There is a war in Ukraine that we cannot ignore. You’ve seen it either on the news, social media, newspaper, etc. Russia invaded Ukraine, and from a U.S. standpoint, Vladimir Putin’s attitude is controversial. Worldwide, opinions have differed, while many HR professionals are saying, “Not another thing I have to deal with, and why should I care about the war in Ukraine?” My guest Baiba Žiga is sharing why you should. We spoke on Feb. 26, not long after the invasion began.
Baiba is the founder and CEO of Lakehouse Consulting, an agency that helps build equitable and inclusive cultures where diversity thrives at other organizations. She has taken to her platforms on LinkedIn and Instagram to talk about how this conflict affects our workplaces.
In this episode, Baiba shares the HR guide that she created to help professionals understand how we are all connected, how the war can be triggering and how it adds to our feelings of helplessness.
It’s important that HR professionals and leaders de-center themselves from the conversation. Instead of asking “What does this have to do with work?” start asking, “How can I be helpful?” Sit back and take in this helpful and important conversation.
Punk Rock HR is proudly underwritten by The Starr Conspiracy. The Starr Conspiracy is a B2B marketing agency for innovative brands creating the future of workplace solutions. For more information, head over to thestarrconspiracy.com.
Amplifying Their Voices
There is so much going on in our world today, and quite frankly, the world has been on fire for a while. But with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Baiba shares that HR should speak on this and that it’s not limited to just HR.
Baiba shares, “I feel that it’s in a way everyone’s responsibility to talk about it, and it’s definitely leadership’s responsibility to talk about it. Regardless of whether this leadership comes out of HR, whether it sits around the executive table or comes from any other space, it is the leadership’s responsibility to talk about these events.”
She points out that it’s not only the events in Ukraine that should be talked about but also all events that are affecting humanity. Too often, some leaders are not intentionally or seriously supporting their people through turbulent times. But Baiba stresses that it’s time for leadership to do better for their people.
“My life’s work is serving humanity through encouraging and empowering conscious and active leadership. And there couldn’t be a better time and more crucial time for this leadership to manifest,” she says.
Baiba has amplified and spoken up about other events over the years, too. She understands that amplifying the voices of the people of Ukraine is crucial. “It is my duty and responsibility to amplify the voices of Ukrainian people, of the trustworthy resources, and adding in my lived experience and my experience as a DEI strategist, as someone who has spent nearly a decade in people and HR herself.”
It’s essential to step up now and help amplify the voices of Ukraine because “staying quiet and silent is more deafening and isolating than if we show solidarity to our people.”
HR + Ukraine = It Matters
Many people often have the mindset of “why should we care?” The answer to that is, regardless of your background, world events will still affect you. “First and foremost, you don’t have to be a Ukrainian citizen or a Ukrainian national to be affected by these events,” Baiba states.
While we may not know firsthand what the citizens of Ukraine are going through, we can still give them a space to be heard, especially in the workplace, as people are separated from their families. Baiba saw an opportunity to help HR professionals and leaders understand why it’s essential to talk about this war and get involved. However, talking about war can be triggering.
We all go through a range of emotions, and for many, it can instill feelings of hopelessness in our efforts for peace and feelings of anxiety about how far things will go. “The second aspect of that is also the anxiety about this war spilling into Europe, because if it does, then the first countries that will get hit will be my home countries,” Baiba shares.
Since the beginning of this century, we’ve been through a generation of conflict from the Western perspective and almost every continent. “All of these people are the citizens of the global nation. And so, war, bombing, shooting, just those sounds alone can be triggering. And not only for people who have been through war, but also people who are veterans,” she explains.
True Leadership During Conflict
Leadership done well consists of having compassion and empathy for people who work for you. This requires redefining what a leader should be doing in the first place, which is a significant problem.
Baiba explains, “One of the problems is that we have got an outdated view of what a leader is. And we see a leader as someone who has to do things, who has to solve problems, who has to fix things.” But leadership isn’t about doing — it’s about being.
During these times, it’s about showing up with compassion and letting people know that you are there for support versus trying just to fix the problem. “It’s just saying, ‘You don’t have to come back to me, just know I am here. I am supporting. Take the time that you need.’ It’s just showing that kind of solidarity and compassion,” Baiba shares.
