Boundaries are Bullsh*t with Stephanie Nadi Olson | Crooked Media
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April 05, 2023
Work Appropriate
Boundaries are Bullsh*t with Stephanie Nadi Olson

In This Episode

“Boundaries” has become a buzzword, especially in the conversation about work-life balance. But work is a part of life– and why should you be the only one responsible for making sure work doesn’t creep into every other part of your life? Shouldn’t your workplace prevent the creep in the first place? To re-examine this idea of boundaries, and come up with alternatives, host Anne Helen Petersen teams up with Stephanie Nadi Olson, founder of We Are Rosie. How do you keep from taking on multiple jobs as people leave your company? Can you tell your boss “no” when they ask for your phone number? How much work is too much? And is it okay to trust management to look out for you?

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Anne Helen Petersen: Hi, everyone. This is Work Appropriate. And I’m your host, Anne Helen Petersen. [music plays] So everyone has their least favorite piece of work jargon. Deliverables. Circle back. Ping. They all sound ridiculous because they’re a language developed to facilitate some of the most ridiculous elements of the contemporary workplace. I really hate ping. But you know what I hate more? Work life balance. Work is part of life. The entire concept [laughs] is rooted in a fallacy. When an organization says that they prioritize work life balance, what they’re actually saying is that they believe it’s possible to have a life outside of work, but they’re not the ones who are going to make that happen. That’s on you. You and you alone. And you do it by cultivating and maintaining boundaries. That word means well. It might seem harmless, but it’s way more pernicious than ping. I’m going to talk a whole lot more about why I hate the idea of boundaries in this episode. And I don’t want to spoil you, but I knew that if we were going to talk about alternatives to boundaries, as in how do you actually cultivate an infrastructure that protects you and others from the incursion of work into every corner of your life? That I needed a cohost who’s both struggled and succeeded at building that infrastructure in their own life. Someone who understands just how hard it is to protect yourself because boundaries are bullshit, but also because breaking boundaries is the primary way ambitious people prove themselves exceptional. I needed someone who thought of a different way and even turned that different way into a business of its own. [music plays]


Stephanie Nadi Olson: My name is Stephanie Nadi Olson, and I’m the founder and executive chair of We Are Rosie, which is a flex career platform that supports 25,000 marketers that want or need to work in a flexible way. 


Anne Helen Petersen: So okay you define it in that like short little snippet. But can you spell it out? Because whenever I describe what We Are Rosie is to people. They’re like, that’s amazing. Why? Why isn’t this more widespread? Like, why doesn’t every industry have something like this? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah, so we created a marketplace and on one side is all of these brilliant marketers, 25,000 of them that have raised their hand and said for whatever reason, whether it’s short term or long term, like I could really use a flexible career for the season. And on the other side are many of the biggest global brands in the world, brands like Microsoft and Delta and Chase Bank that come to us and say, I need marketers for projects based work. So people that want to work flexibly would be great for this. And so we just put them together on teams and they tackle like really important compelling work for these huge brands. Sometimes they work as individual consultants, but our goal is to like remove the stigma from wanting or needing to work in a flexible capacity and to show that you can have a really meaningful career, even if you have some kind of atypical requirements for how work gets done for you. 


Anne Helen Petersen: That means where you work from—


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: —the hours maybe that you’re available to work, how much you want to work during the week, like the revelation that is part time work which many other countries really have like infrastructure in place to support part time work, and we do not. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Right. Yeah. All those things with so many people on our platform, like we’ve heard a million reasons why people want or need to work in this way. It’s like I want to take summers off with my kids. I’m transitioning genders and don’t want to go into an office. Right now. I’m a caregiver for my elderly parents. I mean all the things that make us human and in so many ways make a diverse workforce. And these are all the people that we want on our teams and we want in our organizations. But to your point, especially in the US, we’ve just put up like all of these unnecessary barriers to allowing these folks to thrive at work. And we’re working hard to dismantle that at We Are Rosie. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And is We Are Rosie just for women? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: No, we want everybody on our platform like we’re also doing a ton of work in the diversity and inclusion space. Like we want everybody to have access to flex careers. It is women that most often come to us saying that they need them, but we have over 10,000 men on our platform as well. 


Anne Helen Petersen: That’s amazing. I think that, you know, one of the things that often gets left out of the conversation of like women trying to have it all or like, do I go back to work? Is it worth the cost of my childcare? You know, those ongoing conversations. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: It’s like if we had more flexible options for people to be in the workplace, it wouldn’t be this very black and white decision of like, do I work or do I not work? There are in betweens. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: It’s so true. And like every time I see this, like really compelling, hardworking, smart woman leave the workforce and say, like, I’m just going to go spend some time being a mom or taking care of my family. Sometimes that’s wholeheartedly what they want and need to do in that moment. A lot of times it’s not, right. They just didn’t feel like they had a choice. Like, I have so many friends that have made that statement or decision, but the underlying premise is like, I can’t I can’t possibly work part time. I can’t possibly be present with my children when they’re home in the summer or move to Kansas to care for my mother who’s going through chemo or whatever it may be. It takes a big burden on caregivers for sure, with the structure of work as it stands today. 


