Virtual Work and Respect with Lorie Reichel-Howe

Communication feels very different when we’re working virtually. But even through we’re screen-to-screen, we still need to be respectful and have expectations and guidelines around what’s appropriate and what’s not.

We’ve learned from the last few years that it’s easy to feel isolated when we’re not in-person. So regular check-ins and conversations is essential. But what does that look like? And how do you communicate with others who don’t have their cameras on?

On this episode of the podcast, Lorie Reichel-Howe of Conversations in the Workplace is talking about just that. With so many different cultures in every workplace, we need to have these conversations so we can set norms that work for everyone. 

Lorie shares scripts you can use to start difficult conversations, what it means to host a true training around conversations, and some examples of boundaries that get crossed in both virtual and in-person conversations.

What’s so interesting about this interview and Lorie’s presentation for SHRM is that this may not have been a conversation we had too often prior to the pandemic. It’s a critical one now!

Listen on your favourite podcast player


About Lorie Reichel-Howe

Lorie Reichel-Howe is founder of Conversations in the Workplace. She equips managers, teams, and business professionals to have “Safe Conversations” – transformative dialogue that uncovers hidden workplace issues. Whether addressing challenging team dynamics, mismanaged expectations,  cultural insensitivity, or good old-fashioned bad behavior, “Safe Conversations” foster greater innovation, inclusion, and collaboration within organizations.

With over 20 years of experience in communications and relationship management, training and development, Lorie is passionate about supporting organizations in creating a culture where people love where they work and love the people they work with.

Lorie is a professional mediator and conflict coach. She has supported organizations such as Pinterest, SHRM, PIHRA,, Pinterest, Women in Technology International, Los Angeles Women’s Leadership Conference, Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, Santa Clara Superior Court, San Jose State University, Santa Clara County Office of Education and many more. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Mentioned In This Episode:




people, organization, expectations, behaviors, conversations, talk, mental health, lorie, framework, training, teams, conflict, relationships, navigate, podcast, dialogue, language, communication, respect, clarity


Lorie Reichel-Howe, Lindsay Recknell

Lindsay Recknell  00:01

You are a people leader or an HR professional, working hard to create an amazing employee experience for your team and your organization. But between the operational tasks of your job managing emotions and politics both up and down the corporate ladder, and trying to find some semblance of work life integration in your own life, I suspect you are also overwhelmed and burnt out. If even the thought of navigating the complicated world of mental health at work probably seems like too much to handle.

Lindsay Recknell  00:30

Let this podcast be your not so secret weapon to help fix that. I’m your host Lindsay Recknell. And my mission is to help great leaders like you feel less awkward and more confident talking about mental health at work. So you can stress less, take more action and continue to make a valuable difference in your job as a leader positively impacting the lives of your I’ll be bringing you the experts insights and actions that will give you the skills you need to navigate mental health in the workplace and foster a workplace where everyone’s mental health can thrive.

Lindsay Recknell  01:04

Today’s SHRM speaker and special podcast guest is Lorie Reichel-Howe, founder of Conversations in the Workplace, where she equips managers, teams and business professionals to have safe conversations, transformative dialogue that uncovers hidden workplace issues. Whether addressing challenging team dynamics, mismanaged expectations, cultural insensitivity, or good old fashioned bad behavior. Safe conversations fosters greater innovation, inclusion and collaboration within organizations. With over 20 years experience in communications and relationship management, training and development. Lorie is passionate about supporting organizations and creating a culture where people love where they work and love the people they work with. Laurie is a professional mediator and conflict coach. She has supported organizations such as Pinterest, SHRM, PIHRA,, Women and Technology International, Los Angeles Women’s Leadership Conference, Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, Santa Clara Superior Court, San Jose State University, Santa Clara County Office of Education and so many more. With so much expertise and thought leadership to share let’s get to her episode.

Lindsay Recknell  02:09

Before we get started, I want your time to be valuable here. So in order to get the most from this podcast, head to my website at And download the  Guide to Influence & Impact at Work, which has the step by step action plan, you’ll need to embed a focus on mental health into the employee experience of your workplace, it’s totally free. And it’ll give you the start to your action plan steps to follow to create engagement to build a budget and a method to measure the value influence and impact that you are going to be making as you lead this transformational change in your organization. We haven’t been taught the mental health skills we need to truly lead our organizations into the future. So let this guide and this podcast be the advantage you need to elevate your career, your leadership skills and the positive impact you’ll bring to your organization, head to and download the free  Guide to Influence & Impact at Work now. The opportunity is yours, and I cannot wait to see what you’ll do. 

