the workplace.

[00:10:04] When people get mistreated by their race, their gender, their age, their background of some protected class under the law. We know what discrimination feels like and looks like, and we know that it’s wrong, but in justice, Is much more subtle than that. And justice are the everyday slights of disrespect, a mistreatment disdain, or even, you know, passive aggressive behavior, uh, microaggressions that people get people that make short jokes about you everyday because you don’t happen to be six feet tall, or maybe you’re not.

[00:10:42] As good of a mechanical engineer as the person who’s just beside you, somebody who’s always got something to say. So these daily injustices over time, start to build up, you know, the proverbial phrase, the straw that broke the camel’s back. We always like to talk about the straw that broke the camel’s back, but we never talk about.

[00:11:03] The 1 million straws that was underneath that one straw that had been weighing down on people and in the American workplace, this injustice happened. Across the board every day. As a matter of fact, um, you can call it toxic workplace culture, where people are experiencing workplace injustice at all kinds of levels.

[00:11:21] Every day, the society for human resource management did a study that said over five years, American employers lost $233 billion. Do the toxic workplace culture,

[00:11:36] would there be a billion with a B, not an M, but a B another study talked about 37% of people quit their job because of mistreatment in the workplace. Wow. And this is across industries, so you can be in the tech sector. You can be in healthcare where I spent a lot of my time. And the work that I do is in healthcare.

[00:11:57] Um, advanced manufacturing. I mean, I know you got engineers on here and they know a lot about people who build cars and airplanes and other kinds of complex machinery. This injustice exists all over the place and it forces people to quit a job because of how they’re being treated. And so what I spend my time doing is helping leaders to understand.

[00:12:20] Injustices happening in their workplace, how to identify it because you can’t fix what’s wrong until you know, what’s wrong. And I know every engineer wants to fix what’s wrong in a problem. Right. But you can’t fix a problem that you don’t know about. And what I find more times than not is that leaders who run organizations are not even aware of what’s happening one level below them, much less what’s happening on the frontline and the department that they don’t see every day.

[00:12:49] And so you got to get to a place of seeing the injustice before you can fix it. And that’s what is killing your organizations. It’s like a cancer that we don’t see until it manifests. And when it finally manifests, it is way too late. 

[00:13:03] Zach White: Anton, I really appreciate as an engineer, how you’re addressing this for two reasons, one, the truth that if we don’t have a good problem, Uh, correctly and specifically defined problem.

[00:13:16] Then the actions we take, who knows what result we’re going to get, but also the distinctions or the precision around the vocabulary here. And what we’re really talking about between workplace injustice and discrimination and how it manifests. Can you really quickly tell us, I heard a couple of specific examples of things that are said, words, behaviors, actions from one employee to another.

[00:13:40] Through words. What are the other ways that injustice shows up? Is it, you know, know, beyond just the spoken word or maybe an email or something? What, where do we see it? 

[00:13:51] Anton Gunn: Yeah. So that’s a great, great question. And let me, let me contextualize it for a lot of people and you’ve all experienced this in some way, shape or form.

[00:14:00] Um, one aspect of injustice is when people intentionally. Leave you off of emails that you need to be on about work projects that are eventually going to come back to you in a blow up fashion, because you should’ve been on the email or the reverse. Maybe they not only include you on the email, but they CC 50 other people.

[00:14:22] That’s irrelevant to the problem. And now you’re losing productivity time because you’re sorting through 40 emails about something that could have just came to you directly, or maybe as the person. Who blind copies. You’re a boss on emails regularly because they’re trying to get you tripped up into something in some way, shape or form.

[00:14:43] These are all things that we see people doing in the workplace or the context of you might be sitting in a meeting with a person, and you’re trying to have a conversation and they can’t seem to look up from their cell phone. And they’re totally distracted from what you should be focused on in the meeting.

[00:14:58] These are things that we’ve all done. These are things that we’ve probably all experienced. So that’s just some example of how the daily injustices build up over time. And then they finally manifest into a problem. I will tell you that being a native of Virginia, You know, my father was in the military for 22 years.