Anne Helen Petersen: So something like 90% of Rosies who work on your platform, they are working remotely so within your company. And I mean this both as people who are like working through the platform, but then also on your own team, right? Like on the team or We Are Rosie, how do you make sure that workers have good work and rest boundaries? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah, well, we do a lot of things right. We’re constantly evolving our benefits to include things like you know paid time off for volunteering. We have very flexible benefits that do cover things like pet care or gender transition reassignment or different things like that, so that people that have different needs still get support from the company. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: And it’s not just traditional. Like if you have a baby, we’re here for you. Anything else, like, you know, you’re on your own. But we’re also constantly kind of reevaluating what we can offer our team and what’s necessary. So one of the stories that I like to tell is when I started We Are Rosie, I, I come from a tech background, and so I. I worked at a lot of places that had unlimited PTO. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: And that just seemed like the shortcut, like we’re going to be a cool hip tech company. Unlimited PTO—


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. Right.


Stephanie Nadi Olson: —boom, done. One less thing I need to think about, and I really didn’t think about it until COVID started and my team was so burned out. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Particularly because we’re a mission focused business. Like the people that work here cares so deeply about the work we’re doing. So and I think that’s it’s similar to the nonprofit space where people will just give and give and give—


Anne Helen Petersen: Yep. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: —because it feels meaningful to them. And people were really getting burned out and exhausted. And I thought, well, why isn’t anybody using their PTO? The short story is because I wasn’t as the founder and CEO at the time. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: The longer story is actually when I researched it, people don’t take PTO [laughter] when you give them unlimited PTO. 


Anne Helen Petersen: It’s less, yes, it’s 100% people take less when there’s unlimited right—


Stephanie Nadi Olson: That’s wild. 


Anne Helen Petersen: —because there’s no structure around it. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And also we don’t have a structure in the United States or an expectation of like, yes, this is something that we deserve. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: And there shouldn’t be shame around it. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. Right, like, that somehow taking PTO is a weakness. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah, it’s really nuts. And so what we did at the beginning of COVID is require everyone that works at We Are Rosie to take five days per quarter off. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: So that’s like a minimum of five days per quarter, which is 20 days per year. That does not include these like ten floating holidays and then an additional five PTO days that you can use whatever you want and that really changed the game. It changed our culture around it, right? Like because you have to. So it was actually tied to your bonus. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: So you can’t capture all of your discretionary bonus that’s not tied to business metrics without taking your PTO. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And did you take it? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Sometimes. 


Anne Helen Petersen: [laughs] Why was that hard? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: It’s hard. I mean, we’re we were a bootstrapped company, right? Like we were bootstrapped until December of 21. And I had put all of my eggs in this basket. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: My family had put all of their eggs in this basket. We had sacrificed a ton to scale the company, and I wanted to work all the time. Right. Like, that’s that was the the way that I could ease my own anxiety about having all of my net worth, all of my hard work and, you know, having made all of these sacrifices and my children even making sacrifices that they never agreed to. Right. For their mom to be able to do this. And so I wanted to make sure that at the end of the day, I could say I did everything I could for the company to be successful. 


Anne Helen Petersen: I totally get that. And I also, from my own experience and like it makes me feel better to work. But then I also had to come to understand like. If I don’t force myself to do something else sometimes then when I’m trying to do work, I’m not doing the work well either. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. I mean, to be clear and transparent, I crashed and burned and, like, total burnout puddle. You know. So. [laughter] 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Everybody’s human. And it doesn’t matter how good your intentions are. I’m not the robot that I thought I could be working— 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: —you know, 60, 70 hours a week for five years. 


Anne Helen Petersen: I interviewed you gosh it was almost like two years ago now for the book that my partner and I wrote about, like the future of flexible work. And one of the things that made it into the book about this idea of boundaries is like boundaries. I dislike the word just generally like it is such, you know, boundaries are made for people like you and I to break them to show, like, what work robots we are. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And we came up with this idea of guardrails as something that is much more it’s the responsibility of the institution, of the organization to uphold them. Right. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Instead of putting the impetus on individuals. And part of the reason I wanted to have you on the show today is because I think We Are Rosie is a way for companies to be better about creating guardrails for their employees by allowing them to backfill for positions that are that are gone. And that’s something that we’ll talk about later in when when we address some of the questions, but also creating the ability for people to actually say, okay, as an individual, I only want this much work. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yep. 


Anne Helen Petersen: I don’t want to be working part time. And like they still expect me to work as if I’m full time, but I’m paid as if I’m part time. If I’m at 60%, I want to do 60% so that I can have all of these other things in my life that feel really important to me. So, all right, this is a great segue into asking our first question, which comes from Alice. And I think it’s going to be very familiar for a lot of people. 