All right now let’s get to our guest. Hello, Lorie, welcome to the show.

Lorie Reichel-Howe  03:11

Thank you very much. Great to be here, Lindsay.

Lindsay Recknell  03:13

It is such a pleasure to have you here. And I can’t wait to hear more about your upcoming up coming talk at the SHRM conference. So why don’t we start there? Could you share a little bit more with us but what we can expect when we come hear your talk at the conference

Lorie Reichel-Howe  03:29

Well I will be presenting creating a culture of respect while working virtually. And I’m thrilled that we are going to be actually in person. It’s I mean, two years ago, you heard the word Corona and you would think of a beer. Maybe someone that the sun and so I it is just exciting being back in person conferences, people see me in person below the neck. And the same thing for me being with the audience and I love being with HR professionals, they are probably my favorite audience. They are what I call relationaries, they they are the heart of organization they care about people, they understand that relationships, positive relationships are core to a successful organization. And so in our session, we will be talking about how to create a culture of respect making helping people be making it clear what not only the performance expectations, but what about conduct How about how we interact and when we’re in person but also when when we’re working virtual and how we go about having those conversations, whether they’re face to face or screen to screen, are very similar and I will be giving some demonstrations on what those conversations can be like. And also examples and tools for managers, teams and business professionals, how to bring clarity to, particularly behaviors conduct, how we’re going to interact. So in a really big nutshell, that is probably a synopsis of what we will be doing together.

Lindsay Recknell  05:27

I love it. I love it, and I can’t wait to come, I’m also going to be there in person with you. I can’t wait to, you know, see you face to face instead of just this screen to screen.

Lorie Reichel-Howe  05:36

Oh, fabulous.

Lindsay Recknell  05:38

When you’re talking about this session. It brings to mind that, you know, two years ago, this probably wouldn’t have been a topic at a big HR conference, because most of us were working in person. What have you seen as the unique challenges of maybe it’s a hybrid workforce over the last couple of years? And what kind of Yeah, what do you say to leaders and HR professionals when they come to you and say, wondering what to do with this?

Lorie Reichel-Howe  06:07

Okay, okay. Well, I do I sometimes do what I call, how do I handle that sessions where people can ask questions, and we talk about, we talk about how you can respond to that. And I give people a framework for dialoguing about those challenging behaviors. mismanage expectations, well, good old fashioned bad behavior, cultural insensitivity. So now, in all honesty, though, respect is foundational. And I, I have talked about prior to COVID, as well as after COVID, how to have how to create a culture of respect. So that is ongoing, that will be ongoing throughout, as long as businesses exist, how to navigate that and have those conversations while working virtually, that is new. And what has happened with COVID is the great thing about working, whether high bred or remotely, it’s kept businesses, organizations associations, existent, and it’s kept our unemployment numbers down. Otherwise, we would have had you imagine a closure of everything. So we’re thankful for that it has changed the world, it has given people options that some have wanted for a long time. And those doors just weren’t opening up for many people. At the same time, while it’s kept businesses in place has kept people employed. It has caused all kinds of challenges and complications. So not only what we had before, but then, you know, communication breaks down. People feel isolated, when they’re not in person with each other. I mean, 94% of our communication, is it. Visual, it’s not so much the words, it’s everything else that that goes with it. And when people are feeling isolated, it’s hard to feel connected. And when we’re not connected, when we’re isolated, our sense of trust breaks down. So being able to have conversations when breakdowns occur when feelings are hurt, when I’m missed expectations, any kind of conflict challenges, erupt is critical. And so So learning how to have those conversations, as well as we can tell people to help them. We can tell managers, they need to have them. But that doesn’t mean they know how to, and a quote that I love. It says that we do not a rise to our expectations, but we fall to the level of our training. So in a nutshell, how do we create clarity around those expectations? How do we have accountability conversations around those? And how do we have them safely and respectfully? And my gosh, I was on I was doing a training and it was a virtual, and one of the individuals who was attending the training, I realized I was driving, driving while on Zoom and heading to a doctor’s appointment. And I thought oh my gosh, can you imagine the liability but the reality is that this organization has not talked about? What are the expectations? What are the expectations during the training when you’re zooming? And what’s unfortunate if something would have if an accident would have happened, no one is going to sue the individual, they’re going to sue the organization that employs this individual. So it’s there’s just a lot of liability and a lot of things that we just need to begin to think about and talk about in teams.