[00:15:17] He would always come home and talk about the, even in the military where there’s a lot of precision, a lot of rank and file a lot of order and focus. There are people who would do things in ways to really antagonize you. My mother would also talk about this as a school teacher that she knew teachers.

[00:15:35] Who would intentionally antagonize certain students by saying certain things about doing certain things because they knew they would get another scan. So the context of the workplace injustice is really, um, doing things and behaviors that are designed to create a negative environment with the person that you’re working with, or you’re engaged 

[00:15:55] Zach White: with Anton.

[00:15:58] Simple and powerful case when we just talk about business results as to why this matters. But one thing that I’m passionate about, I know you are too, is how it impacts the humans, the actual real experience and quality of life and happiness and joy that we can experience at work. Can you speak to that a little bit?

[00:16:17] How does injustice. Impact the people in the workplace. 

[00:16:22] Anton Gunn: Yeah. So I will tell you that it impacts it significantly. So there’s this framework that I’ve shared and been sharing in all of my keynote speeches in my trainings is called the eight stages of aliens. So when I say the eight stages of alienation, I want you to understand that whenever you experience an injustice in a workplace, so let’s just use this example.

[00:16:42] You’re on a team, you’re all working on a project and something falls through the cracks and your boss comes in and rings you out in front of the entire team for what fell through the cracks. However, it wasn’t your job or your responsibility. It was somebody else on the team. Who didn’t do their part, but you got yelled at right.

[00:17:04] And everybody knows that it wasn’t your fault, Zack, that it was Steve’s fault, but you got yelled at now. That’s the workplace injustice that you experienced is being yelled at by someone for something that you didn’t do now, when that gets brought to your manager’s attention, does that person immediately try to make it right?

[00:17:23] Or do they just say, you know what? He’ll get. And what happens is if nobody comes and makes a corrective step towards that injustice, you step onto the eight stages of alienation. So the first thing. Is your stress about what happened? I got reamed out in front of my colleagues for something that I didn’t do.

[00:17:42] And then you move from stress to fear and you fear that, you know what, this is probably gonna happen again, because it’d be yelled at me for something I didn’t do this time. He’s going to do it again. And then over time, that fear turns to distrust when maybe I don’t even need to work here and I don’t need to work for a boss.

[00:17:59] Who’s going to yell at me for something. And that dude didn’t do. And his stress turns to resist. Resentment turns to isolation. Isolation turns to separation, separation turns to anger and then anger turns to resignation. So, so here’s the context. I know you’re thinking resignation is that I quit my job.

[00:18:25] No resignation is when you mentally quit on your company and your team. But you keep working for the next three years because you need your paycheck and you don’t have a way out now what ends up happening more times than not is that’s when you become the least productive, you become what I call an eight fifty nine.

[00:18:44] Okay. So the 8 59 is a person who shows up at 8 59, 8. They clock in and go to their desk and log into their computer. And they work till 4 59 and they had right out the door. As a matter of pat, when the, when the clock hits five o’clock they’re in their car, driving out of the parking lot, they’re doing the bare minimum to help the organization.

[00:19:06] They don’t care about. They they’re bitter about being there every day. Their, their personal stress levels and health starts to decline that they just are not committed at all. And then sometimes they go home and take out that frustration on their children, on their families, uh, become less engaged.

[00:19:24] And those other aspects of their life because of what happened to them. So those eight stages of alienation can, can be detrimental, not only to an individual, but they’re definitely detrimental to the organization and the team that that person is 

[00:19:38] Zach White: on. This is so fascinating to me. You know, You know, at the time we’re recording this it’s November of 2021, and there’s been a lot of conversation of the great resignation, you know, and there’s different angles and spins on what that means, but what you just described aligns perfectly with something that.

[00:19:58] Been saying a lot to the organizations I coach and support that greatest untapped resource in your company is the potential and the energy and the focus of people who are somewhere on this alienation journey. And they’re not actually bringing their whole heart to work. And what you’ve laid out here is a far more elegant understanding of this than, than what I’ve had in the past.