Alice: I have spent my career in the nonprofit sector and no matter the job, keep running into the same challenge, taking on too much work. I’m enjoying and learning a lot from my current job, but I’m also doing the work of unfilled positions and it’s beginning to wear on me. While I pride myself on being a good team player, I’m doubting whether it would be effective in asking for a promotion, especially since I’m only about six months into my job. I feel taken advantage of frequently in the nonprofit sector. And while I would genuinely like to grow and have meaningful work, I don’t want to be stuck in the loop of taking on others work only to stay in the same position and be passed over for promotions. Any advice? 


Anne Helen Petersen: All right. So before we answered with specific advice for Alice, Stephanie, can you talk a little bit about why companies don’t backfill positions? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah, so this is something interesting that I’ve learned in working with CFOs who often have to approve bringing Rosies, who are contractors, into an organization. Unfortunately, a lot of financial leaders build their business models or their financial models of of keeping seats open. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: So they literally don’t want to fill them. And there’s this weird push and pull between the people in the organization that are feeling the heat and the people that particularly in large organizations that are reporting numbers. And you would think, well, if there’s an open headcount, just fill it. But there are other ways that you can kind of insidiously keep people from filling headcount, right? It’s not approving the budget that is market rate for that headcount. It’s keeping your talent acquisition teams so lean that they can’t possibly have the time to fill all the roles that are open within an organization. And like most things, when we were scratching our heads wondering why businesses do stupid things or things that are detrimental to the people that work there, it’s for money.


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. And I think when someone leaves, when there’s attrition, there’s an expectation, oh, the rest of the team will take up the slack and then maybe let’s see if they can actually just do the job still. And even though it’s putting this extra burden on people and maybe they’re doing they’re becoming less productive individually because they’re taking on too much work, there’s still like from a financial point of view, oh, we’re saving an entire salary. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Or if someone goes out on maternity leave, same thing. Instead of finding someone to backfill that position, you can just be like, oh, let’s just make it work for like, you know, a year. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: But it slowly, especially, I think at companies that continually doing this, you get to this point where, you know, when maybe when someone leaves, they actually are doing the job of three people. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: It’s really true. You’re right, though, because the team will step in to help—


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: —because that’s what what people do by nature. And they may hold down the fort really well. And then it creates this false narrative that, like we never needed that person, you know? 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah, right, totally.


Stephanie Nadi Olson: And so and then that just perpetuates. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And I think this is especially difficult at organizations with a lot of women. Because it’s like, oh, let’s work together and just make it work right. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: So often times nonprofits or other helping fields which are feminized, and I think too, that sometimes the like, the slog work of a particular position will fall on women who are like, okay, I guess I have to do this because someone’s got to do it. Right? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Mm hmm. Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And maybe the glory parts of a position will fall to the men on the team. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: There’s hope, though, like this is widespread and like, we’ve got a lot of work to do for all the reasons that you just mentioned. But we now have companies calling us specifically for burnout relief for their teams. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Wow. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: So they’re getting budget approved to come in. And it could be that this team just got a ton of new work kind of dropped in their laps. Or it could be that a few people have left and they haven’t been able to backfill them. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Or so many people are going out on parental leave at the same time. And there’s actually now setting aside budget and planning for it so that it doesn’t everybody else doesn’t feel the pain. So it’s slowly but surely some change. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And sometimes I know you’ve told me stories of like people who want more full time work, who come on in this contract scenario, then become full time employees. Right? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: It’s like it’s not exactly the same as how sometimes temp work works, right? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: But it’s a similar path because maybe the team understands like, oh, oh my gosh, when not everyone is burned out all the time, when we actually have the headcount necessary to do the work that we need to do. It’s great. It’s great and we do better work. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Totally. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Like, what a revelation. [laughs]


Stephanie Nadi Olson: And attrition goes down. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yes. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Who would of thought. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yes. Which, you know, it’s a long term cost cutting benefit, but people often don’t think about that. So we have to give some advice to Alice. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yes, let’s do it. I think I have some questions [laughs] for Alice because I feel like in her question she mentioned a couple of things in this scenario, like—


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: —she’s starting to feel taken advantage of. She’s working really hard and it’s taking a toll on her. But also she wants a promotion. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. [laughs]


Stephanie Nadi Olson: And so I’ve got to assume that this with this promotion is tied more money. I don’t know the nonprofit sector. Right. But like, surely—


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: —if she gets a promotion, she’s going to get compensated differently. But my fear would be that she gets the promotion, which will undoubtedly come with more responsibility simply because she’s going to have a bigger title, and then she’s going to continue to be weary and she’s going to continue to be the person that picks up all the pieces when things are falling down. And that can backfire long term. Right. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Because then you can’t lead. Right. If she’s promoted into a leadership position, you can’t lead if you’re the person that’s picking up all the pieces. And so I think there’s almost like a bigger conversation that I would recommend Alice have with leadership in her organization about her ambition. Right. Is it her ambition to be promoted? If that’s the case, why and what type of work would you like to do? And then maybe she could start to say, like, I’m happy to pick up stuff outside. I know that that’s just part of it. We all roll up our sleeves here, but can I stay in this lane—


