Zach Flood entered college thinking he would follow in his father’s footsteps: providing counseling and therapy services to boys and men. When those plans changed, Zach entered the world of professional sales and management. But despite his success, he felt something was missing. In this conversation, Zach and his father, Randy Flood, psychotherapist, and Director of the Men’s Resource Center of West Michigan talk about what it means to develop a wellness model for businesses and organizations. They reference the organizational misconduct evaluations, consultation, and counseling provided by the Men’s Resource Center as well as the workshops and presentations they’ve done together which are tailored to help business and organizational leaders create healthier and more productive workplaces and professional environments. For more information, read excerpts of the conversation below (edited for clarity and space) or listen to the complete segment on the Revealing Men podcast.
A Different Type of Psychology
R. Flood: Thanks for being here today and talking about this subject. Say a little bit about your experience of having a couple of different pivots that landed you where you are today.
Z. Flood: Originally, in undergrad, I decided that I wanted to go into psychology. I was thinking of just the base level of working with people and wanting to get into how people think and interact. That was my thought process originally. I went along with the process and liked some of the classes; didn’t like some of the classes.
I came to the Men’s Resource Center and shadowed a couple of times and was around the clinical setting and was put off by it. Some real intense stuff was being processed and it was a little bit of a shock for me. So, I pivoted away from that to go into the business world and do sales because it was still a person-centered field. I did that for seven, seven-and-a-half years. Then I moved into a financial role where I was doing partner-management and worked in a corporate setting in an office in a high-rise in Detroit. After a couple of years, I just started feeling a little empty. I felt very transactional. There just wasn’t a lot of purpose.
I got to this point where I found myself going back to psychology and I wanted to work with men specifically because I’ve seen that lifecycle a bit more. Seeing how I grew up, finding my own path, seeing men around me dealing with different issues — especially in the workplace — and seeing some of those workplace dynamics. I realized that there was a lot of good to be done and a lot of my skills that could be used differently to make the world a better place.
R. Flood: Yeah! You got exposure to clinical mental illness, mental health, severe types of [acting out] problems with men. And then, as you got into the corporate world, you started seeing that male socialization and the training of men sometimes still can manifest, or some of the issues or problems can manifest, in an environment like that.
Creating a Wellness Model
R. Flood: I’ve heard you say that you became interested in a wellness model of how to make men better versions of themselves, better leaders, better individuals in the workplace.
Z. Flood: There were a lot of high-functioning individuals around me but also a lot of self-doubt and performance anxiety. Especially in the environments I was in where you had to hit numbers and where there were goals and expectations. Where getting into your own head would be to your detriment. [I wanted] to find ways where we can try to help people become the fullest version of themselves. I think that has to do with not only working on an individual level with men but also with organizations and [the idea of] how much culture is important: a culture of wellness and a culture of a rising tide floats all boats. That drew me to this as well.
Harassment and Misconduct Consultations
R. Flood: Let’s talk a little bit about sexual harassment and the consultations we’ve done for companies. Especially in the rise of the #MeToo movement and the awareness around workplace relationships, a lot of men are really afraid. They’re not sure how to interact. They’re not sure what the rules are anymore.
Z. Flood: It’s interesting. You get a lot of men where — when they’re introduced to some of these new ideas where we talk about emotional intelligence and all of these different things that go into being a fuller version of a man — they’re like, “hey, why didn’t they teach us this in school?!” You see a lot of light bulbs going on around the room (which is really cool) but you also see a lot of furrowed brows and confusion because it’s just something where, depending on how long they’ve been in the same place, they might’ve been thinking one way for 35 years of their career. It feels like an attack. You’ve got guys strolling in with these brave ideas and all of a sudden it seems there’s a lot of friction and cognitive dissonance.
R. Flood: I remember one particular consultation we did where they were talking about how there were men who worked outside and a lot of women inside the office. And they would have these work parties and outings where alcohol was involved. The person who brought us in said that’s where there’s a lot of problems, because then they got a little liquid courage, and they would bring it back into the office. There was a lot of discussion about how to know what is consensual. We were able to talk about how, if you don’t know the person, you have to be really, really, cautious about how you interact in the workplace.
Z. Flood: We talked about “fight or flight,” which is what everyone kind of knows. Then the introduction to the idea of fight, flight, or freeze. Just being able to realize that just because they’re not putting an arm out and pushing you away, or verbally telling you that “I’m uncomfortable” or “stop it,” doesn’t mean they’re not uncomfortable. Sometimes men, or individuals in general, aren’t taught that or they’re not socialized to recognize that.
Changing Workplace Culture
Z. Flood: I remember we walked into one place and there were just a bunch of men in the room. The secretary [who was a woman] came in and three of them joked like, asking for more coffee, and then it was kind of laughed about. We kind of looked at each other, and we’re like, “Cool … we’ve got some stuff to work on here!” We talked to them and made it very clear that we don’t want to change who they are, we don’t want them to abandon their masculinity. That’s not the point. It’s about becoming more complete and realizing that there’s work to be done.
