How many of us have been in the position before? We have an issue at work that we don't know how to resolve. We can't share it with our colleagues because it's a sensitive issue. We don't know how to address it with our boss. And we feel like the human resources department, even if there is one, is really just looking out for the company not the employees.
Jaime-Alexis Fowler came up with a solution — Empower Work. Now employees can discuss their workplace dilemmas with trained peer counselors. It all happens via text message or online chat. The conversations can take place anywhere — the train during your commute, in the break room at work or from the comfort of your own home. And, as if that weren't enough, it's free to use.
We talked to Jaime-Alexis about why she created this incredible resource and much more during our interview for The Passionistas Project Podcast.
Passionistas: What are you most passionate about?
Jaime-Alexis: For me it's really about people growing up. My parents had a phrase, how you treat people is important. And I think that that has been a central theme in every facet of my life and has been particularly part of it at work where I spend most of my time. Passionistas: Tell us about what you do for work and how your passion translates to that. Jaime-Alexis: Empower Work is a national organization that provides essentially a crisis text line for work. And one of the reasons we started that was that a couple of years ago, as you know, many of these MeToo headlines were raging and of course still are. I was increasingly doing these sort of whisper network style conversations. And after one particularly tough conversation, I hung up the call and thought there has to be a better way than doing this.
And the person I had in particular just spoken to was the first generation to go to college. She was working in this really small startup. Nobody in her family had worked in technology and she was struggling with a lot of different competing factors, the financial pressure of student loans. She was also supporting some of her family. And what had been the promise of technology that she could go and make this great salary and lift her family out of the experiences that she'd had growing up was suddenly at risk. And there were these multiple competing factors. And I just left thinking like, there's gotta be a better way to do this. There was nothing in her company that she felt was trusted or safe. There were no resources either. There's no HR and no EAP or any other kind of resource. And so I turned to my husband and said, “There's gotta be some kind of crisis text line for work.”
And we started Google searching that night. I was like, "Oh yeah, let's just keep that in our back pocket. Let's just like be aware of what other resources exist." I was familiar with all of the traditional resources that are available through a company. So, oh great, you've got your employee assistance program or you can access and have a conversation with your trusted HR business partner or whatever the situation may be. And honestly, what floored me was that there were no third party resources that existed with either you sell to the company or you sell to the individual. And so with that left were as I started looking into it as a 40 million Americans work in workplaces with fewer than a hundred people. And that leads to all kinds of disconnections when people face these really challenging situations. And of course when you think about that, that disproportionately impacts low income workers, those with less social capital.
And so at the heart of it for me was this fundamental inequity that we are meant to be this land of opportunity. And we're told that jobs are the means of doing that. But when you face an adverse situation and suddenly your job is on the line, where do you turn? And that threat becomes really real. How do you pay rent? How do you pay for childcare? And unfortunately that means that people are putting up with really toxic situations in order to get that paycheck. And that's leading to all kinds of negative emotional and financial outcomes for workers.
Hear Jaime-Alexis' whole episode here.
Find out more about Empower Work at www.empowerwork.org.