[00:20:23] So. Tell me really quick. Is this something that. Is every individual. If I just took all the people in my organization and said, you know, they’re either at stage zero or all through eight, and it’s sort of at an individual level, or do you see this at a team and macro level in companies where like this entire department is being alienated from another.

[00:20:45] Yeah, team or department is, does it exist that way too? Yeah, so it 

[00:20:48] Anton Gunn: exists in both ways. So, you know, it, it early can manifest itself in an individual. Um, and again, you can be anywhere on the eight stages. Sometimes they, you immediately started anger because you know that you got yelled at and that’s not right.

[00:21:01] So you snap back at your boss in anger because of how you retreated and therefore that creates. Another level of stress for the team. And now we have an environment where people are bickering with each other and then there’s this trust that starts to build up. And then resentment and isolation. And Zach has stopped coming to the happy hour.

[00:21:18] Zach doesn’t doesn’t turn his camera on and our team’s meeting or that, you know, his microphone has never on, or he never comments in the chat anymore. So you can move individually in that space. But we also know. That there are departments inside of every organization with a spotlight is always on them for something negative.

[00:21:37] And it is another department where the spotlight is on them for something positive. It’s almost like in, in healthcare that, you know, the or team can not do any wrong. Why? Because they generate the most revenue for the hospital system doing surgeries and everybody can’t stand HR. So everybody in HR. Is on the eight stages of alienation because they’re looked at as a necessary evil and their job is to deal with all the problems.

[00:22:00] And who wants to be seen in a work environment is only being the person whose job it is to deal with problems, not to add value to the organization. So I literally have seen. You know, by department where you have people who are, you know, we’re just going through the motions. Like, you know, I’m showing up to collect my paycheck, but I’m not responding to Zach’s email as 600.

[00:22:23] That’s going to wait until tomorrow. And if I’m taking Monday off, then I’m not going to respond to Zack until Tuesday at noon. Cause when I get in at 9:00 AM, you know, I’m going to check in with my coworkers and see how their weekend was and tell them about my weekend because nobody cares about us. I got to take care of my own people.

[00:22:39] So you start to see it at a departmental level, at a unit level inside of the organization. And it’s hard to, to, um, to see that and feel like that it’s not. Spreading throughout the organization in areas where you don’t want it to exist and don’t want it to grow. And that’s why it’s incumbent upon leaders to really understand how their organizations, uh, get to this level.

[00:23:03] But more importantly, what they can do about it to stop them from, going down this 

[00:23:07] Zach White: path humbled, by your example, you just gave Anton because I remember. And my engineering days at Whirlpool corporation, you know, there were certain project teams that you wanted to be on. You could get on the mega projects, the ones that had the most capital and the highest visibility, and like, it was, it was always the goal to get on those.

[00:23:27] And there’s nothing inherently wrong with some projects being of higher value and importance to the organization. But I also remember there was a couple of things. You didn’t want to be. That was where the engineers who weren’t as sharp went, that, that, that team didn’t drive as much value to the company.

[00:23:44] And you didn’t want to get stuck in that part of the organization. Like that was the place engineers go to have mediocre careers. the time. I mean, I wish somebody like you would have come along, it would have been able to share this with me because I certainly did not lead in that situation. I proliferated that injustice.

[00:24:00] And so I’m just really humbled by it. Like, wow, it’s so, so subtle. I didn’t even. 

[00:24:05] Anton Gunn: Yeah. So I’ll add a little context. And what ends up happening is that that team that nobody wants to be on, they become the butt of every joke they become, you know, the threat that Zack, if you don’t get your act together, I’m going to put you on that team, you know, or you should move back on that team because you know, he’s, he’s not, he’s not as sharp as we all thought he was.

[00:24:24] I mean, it becomes, it’s like reinforcing negative environment that. The organization doesn’t get any better or that unit doesn’t get any better because they believe the story that they’re being told about themselves. And everybody sees that story over and over again. And as a leader in that organization, if you’re leading that organization, dare say, you know, my research shows that about 50%.