I don’t think it was malicious in the way that they said it. It was through a lens of humor. But sometimes that humor’s just not going to hit home. It’s just not o.k. It’s about introducing these new ideas to bring in this culture of mindfulness. Of asking: what are we saying? We’re not just saying stuff off the cuff, we have to be meaningful, especially in a workplace and professional environment.
R. Flood: This person that brought us in said he was online and saw a lot of compulsory kinds of classes that people can take in front of a screen. He wanted us to come in because he wanted it to be more personal, more tailored. We had conversations with him ahead of time to get an understanding of the culture and then we tailored the consultation. It was a very satisfying process!
Z. Flood: I loved it! I thought it was great! It was getting that buy-in like a third of the way through. Where you’re introducing ideas they might not have heard and you’re applying them to a workplace. You start to see heads nodding and people looking at each other. You can see it in the room. And then, by the end, they’re throwing out ideas and talking with each other. All of these different things are happening and you see it in real-time. And that’s what’s really exciting, when they start collaborating and there’s that sense of teamwork and “we’re all in this together.”
R. Flood: One of the things we marveled at is that these people that brought us in weren’t necessarily having incidents. They were thought-leaders, leaders in business. They were able to say there’s a lot of “Me Too” stuff going on, a lot of talk about consent, and they wanted to be preventative. They wanted to be ahead of it. It was inspiring to work with those kinds of leaders.
Using a Wellness Model to Retain Talent
Z. Flood: I also think that if you look at it through a business lens and in the labor market these days it can be tough to retain talent. Millennials and younger people are looking for more out of their workplace rather than just security and a paycheck. There’s a lot of mission that goes along with work and culture. They ask: “Where am I working?” “What kind of people am I working with?” That’s more important these days. As a business leader, that’s really exciting that you can market that to your employees. Like “hey, this is important.” Because if it’s made important, then that’s going to bleed into other things. And that’s only going to lift your culture. That’s what’s really exciting.
R. Flood: You and I have had some discussions about psychology and the history of psychology and how it’s been used — this huge medical model of illness and diagnostic codes — and your passion is more around the wellness model and being able to take it into businesses. It’s more coaching and increasing someone’s potential as a human being, using psychology for that purpose, to make someone be a better version of themself.
Z. Flood: The workplace is a tangible place to do something like that. Especially because people are spending eight, nine, 10 hours a day at their workplace. It’s a huge chunk of their lives. Especially now that we’re moving more into a service economy and not producing as many things anymore. Interpersonal conflict resolution is going to become even more and more important as we go forward in the 21st century. We’re not going to get less interpersonal with business and the economy. There’s a lot of work to be done there. It ties in, especially for me, for men, just how the roles in the world are changing. We’re having to navigate that in a very healthy way. We’re doing the right thing by taking ownership of that.
Mental Wellness as a Business Priority
R. Flood: If you had to take a risk and be a visionary and say, “O.K., here’s where we’re at today, but by 20 years from now …,” do you think that businesses or companies might take mental wellness as a greater priority? They already have things like places for people to take naps because now they know you’re more productive. We’ve learned some things. I wonder if there’re going to be support groups in companies where you can go and talk about stuff. Or mental health professionals might be more integral as consultants.
Z. Flood: There’s always going to be an aspect where there needs to be some sort of value and pay-off. That’s just the world of business. I’d love for that not to even be taken into consideration, just to focus on mental health. But, as a realist, you have to look at that. How many health insurance plans in 1952 had some sort of wellness component? Where, like now, if you don’t smoke and you exercise, you can get a discount? That didn’t exist back in the day. I hope that that kind of progression continues.
With more and more research coming out about mindfulness and mental health, the stigma is slowly eking away. I think that’s only going to continue. Also, seeing through the lens that: “This is going to increase productivity.” “This is going to allow us to make our firm better.” If they’re [employees] happy when they’re working and they love the place they work, and they feel like they’re vibrant, then they’re only going to stay there and work more! It won’t be “I feel really awesome and healthy like I want to just go home!” [Laughs] If you have the right kind of workplace and the right kind of people there, it’s only going to help, it’s not going to hurt.
Moving Psychology into the Workplace
R. Flood: The work I do here [Men’s Resource Center] is more about helping men to be a better version of themselves as human beings, fathers, husbands, dads. To see it even go further into the workplace and seeing psychology move into more of a wellness model and getting people to reach their potential, it’s pretty exciting!
Z. Flood: There’s so much work to be done and there’s a lot of ways that we can help everyone around us.
R. Flood: Thank you for coming in to talk about it. I love your vision! I hope it gets realized!
Learn More About the Wellness Model and Workplace Consultations
To hear the full conversation between father and son about creating healthier and more productive workplaces and professional environments, listen to the Revealing Men podcast. For information or to schedule a workshop or consultation on workplace misconduct and sexual harassment please contact the Men’s Resource Center online or call us at (616) 456-1178.