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: —so that it benefits my long term career goals? 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. Well, and the other thing is this idea that, like being a good team player is somehow always going way above and beyond. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Which I think is a fallacy. It’s very much like a teacher’s pet. Like accelerated reader [laughs] trap. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah, yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: But so what do we how can we change the messaging on that that like, maybe being a good team leader is actually saying no? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: I think it is. I think it gives other people permission to do the same. I just recently wrote about this, and I think to your point, there is a bit of a trap. Like, I get like cringe when I hear the term servant leadership because I’m like, I know what that means for women—


Anne Helen Petersen: Hate it. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: [laughs] Like, it means you completely lose yourself and you just give and give and give until you can’t anymore and you feel really empty inside. And it’s not. We don’t want that for anybody. And so I think like, leadership has to come with boundaries. And if you think about in particular, the women that I know that are at the top of their game that have been able to sustain it are really good with boundaries. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. And like don’t feel bad about saying no. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Unapologetic. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And I think that that is something that is hard for people who are people pleasers to unlearn. Right. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Relatable. Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yes. 100%. For me. Like any time I feel like I’m disappointing someone, I’m like, oh, I messed up. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And it’s not only that, like, I feel personally, like, I messed up. I just feel like, oh, I’m bad at my job, I’m bad at everything. Everyone’s mad at me. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Mm hmm. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Like, just all those anxiety voices in your head. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And so I think that for Alice and maybe a useful reframing in conversations to have. With her coworkers or also with people who aren’t at her job. You know, describe what’s going on. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Be like, okay, what would be what are some things where I could set boundaries a little bit better? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. Yeah.


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. Things that I need to say no to. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: I agree. I also think that I don’t love this idea that, like, you have to come with a solution. Like, don’t come to me with a problem if you don’t have a solution. Like, I think that’s shitty leadership in a lot of ways. And so I also like the idea if Alice has a good leadership team or people that she enjoys working with, that she can be vulnerable and honest and say like, here’s where I’m at. Can we figure this out together? Can you help me figure this out? Because I care about the work we’re doing here and I’m all in. But here’s the challenges I’m seeing, and I think that there’s something pretty cool about doing that as well without putting all the pressure to like, you’ve got to come and ask for a promotion and this much more money. And, you know, sometimes you can kind of co-create, particularly if you have people you trust inside your organization. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. And I would say, too, if you go to the leadership on your team and with that sort of approach and they say, oh, you know, we all have to make sacrifices, like, thanks for being such a team player, red flag. Like—


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Now, you know. 


Anne Helen Petersen: —start looking. Start looking. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. [music plays]




Anne Helen Petersen: Our next question is going to tee us up for the question of how available anyone should be at any given time. This is from Jennifer. 


Jennifer: I am a high school teacher and my principal asked me to give my personal phone number to be published for use in a phone tree in case of an emergency. It’s a small town and I keep my number private. I don’t need phone calls after hours from parents or students. My principal and H.R. have my phone number. There’s also email and an app we use for communication. At what point does this become so intrusive that I can just say no? 


Anne Helen Petersen: All right. So I have to admit that my first reaction to this question was like, it’s just an emergency phone tree. It’s okay. It’s going to just be with, you know, the other teachers. But I also think that there is probably something larger at play here with like availability and that sort of thing. So. Stephanie, what would you tell Jennifer? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: So this is so interesting. I want to ask you a question Anne. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: I assumed that they wanted her phone number published for parents to have access to. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Ahh. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Is that not what you took from this question? 


Anne Helen Petersen: Oh, see, I heard it just because I’ve been part of these phone trees—


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Okay. 


Anne Helen Petersen: —that it would be like, okay, this is who calls who, teachers. Right. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And it would be an internal document that all of the teachers have because I had a phone tree that was like this in case of an emergency. And it was not published for the parents because I think. Absolutely. Do not give that phone number to parents. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. But did you see she says that she doesn’t need after hours calls from parents or students in her question. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: I think that’s what tipped me off that, like, is this like a school directory situation—


