RUOK? or worse... R U 'fine'? - Future Leadership

RUOK? or worse… R U ‘fine’?

We acknowledge that #RUOKDAY was created to prevent the silent suicide. Many of us have been in the shoes of the person who says ‘but they seemed fine.’

The truth is, that ‘fine’ is the barrier to many things. It’s the barrier to us looking ourselves in the eye and asking if we are living each day to the fullest. It is the blanket we wrap ourselves in while needing to escape from the world. It’s the excuse not to be our authentic selves. And it is the lie we tell people when we don’t want to engage in a real conversation about how we are doing.

The face of fine also acts as a barrier to inclusion in the workplace (Edmundson, 1999).

In fact, many workplaces issue an unspoken ‘fine’ when people are openly not ‘fine’.

The most recent ABS National Health Survey estimated 4.8 million Australians (that’s over 20% of us!) live with a mental or behavioural condition. And this data only accounts for people who identify as having mental or behavioural conditions (APH, 2019). The 2018 KPMG and Mental Health Australia report, Investing to Save, found that mental ill-health in the workplace costs an annual average of $3,200 per employee with mental illness, up to $5,600 for employees with severe mental illness, and overall, the cost of workplace mental ill-health in Australia is $12.8 billion (MHA, 2018).

What’s more, around 54% of Australians suffering mental illness do not access any treatment, instead surviving behind the guise of fine

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For us, this year, #ROUKDAY means listening for what’s not said, trusting our instincts and not being afraid of what we might learn. To us, RUOK? is a commitment to authenticity, risk-taking and making space for difference in the workplace. A Harvard researcher once noted, “team psychological safety is a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking” (Edmundson, 1999).

At Fisher Leadership, we care deeply about bringing more diverse voices to decision-making tables throughout the APAC region. As rapid change and disruption causes us to rely ever-more on team learning in the face of challenges, psychological safety and inclusive workplace cultures become imperative.

Over the past 20 years, one in every two appointments made by Fisher Leadership has seen a highly qualified woman placed in a senior role, many of the incredible leaders we place in high profile roles identify as culturally or abley diverse and 25 appointments in that timeframe have been Indigenous executives. We are proud of the impact we are having and the educational stance we take with our clients along the way. We have launched our advisory practice CogNative because we believe curated cognitive diversity is a value creator and critical competitive advantage for future-facing businesses. But the magic of cognitive diversity cannot happen unless the culture enables us to operate at a level far beyond fine.

So, leaders of the new world, what is beyond fine? The tools and resources available at the RUOK? website show us that beyond fine is a conversation into the unknown. For once though, we don’t have to be digitally savvy, data-driven, agile or even an ever-learner to keep up. Beyond fine is simply tapping into the innate human skills of curiosity, empathy, kindness and communication. Beyond fine is looking away from the screen and noticing that someone may be quietly drowning nest to us. This is the leadership of the future – non-hierarchical humanness. So today, be a leader for tomorrow, and lead by following your guts to seek out a mind who has more to offer than fine.


Here’s a great resource from BlackDogInstitutefor further reading. Australia is lucky to have wonderful organisations to reach out to if you need to talk: BeyondBlueBlack Dog InstituteOzHelp FoundationSaneWorkSafe Victoria

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