Lorie Reichel-Howe  10:36

And I mean, organizations need the safety, the liability part, but also teams, will people have their camera on? Will they not have the camera on? When you call on someone, and they’re not responsive? Or you hear somebody multitasking, sending a text or sending? So how do we how do we get some clarity? What does it mean to be present? So those will be things that we will be talking about. And I will even be giving a chart and an example of work that I’ve done with an organization just in the area of what are the expectations at times when opinions differ?

Lindsay Recknell  11:24

And do you have a framework that organizations can work within to to get some of this clarity in this new world of work? Yeah. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Lorie Reichel-Howe  11:34

Well, what I do is it’s, I create a chart. And first of all the, what we need to do is create them the key times of conflict. And that is pretty much when opinions differ. When voicing a concern when disagreements erupt. And when problems occur, I mean, inevitably, and then because of our virtual world, what are the expectations when we are working virtually. And so what I do is either I bring together the teams or help the manager bring together the team, and we start to talk and we look at just one particular scenario. At times when opinions differ, it’s inevitable that’s going to happen. We talked about some real specific, what would be some basic meeting expectations. And for many people, what I have found it’s they will and when you pull the team together, and when they begin to communicate and talk about these is pretty powerful. And pretty much basics. People say well, let’s communicate directly, you know, if opinions differ, talk to the person with whom, you know, the opinions different talk directly. And we’ll talk about people will list what what will you see what are meeting expectations? Quite often what they will say are things such as it needs to be a two way dialogue. It’s going to involve talking and listening. And we clarify listening is not waiting for your turn to talk.

Lindsay Recknell  13:26

Not it’s not.

Lorie Reichel-Howe  13:29

And then what we’ll do is say okay, well, how do you know someone is listening? Well, they are acknowledging different perspectives. Not I disagree, but my perspective is different. They’re asking questions. And so we talked about what that’s going to look like. And then what is really important, and quite often doesn’t happen is what does it look like when those expectations are not met? So we talked about what it looks like what we’ll see in our team, what, and we also agree to those, but then what does it look like? What would crossing the line when behaviors plummet because, you know, we start to go from gray to dark. And so how do we catch and when we identify and list what’s not okay, then we’re giving people language for saying, talking and speaking up. And so oftentimes teams will say, well, when people are interrupting, when it’s a monologue, when people are fingerpointing, over talking dominating, they’re not giving someone a chance to talk, even when people are being aggressive. And I’ll say, Well, what does that look like? They’ll say, Well, they’re leaning in, and it’s like they’re into your personal space. So becoming real specific about I will talk about the body language. And then and then we could even talk in and now within everything, it’s a matter of okay, what will that look like if we’re having a virtual conversation if we’re screen to screen? So certain will the camera be on?

Lorie Reichel-Howe  15:18

We talked about volume, we talked about body language volume. So we won’t in, in our culture, and there are so many cultures, what is offensive to someone may not be offensive to someone else. I mean, think about the F word. Some people it’s an adjective, they colorful language. Someone else. It’s highly offensive. And and Lindsay, I think we’re not, I don’t think we can be diverse and inclusive. Unless we’re talking about those things, how things come across, and it’s not we’re going to avoid, you are being rude. But what we’re trying to do is, when I hear you say stupid idea, I it comes across to me like my idea has just been attack. Oh, oh. So people might people will get into patterns. And unless we’re specific about the behavior and how it comes across. So getting first clear on what our expectations are. And then having giving people language to talk about when behaviors cross the line, and come across just disrespectful.

Lindsay Recknell  16:47

The language of mental health is so near and dear to my heart, giving people literally giving people the words to use to have these conversations so that we all have, you know, we come from a foundation, you use that language as well, you know, setting a foundation of respect, what does that mean to us all as a group as an intern? Right, excellent point, all of the kind of senses that we have to engage in, in this kind of safe space environment, because especially when you’re in virtual, the nonverbal body language, what does that look like? What does that feel like? What does that you know, all of those would come into, would come into play much more than it ever did before?

Lorie Reichel-Howe  17:31

Absolutely. Absolutely. You’re spot on

Lindsay Recknell  17:35

This work that you’re talking about this communication? It feels like is it a one and done kind of session? Is it initiate initiated by a leader? Is it initiated by an executive by HR? What does? What does that experience look like? In in really making this work effective?