Anne Helen Petersen: Right well, okay, so I think we could we can think both ways, right? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Number one, if it’s for publication that parents could have, absolutely do not give that number away. The nice thing about email is that it you can open it when you want to. You still have that that layer. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Mm hmm. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Whereas like a phone call or a text, like those are things that are really incessant and that you can’t necessarily ignore all the time. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: So I would say absolutely not if it was for actual public publication. Yeah. But what do you think just generally about accessibility? Like what are the lines that you personally draw with your team and how have they changed over time? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah, it’s a good question. So. They have changed over time. For the first four years of We Are Rosie and we just turned five. My team knew they could call me any time, day or night. I would not do it to them, so I would not call anybody on my team on a weekend. Like I’ve probably done that less than three times in four years. Right. And and there’s exceptions, right? When we were bringing on investors and everybody’s cranking, but by and large, no. And that’s a precedent I set by not doing it to them and also trying to like schedule, send emails like send it Monday or if I just send it on a Saturday, I’ll be like, this is like a subject line. This can wait till Monday. But I try to not even put it in their realm to set kind of that standard. And it’s certainly changed over time. You know, like as I’ve moved into this exec chair role, I’m still really involved in the day to day business, but I’m not CEO anymore. So there is a layer between me and the rest of the leadership team that’s new for us, right? It’s a couple of months old, and so I’ve worked really hard to set those boundaries right. Like they’re my time with my family is absolutely sacred. It was not before. It wasn’t. It was let me get up from the dinner table and come help you through this thing that you’re working on because you’re on the West Coast. And so I’ve just like, as you mentioned, I’m a total people pleaser. I feel like I’m going to throw up every time I set a boundary. [laughter] And I just and like flexing that muscle by just saying like, hey, I can’t do this. Like, I can’t be in this meeting. I can’t take that call. And I’m very honest. I’m like, I’m spending time with my kids. I promised them. And that’s that’s now a bigger priority for me. So anyway, I think it’s tricky. And I think in this instance, in a small town, this resonates with me. I live in a really small town Anne. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: So like, I see my kids teachers all the time. They live in my neighborhood. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: There’s like 1500 people that live here. It’s like high school. So everybody’s in every—


Anne Helen Petersen: I live on an island of 900 people, so I feel you. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: So you know. [laughs] And my heart goes out to the people that live and work in this community. So like the people that the trainers at the gym or the teachers like because they can never turn it off everywhere they go, it’s like someone that’s like, do we have a test next week? You know? 


Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Like, so I can totally understand in that context why you would want some privacy as much as you can have it and some boundaries between your work and your personal. So again, if this information would be shared with parents or students, absolutely not. Like, I think that it’s an unreasonable ask. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: All of my kids teachers have given me their phone numbers. I’ve never asked for them and it’s not expected. And as a parent, if a teacher didn’t want to give me their cell phone number or didn’t proactively give me their cell phone number as my kids teachers have done, it would not be it wouldn’t even cross my mind as like a problem. And I think most of the parents I know would not find that strange or expect it at all. But it sounds like this is an ask coming from the school, which is bizarre. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. And when I first started teaching, I really prided myself on my accessibility. I also didn’t have any kids and was fresh out of grad school. And that to me was like a mark of a good teacher. Was all of this accessibility. Like I would respond to emails all the time. I would always have my door open to my office. I could just it had been imprinted in me that that was how you modeled good teaching. And I think that that is toxic. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And there were other teachers who were in my cohort who were older, had transferred from previous professor jobs, you know, like and they had young kids, that sort of thing. And I think that they they didn’t resent me, but they resented the expectation that this was what good teaching was, right? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: This is what the sort of teaching that gets you good evaluations, especially for women, was this model of openness, which is unsustainable and not just because people have caregiving responsibilities. It can just be like your personality. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: You need to not have this accessibility all the time. And I certainly, if I would have stayed in teaching, would have at some point really burnt out on that sort of accessibility. The question then is how does this teacher say no if this is the expectation? Right. Like what if her principal says like, well, all the other teachers are doing it, you know? So like, how do you frame it in a way that’s not just like, I hate people, like I don’t want anyone to contacting me. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: I don’t know, like, again, it’s going to have to be a direct and somewhat vulnerable conversation about I need personal time so that I can be the best possible teacher for these students when I’m on. And this would disrupt that for me. And like I want to give these kids my all when we’re in the classroom and when I’m doing all the things outside of the classroom to support the students. And this is just a step too far for me because I don’t want to have to be on all the time on the weekends and outside of school hours. But I’m so curious, like, I mean, if it’s a school district, like what’s the documented policy on this? Like, you know?


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. Because especially with harassment and that sort of thing, like you you give your phone number and if your kid gets a bad grade—


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Right. 


Anne Helen Petersen: —like people can call and and be horrible to you. And in a small town like they probably know where she lives too—


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: —like all of this is really, I think, really fraught, especially right now with just everything that’s happening with education in terms of persecution for education and that sort of thing. Like—


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: —I understand the impetus towards privacy for many reasons, even outside of like burnout concerns. And I think that this would be a great place where the principal or the school district could be thinking about how this is a mode of protection. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: A way of retaining teachers instead of putting the responsibility on the individual—


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Right. 


Anne Helen Petersen: —to be, you know, the exception that says, I don’t want to be on this tree. You know?


Stephanie Nadi Olson: That’s such a good point. You know, and maybe that conversation would prompt a broader conversation. You know, like it it could just be that they’re being lazy like me with unlimited PTO. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. [laughs]


Stephanie Nadi Olson: And then when someone brings it to their attention, they’re like, God, they’re like, oh, shit, there’s a better way to do this. Maybe we need to actually, like put some intention versus just allowing all of our teachers to potentially be on blast [laughs] by publishing their personal phone numbers. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Our next question is all about how do you even learn work boundaries in the first place? This is from Ava. 