While we don’t see this enough from leaders, we can improve our own personal development and become more empathetic and compassionate during times of conflict. The more you do that, the sooner “we will become a more empathetic unity and a global human group of people,” Baiba says.'First and foremost, you don’t have to be a Ukrainian citizen or a Ukrainian national to be affected by these events,' said @BaibaZiga. Listen to #PunkRockHR to hear how Baiba is helping leaders talk about this conflict at work. Click To Tweet
People in This Episode
This episode of Punk Rock HR is sponsored by The Starr Conspiracy. The Starr Conspiracy is the B2B marketing agency for innovative brands creating the future of workplace solutions. For more information, head on over to the starrconspiracy.com.
Hey everybody. I’m Laurie Ruettimann. Welcome back to a bonus episode of Punk Rock HR. As I record this episode on Saturday, Feb. 26, there is war in Ukraine. Russia invaded Ukraine and, from a US standpoint, what’s controversial is Putin’s attitude. But throughout the world, people have a lot of different opinions on this, including many HR professionals who are like, “Not another thing I have to deal with, and why should I care about war in Ukraine?” And so that’s what I’m here to talk about today with my guest, Baiba Žiga.
Baiba Žiga is the founder and CEO of Lakehouse Consulting. Her company helps to build equitable and inclusive cultures where diversity thrives at other organizations.
Just recently, Baiba has been on the internet, and most importantly LinkedIn and Instagram, talking about how the conflict in Ukraine affects our workplaces. And she came out with a guide where she helps HR professionals think about how we’re all connected, how the war might be triggering just for your average ordinary worker and how war adds to our personal feelings of helplessness.
And so that’s what we’re talking about on the podcast today, how HR professionals and leaders can de-center themselves from the conversation and stop asking “What does this have to do with work?” and start asking, “How can I be helpful?” I would invite you, like I do every week, to sit back and really take in this helpful and important conversation about the conflict in Ukraine with Baiba Žiga.
Hi, Baiba. Welcome to the podcast.
Hi, Laurie. Thank you so much for having me. It’s a privilege.
Well, I’m so pleased that you’re here. And to get us started, would you do us the honor of telling us who you are and what you’re all about?
Yes, of course. So my name is Baiba Žiga. I am the founder and CEO of Lakehouse Consulting. We are a diversity, equity and inclusion strategist and leadership coach, coaching organization or company, and I have a beautiful team around me who help me with engaging with the clients, with running and hosting our DEI community.
We do all kinds of podcasting. We do live shows to ultimately talk and spread word about not only diversity, equity and inclusion, but also how it fits in the wider culture, transformation and culture change within organizations.
So myself, I’m originally from Latvia. I have spent over a decade in the UK working there, living there, studying there, building my career out there. And currently, I live in South America. And this is where I work with both coasts, I guess, on these topics.
Well, that’s amazing. And I would imagine that during this time, the team that you’ve described at Lakehouse Consulting is virtual, correct? Are they a global team?
They’re a global team and they’re 100% virtual. Yeah.
So, the world is kind of on fire right now, and that’s why I’ve invited you onto the show today. I thought you had such an interesting perspective on what’s happening over in Ukraine. And I saw that you had a point of view on LinkedIn, and also on Instagram, that HR should talk about Ukraine and the conflict. Can you tell me more about that?
I would say that it’s not just HR. Obviously, HR in a way has got the responsibility for the organization’s people, and a lot of the people messaging comes out of that. But I feel that it’s in a way everyone’s responsibility to talk about it, and it’s definitely leadership’s responsibility to talk about it. Regardless whether this leadership comes out of HR, whether it sits around the executive table or comes from any other space, it is the leadership’s responsibility to talk about these events.
And not just these events. The world has been on fire this whole century. The world, it’s specifically on fire over the past two years. And unfortunately, we have seen far too few leaders seriously and intentionally and purposefully supporting their people. And, in a way, where my life’s work is serving humanity, is serving humanity through encouraging and empowering conscious and active leadership. And there couldn’t be a better time and more crucial time for this leadership to manifest.
Well, I’m absolutely down with conscious leadership, and I think that’s so incredibly important. And yet I was surprised by your statement on LinkedIn, that so many HR professionals reached out to you and said, “What does HR have to do with Ukraine?” It just blew me away. So can you tell me more about those questions and how you responded to that?
So, in various formats it has been, “why should we care?” “Why should we talk about it?” “What is our responsibility to talk about it?” And there are many reasons for that.
First and foremost, you don’t have to be a Ukrainian citizen, or a Ukrainian national, to be affected by these events. Of course, those people will be affected most profoundly right now, because for instance, I’m working here with over 250 Ukrainians who are away from their families, who are 7,000 miles away from their families. Some of them have been away from their families six to eight months. And during these times, they can’t be with their families. They can’t pack them up in a car and take them across the border in safety.