[00:24:50] Of leaders in any organization don’t even know that workplace injustice exists inside the organization. Again, you can’t fix what’s wrong until you know, what’s wrong. So 50% do nothing because they’re kind of living in oblivion, they just kind of, they don’t even see it, but then you have another 35% of leaders who see the ingest.

[00:25:09] Happening right before their eyes, but they make excuses about why they can’t do anything about it. Well, I’m not in that department or that’s HR responsibility or, you know, I don’t have the tools or the resource. I don’t have the budget to fix. What’s broken over there. So why should I even worry myself with it?

[00:25:27] And they just kind of have this paralysis by analysis. So you got 85% of the people, either living in oblivion or they see the problem with, they do nothing. But then you got the 10% and the 10% of the worst people inside of the organization who they see what’s wrong, they know what’s wrong and they have the ability to fix it, but they perpetuate the injustice because they actually believe that they benefit from the injustice standard way it is.

[00:25:57] So they see that bad team and they say, well, you know what? As long as that team stays bad, we’re going to get all of the best projects and we’re going to get the bigger budgets and we’re going to get the eye of the CEO. We’re going to get the attention of, you know, the patent team and it’s going to help us to be able to grow more.

[00:26:13] So they, they want to reinforce. The bad environments and other places, because they actually believe that they benefit from it. But what they don’t see is they’re actually destroying the organization from the inside out because a house divided against itself cannot stand. You know, Abraham Lincoln told us that.

[00:26:30] Right. And so you got 95% of people who are either, you know, objectively. You know, trying to keep the status quo. It is living in oblivion and they don’t see it at all. Or the people in the middle who are paralyzed by their analysis. That’s 95%. And my work is spent helping leaders to be in that 5%. That’s left the leaders who are aware of it, the injustices in their organizations, most importantly have the tools and the information, the resources to do something about it, but are totally committed.

[00:27:04] To actually make an it right. And that’s what it’s about is just saying, you know what? I can do something to make this better. I can’t solve all problems, but here’s one thing I can do to make it right. I can tell Tommy to stop CC-ing everybody on his emails, because it’s just antagonizing everybody.

[00:27:24] That’s something to make it right. Or I can make sure that I help that team get better. So they’re not thought of as the laughing stock of the organization, everybody can do something to help make it right. 

[00:27:36] Zach White: I love that. So we all. We’ll aspire to Anton’s 5%. Now that you’re aware, you know what the problem is, where you’re not in the 50% anymore.

[00:27:48] If you’re an engineer listening to this, you’re, you’re no longer on aware. It’s like, you’ve, you’ve got that piece checked, but, but don’t fall into that 35% who makes an excuse. Let’s start taking action. So Anton in the spirit of, well, where do I begin? You know, what kind of action or what are the principles around?

[00:28:04] Maybe personally move back off that eight stages of alienation. If I feel alienated today, or if I have influence. Which we all do, but, but you’re in a place where you can go make a difference right now. What does that look like? How do we start to move forward? 

[00:28:20] Anton Gunn: Yeah. So for the individual who may be on the eight stages of alienation, will tell you the first thing that you need to do is you need to talk about what your.

[00:28:30] And that should happen in your next one-on-one with your leader or whoever the person is, who made you feel that way? That you have to have a conversation around the experience that you’re having, the workplace injustice that you’re having. That’s the first step. And then once you have that conversation, your goal is to observe what the leader does in response to you sharing about your experience.

[00:28:56] If they do nothing. Then, unfortunately you might need to start looking for another place to work. And I, I hate to tell people that, but you may, and sometimes it may not mean leaving the company, but it might be moving to a new division or a new office or a new city in the company. And that might be the case for that leader.

[00:29:13] In an organization who is concerned that you might have people on your team in da stages of alienation somewhere, you got to learn what’s wrong. So I always teach leaders how to do one-on-one meetings. And that is how do you have a conversation? With your team to figure out where they are. Um, are they committed to the organization already inspired about working every day or are they pissed off and frustrated?