Ava: I just began working and I like to work hard. For example, I volunteered to work 80 hours for a month on the political campaign I’m working on. However, I don’t think I have a good idea of what boundaries I should be setting. I’ve never heard a good thing about working on a campaign before now, but I’ve luckily enjoyed it for the most part. However, the lines are blurry sometimes for me. I’m also an optimist and tend to assume that my higher ups have my best interest in mind, which may not always be the case. How do I learn to set boundaries and know when what I’m doing is fine and good, or if their expectations are not work appropriate? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: This is relatable. [laughter]


Anne Helen Petersen: And also I’m inferring this might not be 100% correct, but I am inferring that this is a person who is new to the workforce who maybe has only had volunteer positions before. So we got a lot of questions that are similar to this, like how do you start with a new job while also setting a good first impression? So what do you think? What advice can we give Ava to try to figure out how to draw these lines? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah, I mean, I always go back to like, what are your objectives as an employee and as a person with a career? And there’s no right answer to that because everybody’s different. And so I come from a potentially unpopular school on this, where I graduated college and wanted to climb the corporate ladder as fast as humanly possible. And so I remember early on in my career, I was doing very similar things. I was like constantly asking for the ball if there was a project or something that I could learn from that would make me more valuable down the road. I wanted to do it. And that was that season of my career, right? That was not the case when I had a newborn at home. Right. But when I was 23, 24. Like, I was like, I’m going to make the most of this season. And so in some instances, I’m like, I don’t know. Like, if you’re if you’re happy to do it and you feel good, like, and and you feel like it’s making you a more valuable employee or whatever your, your kind of area of specialty is, then do it. If you’re happy, like I did it. And it got me promoted really quick and it got me. I was the youngest insert award here. I was the youngest salesperson of the year. I was the youngest person making this much money at the company. And so but those were my goals. And so my goals were not work life balance. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: My goals were not being able to hang out with my friends after work. And I didn’t feel resentful about it because that it was making me the person that I wanted to become. So sometimes I think we can like really vilify people that think like me, that are like, no, I just I want to bust my ass right now. I’m into it. I don’t want to have boundaries. I just like, I’ve got this window where I can give it all and I want to do that. But I think in this instance, like, you’ve got to get real. What do you want? Do you want more balance? Do you want to, like, crank on your career right now before your life gets more complicated? I think that’s always an important kind of place to start. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Something that I’ve come to adopt in my own career is thinking more in terms of seasons. So like, there will be a season and it doesn’t necessarily correspond with like an actual season, right— 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: —of the year, but it’s like there’ll be a season where I’m cranking where I am, all cylinders go and it feels good, but I’m trying to be more mindful too, of then being like, okay, that’s done. This is going to be a season of less work and more rest. And that doesn’t mean like no work. That just means I say no to a lot more things. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yep. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And I say yes to a lot more friend things and yes to a lot more time gardening. Like, I think there are ways to really listen to yourself. It took me, though [laughs]  until I was in, you know, my late thirties, early forties to come to that, understanding that like, it doesn’t have to be all the time. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yep. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And so I think that advice that I would give this question asker would be to set up apparatuses in your life that allow you to continually reflect about where you are and how you’re feeling about your work, so that the inertia of just cranking all the time doesn’t sweep you up and keep you, like going forward past the point where it does feel good. Because I think we very rarely question, you know, it’s not until you feel horrible that people are like, oh my gosh, I need to go into therapy. I need to have conversation with my manager, I need to do whatever. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Instead of continually having those things set up. And so depending on the character of this person, I think like setting an alarm on your calendar for like prompts every month that ask you to just journal, how am I feeling? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Do I feel really lonely? Do I feel really accomplished? But also really isolated. Does this feel good or also have anything I think like what friends you have who are in the business and outside of your business to like have these conversations about? This is what my life is like. This is what it feels like. This is how other people in my profession treat me. Because having those people outside of your industry, I think, is especially useful in terms of calling out like, no, this is not normal, this is not okay. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah, for sure. I love what you said about checking in because I experienced what you’ve just described, where I came out of college swinging and was cranking for a decade, and it was so jarring for me when I had like my ego was in absolute shambles because [laughs] I was about to give birth to my oldest daughter and knew that I couldn’t work like that. I couldn’t be in New York five days a week and live in Atlanta anymore. And I thought that was the only way to do it. So I had only ever experienced that one season of go all the way and go really hard all the time. And it was a big blow to my ego. And now ten years after that, I can look back and say like, that was just a different season for me, right? And it’s nothing is forever. God, if anything I’ve learned from parenting is like nothing is permanent or forever. So I love this idea of seasons. I love the idea of reflection and setting different goals for different seasons. You know, like is this helping me achieve my goal for the season? And then just kind of give yourself some mechanism for a feedback loop? 