And so, the fear is palpable. The first couple of days, you’ve needed a chainsaw to get through the atmosphere that has been out here. And then you have highly privileged people asking questions. “Why should we talk about it?” Yeah, because you do not have to be a Ukrainian. There are plenty of people who have experienced political conflict, civil conflict, war in their lifetimes.
So, Baiba, you’ve created an amazing guide on LinkedIn and Instagram to help people really think through why it’s important for human resources professionals — and leaders — to think about the Ukrainian conflict, to think about the Russian invasion, and to also get involved. And I wonder if we can go through that and I’ll take us through that if you’re OK with that.
So, the first thing you wrote that I thought really spoke to me is that war is triggering for many. And you just alluded to that. We’ve been through a generation of conflict since the beginning of the century, starting with in our Western perspective, 9/11, but there’s been conflict on every continent minus maybe Antarctica. So take us through what it means that war is triggering for many?
As you just said it, many of us within our lifetimes have been through war. We have had the Balkans in Europe, we’ve had Iraq, Iran. We’ve had Afghanistan. Recently, we’ve had Palestine. And there are many other places in Asia, in South America, who have been through all kinds of conflicts.
All of these people are the citizens of the global nation. And so war, bombing, shooting, just those sounds alone can be triggering. And not only for people who have been through war, but also people who are veterans. For instance, families of veterans who have been with their spouses and partners throughout those processes and having sleepless nights worrying sick about them.
I’m born in a refugee family. A refugee family that fled post-World War II, seeking safety in a neighboring country ultimately. And that generation is still alive in my family. And so there is a generational trauma that’s there.
Ukraine and, for instance, Latvia, we share our history. My neighbors in Latvia are Ukrainian. I’ve grown up with Ukrainian people. So it’s not just one nation against the other. We share history, we share culture. In a way, we also share language. Even though we have our own national languages coming out of post-Soviet Union, many of us still speak the same language.
And the second aspect of that is also the anxiety about this war spilling into Europe, because if it does, then the first countries that will get hit will be my home countries.
You spoke so eloquently about how the war adds to our personal feelings of helplessness. And I just wonder if you can speak a little bit about that, because I think many of the clients that you have on a day-to-day basis can feel helpless with climate change and civil unrest and racial and social injustices. And now we’ve thrown the war on top of this.
So, can you talk about how all of that commingles and intermingles into this feeling of helplessness, there’s nothing I can do. Cynicism, maybe? I don’t know. Do you feel that with your clients?
Yes. To a degree within a professional setting, I do feel that, and especially when we talk about the topics around diversity, equity, inclusion. However, even more so, I am feeling that in everyday conversations, not just in a professional setting.
So, I have had also, over the past week, I’ve had my colleagues and friends from the other side of the Atlantic, from the U.S. and Canada, reach out to me about just reestablishing and clearing out some facts, just because they do not trust their own media outlets and the U.S. propaganda that has been very widely communicated during these times.
And some of the things, that for instance, just the way how people talk about it, and how these events are being reduced. So for instance, some of the conversations have been around — so again, people who don’t necessarily know the historical context are reducing these events to comparing Russia to a violent beating husband, and then Ukraine the poor victim wife. And then there are so many years of that, that are just completely utterly wrong.
And then the biggest question I’m asking: What kind of society are you raising if they can’t cope and comprehend historical context, in fact, that you have to reduce it down to a wife-beating analogy?
Yeah, that’s a terrible analogy for what’s going on for a lot of reasons. And it really diminishes domestic violence. Absolutely.
You mentioned that there’s a lot of propaganda going on, and a lot of incomplete information. And people don’t necessarily have a historical context. And of course, first of all, there’s just so much history and also people aren’t educated in the way that we used to educate them. And it’s a crazy time right now. So, I wonder if you have a clear way of talking about, expressing or even explaining the conflict between Russia and Ukraine?
So, the first thing that I would say, and the most important thing, is to educate yourselves about it, and do take that education upon yourself to go and read upon what the history has been like and what the relationships have been like.
Ukraine has been independent for 30 years now. It is an independent and sovereign country. However, because of its geopolitical location, because of the historical ties that it has with Russia and with Russia’s ally, Belarus.
So for instance, in my home country, in Latvia, the Balkan states, we have also been independent for 30 years. However, where we, for instance, have been welcomed into the EU more openly than, for instance, Ukraine.