Lorie Reichel-Howe  17:53

Okay, wow. Okay, that’s a really good, that’s a really good question. And, and different people would answer that probably differently. But I am going to my, with my hat of trainer, and I’m also a professional mediator. But as a trainer, what is important, if we’re learning how to communicate, bring clarity, if we’re learning how to have these conversations, we need a framework. We need practice sessions. You don’t learn to ride a bike with a manual. And you don’t. You don’t learn how to communicate with a man. You got to have practice, and particularly when it’s making difficult conversations into safe conversations. So what I do within my trainings, I present the content we do some engagement around that. I give people a framework. And then what we do they actually give a framework for how do you open up a conversation? How do you how do you make sure that you’re identifying the specific behaviors, not judgments? And what how do you let them know the impact? How you need to also invite dialogue. This isn’t to be a monologue, and it’s to be a dialogue. It’s to understand each other perspective. It’s important because anytime, anytime someone tells you what I did was bad, dumb, wrong or stupid. I feel threatened. We all do. When we feel threatened. We just connect we put up walls, we become defensive. And then it all becomes about defending dignity. It’s not about it’s not about the topic and so no In giving people strategies for when defensiveness erupts, how do we to stay in dialogue? How do we go back to positive ones? How do we acknowledge concerns? How do we let somebody know the outcome we want, hey, I value this relationship. And I want to talk about anything right now that is breaking it down. And I want to hear from you. And I want you to have the same kind of relationship where if I’m doing something that is coming across as negative in any way to you, let me know, let’s let’s work it out, and see trust. Many people believe in this form of artificial trust. And that’s, we avoid talking about things because we’re protecting the relationship. And it’s always just the opposite. relationships break down, because of the issues we are not talking about. And we trust, when we can navigate through conflict together, make some agreements, understanding with each other. And when it’s safe to talk. That’s when we have trust. So and trust breaks down when relationships break down, what breaks down relationships, behaviors. So bottom line, how do we talk about those but not attacking? Han? When we give in times of conflict and breakdown? We have three human tendencies that derail us, and they are at the core of most breakdowns. And when we have unmet needs, and even one if we perceive were being treated disrespectfully, well, it’s like, we can’t breathe. And so risk when respect is critical. And when we’re disrespected, it feels like we can’t breathe. And so we move, we become defensive. We move into absolutes, I’m right, you’re wrong.

Lorie Reichel-Howe  22:17

Character attack, blame metric, I usually call them ABCs. Absolute blame, it’s all your fault, which gets us stuck, because it’s typically I mean, it can be a breakdown of processes and other things. And sometimes we’ve got to look at what’s contributing to a problem. And then character attack Well, when we attack someone’s character, instead of identifying the behavior, I’m frustrated, I was counting on you to meet this deadline. Versus that’s where we talk about a behavior versus telling someone they are irresponsible. They don’t care about the organization, we start to do things like that. Those are personal attacks, character assassination, and it’s like punching someone in the gut. And you can’t and punch someone.

Lindsay Recknell  23:10

And the old adage that says, sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me is incorrect.

Lorie Reichel-Howe  23:18

No, it isn’t. They begin breaks down destroys relationships. Matter of fact, 80% of difficulties in organizations come from strained working relationships. So it’s it’s core. Knowing that and that’s why I’m Daniel Dana, who is studied, the impact of conflict in organizations did his PhD on that. He has this great quote that says unmanaged employee conflict is perhaps the largest reducible cost in organizations today. And probably the least recognize, and change management rarely solves a problem. We’re not getting to the problem. And until we talk about the behaviors that are breaking down, relationships, working relationships, we won’t get to it. But I can’t tell you how many times that CEO has said, Well, we expect people to address behaviors, and Oh, okay. And what kind of communication framework does your organization use? How have you skilled people in doing that? Well, they should just know and that’s part of being hired. That’s a that’s that’s a requirement for being hired. Go Oh, huh.

Lindsay Recknell  24:52

It’s so interesting that you say that because that is such a huge gap in the in the market. Our leadership training has not I’ve included mental health skills training like this. I mean, my entire certificate program is around teaching these kinds of mental health skills to leaders and HR professionals. Module number number model number one is the language of mental health, which we’ve talked about. Module number two is around communication and listening, everything comes down comes back to communication, and how we have good communication, and how we align the words to the behaviors and address the expectations around all of those things. You’ve, you’ve nailed it.