Anne Helen Petersen: What about the part of Ava’s question that says I’m an optimist and tend to assume that my higher ups have my best interest in mind? What do you think about that? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Well, I’ve been on both sides of that. I’m an optimist, too, and I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve worked for really amazing people most of my career, but I’ve experienced this both ways. So my first job out of college was with a global kind of Fortune 10 company, and I came in and six months in I said, I want a promotion, like I want to be in to the next role. And they were kind of like, oh, that’s cute. And so they gave me this whole list of stuff that I needed to do to get promoted. I was like, just tell me what I need to show you guys and I’ll do it. And they said, yeah, finish this list in a year. Well, I did it in six months and was back in that office and saying, hey, this is what we agreed to. And then there was a bunch of excuses for why I couldn’t get the promotion and so I left. But the thing that I did that was smart was I had an agreement, right? 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: I was very upfront about what I wanted. I was upfront about what I was willing to do to get it. And we had an agreement. It was a verbal agreement, but still. Right. Like and it was, okay, this is the thing. So I had really forced their hand and saying, I know I’m young, but help me understand what would make you feel really good about giving me this next role. And so it didn’t work out there, but I did learn how to get people’s buy in on your career path. And then if they don’t end up being able to deliver, then you know what you’re dealing with or you know that maybe there’s more obstacles at this place than I realize to getting what I want. And then I, you know, you can go to another place. So I think that was something that I learned early on. But I will say by and large, throughout my career, I have seen that the a lot of people that go above and beyond consistently do get rewarded. But, you know, if you have a good boss like, you know [laughs] you can, you know, intuitively, if like the people around you are looking out for you or not and trust your gut on that is my answer on that front for sure. 




Anne Helen Petersen: So this question is something that I think a lot of people actually have no experience with or even like know that it’s a possibility. So Ella wants to know how to ask to go part time. And our producer Melody is going to read it. 


Ella: What’s the best way to ask your employer to let you go part time? I did this in my last job and it didn’t work, but I was shocked at how little there was online about how to do this, like what to include in your request, etc. I basically made it my own proposal, but I think if we talked about it more, it would be more normalized. 


Anne Helen Petersen: So how would you advise this person about how they could come up with language about how to think about going part time? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah, I mean, I think the first thing you have to do is kind of understand the the macro landscape—


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah, yeah. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: —in this company. So does anybody else work part time? Do you anticipate your direct manager being empathetic to your request? Do they have the power to approve it? Like who are the stakeholders that would have to sign off on this? What would the kind of contingency plan look like? So if we moved forward, do they need to hire somebody else part time? 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Could you do your job part time? Like, I don’t know. Could there be, you know, six months out of the year when we’re not in our busy season? I can handle everything in less hours, you know, and then so just these other six months, we might need some help. But I think kind of getting the lay of the land will help you come up with how you should bring it up. If you have a good leader, I recommend talking to somebody about this verbally before you drop a five page proposal in their lap. I think that it’s helpful to read the room and kind of understand what their knee jerk reaction is. And if they’re an ally, they’ll help you understand. Like, oh man, I totally get why you want to do this. I’d be supportive, but here’s the deal. Like, we have to get Bill and Mary and Susan to sign off. So, you know, how can we do that together? Here’s what I need to see from you. And maybe they’ll help you build it. I think if you don’t do that first and you don’t have that kind of partner in leadership, it’s going to be really hard to get this done anyway. And you’re not going to override that kind of lack of allyship by just dropping a five page proposal on anybody. So I think having that initial conversation and having your why, which is always helpful— 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: —anytime you’re asking somebody for something and reiterating your commitment to the company and to the role and your aspirations for your career, this doesn’t mean I’m like checking out. It means for the season I need to work part time. I think that the best way is to try to get some help from a potential decision maker on the matter. 


Anne Helen Petersen: I think it’s worth saying, too, that part of the reason that employers in the United States are reticent to allow people to go part time or to even hire part time positions is because they have to pay benefits for that person if they’re over a certain, you know, amount of time. And if we lived in a country where health insurance wasn’t through your employer, then that would be a different scenario. But one thing that this question asker could potentially have on their side is like, I can go on my partner’s health insurance. So I hate that that’s part of what would probably make a company more on board. But if that is the case for you, then that might be part of the case that you can make. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah, that’s a really good point. 