[00:29:39] Because they’ve been alienated for the last 18 months and nobody’s came to them to apologize or even said anything. And as a leader, once you learn how to have those one-on-ones and you learn what’s wrong, the next step is fixing what’s wrong. So what does fixing what’s wrong mean? It means.

[00:29:57] Acknowledging the injustice that that person experienced, it means acknowledging it to them. It also means acknowledging it to the team and to the organization. And then after you acknowledge it, you got to hold yourself accountable for what you did to make it wrong or contribute to the injustice. And then this third step is a real simple one, but it’s the hardest one for most of us to do every day.

[00:30:25] And that is. You need to apologize. You gotta learn how to say, I’m sorry with sincerity because the apology is the first step to recover. You have to apologize to people who you have contributed to their injustice, or at least allow the injustice to grow without your awareness and apologize for being blind.

[00:30:51] I wasn’t aware. I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I’m going to do more to be more attentive or if you perpetuated it, listen, I’m sorry for what I did. I want to correct it. So give me some, some feedback on what I can do to make things right for you. Seems to be very simple. Right. But it’s not easy for leaders to do that.

[00:31:13] Zach White: Uh, yeah. Simple but not easy is an understatement. And I’m just sitting here. Remembering situations either where I did take those actions or, or should have. And didn’t, and, and honestly, Anton, the thing that’s rising up in me is as that feeling of just how much fear there is to go have that conversation, how much courage it takes to go have that conversation.

[00:31:36] You know, the humility to apologize, especially in a corporate context, don’t at work with your peers or with a direct report. That is, that’s just not normal, man. So like, tell me, like, what’s the key. How do you, how do you get out of your own way and really step up with the courage to go take these actions you’re talking.

[00:31:54] Anton Gunn: Yeah. So me demystify the word courage. Um, because you know, we all hear courage from a lot of different places. I mean, we know people who, you know, run into combat and do amazing things on the battlefield. We always talk about them having courage. Well, here’s what courage is. Courage is being afraid, but doing it in.

[00:32:16] That’s what courage is. So I’m not telling you to have an S on your chest. I think you’re Superman or Batman with your monumental utility belt. I’m saying, I know you’re afraid. I know you’re nervous, but do it anyway. Do it afraid. And so in the corporate environment, what does this look like is, is really being the person.

[00:32:38] Who is willing to, to just say, I’m sorry, as I say, I made a mistake and you’re not going to do it. Well, it’s not going to come out perfect the first time and it should not. And I know all of the engineers about to have a panic attack because it’s not going to be perfect and not done. Right. But I will tell you the thing that is going to help you the most is that you’re a human.

[00:33:01] We’re all humans and humans are not perfect. We are not perfect creatures in any way, shape or form. And the more flawed you are. In your apology, the more human you appear to your team. And what does that mean to your team? That actually makes you more likable because you don’t have this veneer of perfection about you.

[00:33:23] You don’t have this veneer of that. I’m impervious to mistakes. I’m impervious to pain. I’m impervious to any count of fallibility. It’s the humanist of finding people who are. Flawed in some way, shape or form that actually connects people to you. And the best kind of leader is a leader that is connected to the people that they lead.

[00:33:46] So recognizing that if you get up the gumption to do it afraid and to say, I’m sorry, you’re actually going to build a stronger team and a stronger unit because you audit those words. 

[00:33:59] Zach White: I, I just want to back up the recording and listen to you. Say that again. Cause so, so perfect. And my company is always this of courage for this exact reason, because I believe what you just said.

[00:34:10] If people would latch onto that and if that’s all they took away from this conversation, that it is transformational in your whole life. The thing I want to hear your perspective on as it relates to this All the time with engineers, who I coach Anton, they get into that challenging situation where fear does.

[00:34:30] I need to have this crucial conversation, this, this apology conversation, this workplace injustice conversation with, my leader or whomever, and there’s that immediate temptation to want to S know, Zach, give me the script. I’ll have clients ask me, like, tell me what to say exactly the thing you just described.