What we are seeing right now, is that Ukraine is fighting by itself. So I have been listening to NATO briefings, UN briefings, EC briefings, what Biden has been saying, what Putin has been saying, what Zelenskyy has been saying. And the thing is that, there are a lot of people who are expressing solidarity. And when I say a lot of people, there are a lot of people in power who are expressing solidarity, how we are all one team, how we are all one humanity, one global, a team of human citizens or global citizens, but then at the same time, Ukraine’s still on its own.
Ukraine is completely fighting on its own, and its civilians are fighting on its own. People in power are saying big words, how they’re going to put sanctions on Russia. We haven’t seen those sanctions. The sanctions that people are talking about right now are, I’m not going to even comment on them. They’re not serious sanctions.
So when you ask human resources professionals to have a point of view, or to at least get educated. What tips do you have for them? What resources? I heard you say it’s important to get schooled on history, but do they do that on Wikipedia? Do they do that on the UN’s website? Where do they go? What tools and resources do you have for them to understand what’s happening in Ukraine, but also to be helpful? How does anybody get started?
First and foremost, I was talking about schooling our history, we know how that works out. Even if when we talk — so for instance, like I said, I’ve lived in the UK for 10 years — even when we talk about World War II and what people in ex-Soviet Union have been through, and how World War II history has been taught in, for instance, the UK, are two very different histories.
Over there, they have been taught about how Winston Churchill saved the world, and if it wasn’t for him, we probably would still be fighting. It’s just a very, very different whitewashed history. And at no point, for instance, they have been talking about the genocide that, for instance, Stalin performed on his own people. The exiles to Siberia of his own people, of his own nationals, that kind of history is completely lost in Western history.
That being said, in terms of where to find out information, there are a lot of channels obviously right now when it comes to news outlets, I would recommend watching a few, Al Jazeera is good. BBC is good. I have also shared some resources on LinkedIn, people who, for instance, speak Russian. There are a lot of people who right now obviously do not read any Russian outlets just because they’re full of propaganda. That is true. But there are single numbers of outlets that actually do reflect the information correctly.
But the thing is, in any history or any historical context, whenever we read, wherever it might be, at Wikipedia, UN website or any other website, or history books for that matter, it is important to understand, where are those points of view and sources coming from, and which point?
Again, we might be talking about, for instance, World War II, and a source might be either a Russian source, or it might be a German source. And depending on who’s talking about it, you’ll have very two different experiences of the same event. And both of them potentially are true.
So again, it is our responsibility to process that information, and start understanding where are those information resources coming from? What are the influences and key influences behind them? Rather than just reading big headlines and taking them all for a fact.
There’s a million things that you could be doing with your time right now. You’re running this really great entrepreneurial venture, where you’re out there really trying to change the world on diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, all the good stuff, and you have a vibrant personal life. You’ve got all these amazing things. You’ve got a great story. And here you are on LinkedIn, really trying to motivate the human resources community to give a damn about the conflict in Ukraine.
And you are creating wonderful guides to help them do things, like to demonstrate more compassion, to be curious, and to be helpful, and to mind the triggering effects of what’s happening in the world. Why are you doing that? Why do you care?
I mean, my life’s work is to serve humanity. And as much as I talked about what happened in Palestine, and what’s happened over the past two years, this conflict hits home closer than any of the previous ones. For the previous ones, I might be the one who was on the listening side, listening to scholars or listening to people with their lived experiences — and, if anything, amplifying what they were saying, to ensure that people within my networks get appropriate and trustworthy information.
Whereas now, it is my duty and responsibility to amplify the voices of Ukrainian people, of the trustworthy resources, and adding in my lived experience and my experience as a DEI strategist, as someone who has spent nearly a decade in people and HR herself. And I have seen when leadership — and I’m not only talking about HR leadership, but leadership in general, and also HR leadership — when it’s been done well. And when it’s been done shockingly.
And during this time, staying quiet and silence is more deafening, and more deafening and isolating, than if we show solidarity to our people. And one of the problems in that is that we have got an outdated view of what a leader is. And we see a leader as someone who has to do things, who has to solve problems, who has to fix things.