Anne Helen Petersen: What would you say if someone on your team asked to go part time? How would you conceive of that? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: We have people who have worked part time, certainly for different parts of their career. I mean, my. So, I mean, of course, people feel like they can ask those questions here. And I think my initial question to them would be like, so what would we need to do to cover the work? Like, can you just help me understand? Like, I’m not sitting in your seat every day? What what would that look like? Like, what do you think you could unequivocally handle in x number of hours per week. What would fall outside of that? And then let’s figure out kind of how it would look like. Let’s back it up from there. Let’s just look at all the work that needs to be done. Then we’d have to figure out how we can split it up. But we really adopt an accordion model at We Are Rosie. So we we use our own models [laughs] so we can bring people on part time to see if, you know, do we need this role full time or not or for backfill or we just had someone on our team, sadly, who has a cancer diagnosis so we’re bringing on somebody part time while she receives treatment. So it’s pretty common here. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: But that would be my first question is just kind of help me understand like what’s the vulnerability and getting all the work done and what could you do if we said yes to your proposal? 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. Do you think if you like your job but full time is just not sustainable, do you think it’s smarter for the person to ask for the part time job or to quit and just look for another part time job? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: I mean, I think it’s tough to answer. You have like it depends on how receptive your audience is. But what I will say is that you have to like, please ask, because I wanted a promotion really badly at one of my jobs earlier on in my career, and I had been told that the only way I could get it was to move to New York, which was out of the question for me for a bunch of reasons. So I just thought, I guess I’ve reached my ceiling here and it was heartbreaking for me. But I made good money and I was able to be in Atlanta, and so I was satisfied from that regard. Well, lo and behold, a couple of years later, a colleague of mine wanted a promotion and she went to the leadership of the company and said, I want this promotion. Same thing. You got to move to New York. So she said, okay, I’ll move to New York for a year with my family. You will pay for me to live in New York for a year and I will fly back to Atlanta to visit family. Her kids were really young, so they weren’t in school once a month and they said yes. And I remember thinking, holy shit, why didn’t I ask? [laughs] Like why didn’t I just ask? You know, I just assumed that like there was no in between. But she totally expanded their aperture and what was possible, and I was really proud to like see it happen for her. And she did it. She moved back to Atlanta and is like and as she’s still there, actually she’s like an SVP. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Well, and the other thing I think, you know, from our earlier conversation, we were talking about like, look at your company, see if anyone else is doing it. And maybe you look at your company and no one else was part time and you’re like, oh, there’s no way that they’re going to let me. But maybe you’re the person who widens the company’s aperture—


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: —to start thinking about this as a possibility to make work sort of more sustainable at your company. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Totally. 


Anne Helen Petersen: The other thing I would say is that sometimes you don’t need to go part time. Sometimes you need to have a conversation with your manager about your job responsibilities. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: I was just about to bring this up, so I’m so glad you did. [laughter] So our max hours for our Rosie consultants is 40 hours a week, or legally they earn overtime. So when we’re scoping a project, it’s like, here’s this person for 40 hours a week, not a minute more, or you’re paying them overtime. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: And so our clients are really on top of that. They’re like, okay, not a minute more. We got it. And so a lot of times our clients try to hire our Rosies and they’re like, look, look, you’re already working full time. You’re working here 40 hours a week. Just come on board. And I’ve got to say like 80 or 90% of the time our Rosies say no, because they know what full time really means and it’s not 40 hours a week. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: And they our Rosie’s want full time work at 40 hours. They don’t want full time work at 55 hours. And that’s our clients are continuously like, why? Like, why won’t they come? And I’m like, well, because they know [laughs] like they have a firm boundary here. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Like the model has a firm boundary built in. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: And once they go convert to a full time employee or they take a full time job with you, that boundaries are gone. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: And these people know it. And so I totally agree with you. Like I think a lot of times people are like, I have to go part time just to have a boundary to say oh I’m at my 25 hours, but the boundary could be set on like redefining what is, full time is not 60 hours a week. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah, and I hate that. Like, oh, the boundary. It’s like incumbent on you to take a pay cut in order to make work sustainable—


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: —instead of like, let’s figure out how to actually make work sustainable for all of us. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: But that’s a great way to end this episode. Actually [laughter] I, it’s just like sometimes you need to go part time and sometimes you need to have a larger conversation with your manager, with your team, whatever—


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yep. 


Anne Helen Petersen: —about how much work there is. I’m so grateful that you took the time to join us today. Where can people find you if they want to hear more from you? 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Yeah, you can find me at Stephanie Nadi Olson, N A D I, O L S O N, on LinkedIn. I’m on Twitter @StephanieNOlson. And you can check out the We Are Rosie website at We Are Rosie, R O S I E, dot dom.


Anne Helen Petersen: Thank you so much. 


Stephanie Nadi Olson: Thank you for having me. [music plays]


Anne Helen Petersen: Thanks for listening to Work Appropriate. If you’ve got a workplace quandary, you need help figuring out. Get in touch. Some episodes we’re working on include issues around parental leave, how to care less about your job. And then we’re doing My Industry is Broken episode on veterinary medicine. So if you know someone who is in veterinary medicine, please pass it along to them. You can find submission guidelines at or send a voice memo with your question to Work Appropriate at Don’t forget to follow us @CrookedMedia on Instagram and Twitter for more original content hosts takeovers and other community events. You can follow me on Twitter @AnneHelen or on Instagram @AnneHelenPetersen. And you can sign up for my newsletter Culture Study And if you’re as opinionated as we are, consider dropping us a review. [music plays] Work Appropriate is a Crooked Media production. I’m Anne Helen Petersen, your host. Our executive producers is Kendra James. Melody Rowell is our producer and editor. Alison Falzetta is our development producer. Music is composed by Chanell Crichlow. Additional production support from Ari Schwartz and a special thanks to Katie Long and Sarah Geismer. Next week, we’re looking at another failing industry, answering questions from fed up listeners who write for a living. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it.