[00:34:47] Like, we want to default to a system to the, like, just give it to me exactly how to make this go away. And to hear you describe. No, like resist that temptation, just go in there, not knowing how to do it. Perfect. And do it anyway. That’s the path to the real connection that a leader needs. And it’s, it’s one thing for me to sit here tell someone that, but you’ve shown this to leaders at all levels that if you’ll do it that way, the results.

[00:35:17] Uh, our tremendous, could you just speak to that a little bit more? Like, why do we want to believe that doing it just right? Is the path to, you know, ultimate success when in reality it’s the opposite. Disconnect happen? 

[00:35:31] Anton Gunn: Yeah. I think the disconnect happened is because, you know, we, we all are, you know, learn it and we all go to school.

[00:35:37] Um, we learn tools and tricks and hacks. If you will, everybody wants a hack for everything and they want the simple out. Now the reality is. You do need some preparation for some of these things, but preparation is different than having a hack or a script is just being prepared. And so the, the best preparation is actually experience is actually having the flaw conversation, because you may have a bad conversation the first time, but the second time you won’t repeat that mistake, you’ll have a better conversation and over time you walk into it.

[00:36:14] And so. What I like to tell anyone is that particularly engineers, and this will probably make sense to most of you. Um, you might be very knowledgeable and skilled at engineering because you’ve done it year after year after year, after year after year. Right? You’re not going to make a whole lot of mistakes because it’s something that, you know, very, very well.

[00:36:28] However, you’re not an expert at. You’re not an expert at people and because you’re not an expert at people, you’re not going to be perfect when you have a conversation with people everybody’s different. And I think the successful mantra that John Maxwell put together is that being a great leader is only 13% product now.

[00:36:52] But 87% people knowledge. So the question is, what do you really know about people? What do you know about human behavior? What do you know about emotions? What do you know about the words that actually work? And I actually have, have actually given leaders some scripts when it came to talking about race.

[00:37:09] And diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Cause this is a subject that is a hot topic right now that a lot of people are stumbling over because they don’t know what to say. They don’t even have any kind of background and knowledge to know how it works. And so I’ve been giving leaders some words that work, but the words that I’m giving them are really is to say, you know what.

[00:37:28] I don’t know anything about this, and I’m probably going to say something stupid. And I want you to know that I’m trying to learn here and I don’t have the perfect answers. So if I say something stupid, I’m gonna apologize for you out of the gate because I’m learning and I need your help to learn about this.

[00:37:45] So those are the, that’s my script that I’m giving people. Right. But I can give you any perfect words to say, to make it. Give you the words to tell people that I’m flawed. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m still trying to figure this out and I need your help. That makes you a human. And it also makes people want to help you to figure out how to get better.

[00:38:08] And so if. The the way you approach these conversations, you don’t need a crutch. You don’t need a script. You just need the experiences of having these different conversations over and over and over again. It’ll give you some confidence and some competency on how to do it better the next time. That’s where we got to get to.

[00:38:28] Zach White: I think that’s fantastic. And what you just shared. It’s a great example. How important, a simple, honest, you know, vulnerable framing of what is true and well, here’s where I’m. Just opens the door to now be able to express those feelings and emotions without fear about getting the words perfect. Because people will give you that grace when you ask for it.

[00:38:51] And it’s just, when we pretend that we have all the answers that we end up. Yeah. 

[00:38:56] Anton Gunn: They’ll give you the grace and they will help you. The key that I always say is that I need your help here. Um, I’m learning here. Um, I, I need your help with this situation. I need your help with a challenge. When you go into a position.

[00:39:09] Well, you’re asking people to help you. They’re going to give you the grace and they’re going to help you. Now, the key is when they help you, you have to accept the help. Don’t feel like that. I’m just saying it because I want to hear their answers, but you got to accept the help and be responsive to 

[00:39:26] Zach White: it.