And that is because when you go on Amazon, the first probably 10 titles when you Google in are, “what to do as a leader,” “the top five things to do as a leader,” “what great leaders do,” right? But a leader is not just about doing, leadership is being. And sometimes, and especially during times like this, it is about being, it is about extending our compassion. Instead of telling people, “Tell me, how are things? How are you feeling today?” sometimes it’s just saying, “You don’t have to come back to me, just know I am here. I am supporting. Take the time that you need.” It’s just showing that kind of solidarity and compassion. And unfortunately, we do not see that enough.
And during this time, specifically, there are also many companies who are directly employing Ukrainian workers who have not yet said a thing.
For instance, in Canada, there is the biggest Ukrainian diaspora there outside Russia and Ukraine. And many companies have not said a thing because they do not directly employ Ukrainians, but they’ve got the biggest diaspora of Ukrainians living among their own citizens. So, even from that point of view, we have the responsibility to talk about it.
And another layer of a leadership is the fact that, for those people who feel helpless in these situations and can’t support the front line or any other way, or they don’t have any Ukrainians for instance, in their network who they can hold space for. The thing is, again, we have the duty and responsibility within our networks, our friendship groups, our organizations and even around our dinner tables, to be able to have a constructive and purposeful and impactful conversation. And not to give into, again, propaganda, disinformation, false facts, but to educate ourselves so that when these conversations come, we can participate in them appropriately, and educate people within our circles. And that’s already helpful.
Are there any opportunities for us as individuals to learn a lesson, or to just improve our own personal development during a time of conflict?
Of course, I think in times of conflict, what they ask for is human compassion and empathy. And during this time, while often we might not be able to do much, what we can be is we can be empathetic and compassionate human beings. And the more we train that muscle, the hopefully sooner we will become a more empathetic unity and global human group of people.
Well, I love the side idea of training during a time of conflict. I mean, every day is practice, right? Every day is a do-over, but especially, and now more than ever, we’ve been given this opportunity to demonstrate compassion and empathy. Even if it’s not towards people directly affected by the conflict in Ukraine, doing it in our local communities can have such a positive ripple effect. Is that what you mean?
100%. Because even if we have a look at the impact of pandemic that it has had on people. And we all have gone through a pandemic collectively, and that is also the perfect opportunity to extend compassion to someone. Just because we personally may have not had the worst experience during pandemic, we may have not have lost our jobs or our closest families, our neighbor or our best friend might be going through that.
So just being mindful and not centering ourselves in every single bit. And instead, just holding space for people. And just for a moment, allowing the fact that there might be more than one truth, and that not everything is a projection of what we are projecting into the world, that there are more views and there are more truths, and not necessarily that we always have to center it around ourselves.
What we can do is hold space. What we can do is listen and speak with passion, and we can speak our truth, and we can still walk away from the conversation with mutual respect for each other. I think we need more of that.
Well, that brings us full circle to the reason why I invited you on the podcast, because those questions that you were receiving from human resources leaders about “why is this important to me?” Why does my company need to care?” are completely centered on themselves and on their organizations — the opposite of your thesis around leadership, correct?
100%. We need to decenter ourselves. We need to decenter our leadership and be leadership for everyone, conscious active leadership. And if there is one time to show up as a leader, there hasn’t been a better time to show up as a leader as now. Considering everything that we’ve been going through, and not only talking about the Ukrainian war, but just everything.
Well, I’m so grateful you took some time on this Saturday, the 26th of February, when we’re recording this, to come and talk about what’s happening in Ukraine, how HR professionals should be and could get involved, and also what leaders ought to be doing during this time. If people want to learn more about you, where can they find you on the internet?
I am on LinkedIn. That’s where I’m very active. I’m also on Instagram. I do have a website www.lakehouse-consulting.com, where the stuff that I’m doing, videos of any of my talks, podcasts, and those kinds of things are all listed there, as well. But I am most active on LinkedIn, so anyone can reach out with their reflections and thoughts, or any reasonable questions. I’ll be happy to pick them up.
Yeah. Only the reasonable questions, please, please. Well, it was such a pleasure to have you on today. Thanks again for being a guest on Punk Rock HR.
Thank you, Laurie.
Hey everybody. I hope you enjoyed this episode of Punk Rock HR. We are proudly underwritten by the Starr Conspiracy. The Starr Conspiracy is the B2B marketing agency for innovative brands creating the future of workplace solutions.
For more information head on over to the starrconspiracy.com. Punk Rock HR is produced and edited Rep Cap, with special help from Michael Thibodeaux and Devon McGrath. For more information, show notes, links, and resources, head on over to punkrockhr.com. Now that’s all for today and I hope you enjoyed it. We’ll see you next time on Punk Rock HR.