Lorie Reichel-Howe  25:37

Well, well, and you ask a good question. So I’m, and I don’t I may have strayed from it. I think your question is, so how do people acquire these skills. And what I will be doing, the session that I’m presenting is really just a sneak peek of a training program that I do leadership communication, and what we start with is how to make difficult conversations, safe conversations. And that just being able to talk about if you’re interrupted, verbally bombs. So we start with that I give the framework, I always give demonstrations, and then give people a practice session, you do not have a trainer, if you are not doing practice sessions where people are applying the skill. It’s informational. It’s not transformational. information does not transform us. But particularly when these are It’s about communication, it’s about behavior. So and I found that what people need is they need to kind of get stuck, and then it’s figuring out how to navigate through that. So first of all, make sure you’ve got the training that is practice. And then in the practice, I give coaching sessions. So that is the first one. So everyone’s on board, we just get that framework of how to have those conversations and make them say, so you’ll still speak confidently, respectfully safely, but also firmly, and you’ll be specific, you’ll avoid judgments and adapt. And then it’s about getting clarity for teams around the expectations. And that is creating a culture of respect, then I go back to the framework, and I make some further developments in it. So that we’re having now accountability conversations, you can’t hold people accountable until you’ve made it clear. And then you’ve given the language for it. So then that is the accountability.

Lorie Reichel-Howe  27:49

And so and again, within that you’re gonna have the training, you’re gonna have the framework, but you also have the practice sessions with me coaching. And then we fall we have another one, well, there, there’s a couple that follow because we need that. Number two things that break down a culture of accountability, our blame and excuses. And so learning how to deal with those two is critical. Yet you need to serve it blame can be skirting of responsibilities. But it can also be there are contributing factors that you can’t control them that people need help navigating. So having a discernment with that. And then same with excuses. Sometimes it’s people, again, skirting responsibility, just making an excuse. Or else it could be that there’s legitimate concerns. And those have to be looked at, you know, our processes working, has somebody been told they build support people, and they have an open door policy. And when that person went to seek help and support, their open door led to an empty room, and so they didn’t have the resources, they weren’t part of setting the deadline. So we need to have those. And so usually, it’s a series and you I spread them out. And so then you’re doing practice out work in your relationships. And then what we do I do a couple things. Matter of fact, those were really additions during COVID. One, I realized my content, although I may do the training in person whenever possible. I put it I recorded it and put it in modules. And I gave people a guided practice session. So the framework that I’ve given them that I practice with them, they can go to it anytime Do the practice session with me it’s recorded, because you need to get ready for a difficult conversation when you need to have someone when someone calls you a moron, you need to be you need to be ready right then. So you have the training. And then what I do is online coaching. And so checking in, how’s it working? What’s working? Where are you getting stuck? What do you need to have it work better? So I have found that with those components, if you’re going to get transformation, it’s a matter of we’re learning new patterns and ways of responding and thinking, and it will take some repeated practice. You’re not it’s not a checkoff list. Yes. Developing. And then as as you start demonstrating those other people are seeing it, you know, monkey see monkey do, and bed by bed. So but conversations are safe conversations do occur one safe conversation at a time. And there are times where with things break down, well, then you take a break, and we come back. And I have many times felt like I was tongue tied. And what it could have showed it if only I wish I would have said that. And one day it hit me, oh my gosh, some people are frequent fliers. I will get it another time. And I can even go back later and say, you know, that conversation it just, I wasn’t comfortable with it. It didn’t bring the outcome that I wanted. And I didn’t think it was probably positive for you. I’d like us to try it again. So you learn. You learned how to navigate and it’s it’s a journey. Transformation is a journey.

Lindsay Recknell  31:55

It absolutely is a journey. So tell us when we are looking for transformation, how do we get a hold of you?

Lorie Reichel-Howe  32:04

Well, there are a number of ways, my website If you go there, you will find a place on the home page connect with Lorie. Let’s talk you can get in and even schedule a consultation. And there’s also place on there that you can email me

Lindsay Recknell  32:31

Amazing. Awesome, and we will link to all of those places in the show notes of this episode as well. Lorie, it has been so wonderful to get to know you. I can’t wait for your talk to hear all the house in the woods that you’ve shared with us today. I think it’s gonna be really, really great.

Lorie Reichel-Howe  32:47

I’m excited. Oh,

Lindsay Recknell  32:49

we will see you then. Thank you so much for joining us and enjoy the rest of your day.

Lindsay Recknell  32:54

Thanks for joining me for another awesome episode of the mental health for leaders podcast. To make sure you don’t miss any future episodes, please go to and subscribe to have these episodes delivered right to your inbox each week. You’ll also find all the show notes, links and resources that my guest mentioned on the show and the link to the Guide to Influence and Impact at Work freebie I mentioned at the beginning of this episode.  You’re listening to this podcast because you know our people need us more than ever. But being a people leader and an HR professional is especially hard right now. If the thought of figuring out how to best support your people and yourself feels overwhelming and impossibly hard. Let’s talk. I don’t promise I can make it easy, but I can make it simple. So let’s do that together. Go to and download the Guide to Influence and Impact at Work now. Until next time, take good care. And as always, call me if you need me.

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