[00:39:28] That’s a really important distinction. Don’t ask for the help. If you’re not prepared to. I love that. I love that Anton, this has been extremely powerful and I would love to keep going, but I want to leave it here. I think this is a lot for us to take to heart, to take action on a, to get into that 5% of people who, right where we’re at in the workplace, or, you know, in our communities and our churches and our homes and places where we need to show up against injustice.

[00:40:00] This has been really, really powerful. I always finish in this place. I really believe Anton great engineering, great leadership. Great coaching has in common that questions lead and answers follow-up. And so we want to ask great questions in our lives. So for the engineering leader, who’s listening today.

[00:40:24] If they want that fulfilling, happy life that’s success that they dream about. What would be the question that Anton would lead them with today? 

[00:40:38] Anton Gunn: So I actually have to leave them with three and they’re all connected together. Um, and as a leader, these are the three questions that every employee that you lead, every person in your household that looks up to you as a leader, they ask these three questions.

[00:40:55] Every. They ask them over and over again. And you may never hear them verbalize these questions, but there does this say they’re tattooed on their foreheads and how you answered these questions. As a leader will determine your success or your failure here. The three questions, question number one is, do you care about me?

[00:41:18] Question number two, is, will you help me in question number three? Is, can I trust you? And they don’t want to hear the word yes. To any of those three questions they want to see in your actions, that you actually care about them, that you’re willing to help them and that they can trust you. So whether it’s your children, whether it’s your spouse, whether it’s the team that you lead at work.

[00:41:50] Uh, whether it’s the community in which you serve in a leadership role, it doesn’t matter what you do. Just know that every person that is in a subordinate position or in a, uh, situational position where they’re looking to you for leadership, they’re asking those three questions. Does he care about me? Is she willing to help me?

[00:42:13] And can I trust her? If you can answer yes to those three questions with your actions, then you put yourself in a position to be one of the most respected, admired, and impactful leaders that people will ever know.

[00:42:34] Zach White: Anton, thank you so much. And it’s incredibly obvious that you are one of those leaders and I appreciate how much, you know, you care about the people you serve. And your heart for this, you know, mission and purpose in the world to create transformational change in workplaces and culture. So thank you for sharing a piece of that with us today.

[00:42:56] Where can our listeners find out more about the incredible work that you’re doing and get connected to Anton com? 

[00:43:03] Anton Gunn: Fantastic. This is a great segue. So I have a couple resources that I think your engineering audience would love. And then I’m happy to give them a free copy. So I like to help people to become a more admired engineer, more admired executive.

[00:43:18] So I have a free worksheet that I want to share with on seven ways to help you to be more effective as a leader. If you go to Anton Give me an email address. I’ll send you a free PDF download of that worksheet that you can complete to help you to be more connected with your team. To answer those three.

[00:43:41] But more importantly, to understand how you can mitigate injustice in the workplace. And for those who are leaders of teams, and you want to build a better culture in your organization, you can go to Anton course. I have a free four-part video course that you can get immediate access to.

[00:44:02] That will help you. To build the kind of culture in your organization that makes it less toxic. That makes it better in the mitigates and justice across the board. So again, Anton course or slash admired, you can get access to both of those documents and both of those opportunities. And I’m on all social channels, Instagram.

[00:44:25] Facebook. Um, but I would love to connect with people on LinkedIn. Please drop me a note, connect with me on LinkedIn and drop me a note. I love to connect with you 

[00:44:34] Zach White: there. This is a tremendous opportunity. I encourage everybody listening. Please go grab the resources. We’ll put links to all of these in the show notes, you know where to find [email protected].

[00:44:47] But, uh, I cannot say enough. Anton’s work, the quality of what he does, the heart and the sincerity of the work that he does. And I had an opportunity to spend a couple of days in training with Anton and just see that heart shine. And so you won’t be disappointed to go invest in this. And certainly if your organization needs Anton services, uh, Absolutely worth, uh, you know, connecting with and checking out cause it’s transformational for culture and your company.

[00:45:14] So, Anton, thanks again for making time today. This has been an awesome 

[00:45:17] Anton Gunn: pleasure. Thank you very much, Zach. You have a fantastic day.