This episode’s guest is Robyn Garrett, an expert who has deeply influenced my views on workplace dynamics and the journey to organizational healing joins me today to discuss the insidious impact of toxic workplace environments, and why so many people are so unhappy in their jobs despite really loving the work itself. From the moment I read her book, I knew she had hit upon an operationalization of a bigger esoteric problem that many RAs grapple with every day.

So when I recorded this podcast, I knew it was likely to be the most impactful one I’ve ever done for the research administration community specifically, and that this expert’s words are needed more urgently than any other at this time in our profession’s development. It would not be overstating it to say that all of my other guests and posts serve as the next steps for what happens after someone listens to THIS episode. However, as we begin to dive in, it’s important to note that the issues we discuss in this podcast aren’t unique to research administration or any one career – I’ve spoken with leaders in the video game industry, financial management, managed technological services, commodities, and the story remains consistent across all sectors. There is a systemic problem with how employees are percieved, onboarded, and acclimated into the workforce, and in this episode, Robyn spells that out in no uncertain terms the dire consequences of perpetuating this culture.

I wanted to dive in by asking the obvious question – what prompted the book? She described a turning point in her career when she could finally speak the hard truths about corporate culture without tiptoeing around sensitive corporate egos, board members, and the like. This newfound freedom allowed her to advocate for a work environment where openness and directness replace the usual placations that pervade boardroom discussions.

From the outset, Robyn’s insights into the oppressive structures within corporate environments resonated with me. After reading Happy at Work, I found myself emotionally overwhelmed because in her book I saw the answer to my burnout, exhaustion, and frustration at the difficulties faced by research administrators in the workplace, and I took the only step I could in that moment.

I quit my job.

This decision wasn’t taken lightly; but her words was the sign I needed to remind me that I deserved better, a truth that Robyn articulates with compelling clarity in her work. Having a platform, it is my hope that in sharing her words, that others in any career where they feel exploited or taken advantage of, others would find their strength and start making their exit plans, because the truth is – we all deserve better, including the leadership who is often inadvertently and with best of intentions upholding these oppressive structures.

Even though leadership also suffers under this system, Robyn emphasized that real change must originate from those in leadership positions. Leaders need to acknowledge their role in perpetuating harmful practices and actively work toward creating supportive, healthy work environments. This can be exceptionally challenging for new leaders or insecure leaders who often default to behaviours that drive employees to burnout rather than success. This is particularly challenging for middle management, who often find themselves caught between enforcing an unsustainable status quo and satisfying upper leadership. This role could be powerful, when empowered and boundaries are set, but often their influence is undermined by politics and budgets. Both levels of leadership must acknowledge that the infrastructure they support is flawed and must be rethought. A people-centric and bold strategy could not only improve workplace culture but also naturally enhance profitability, moving away from a detrimental fixation on the bottom line.

One of our conversation topics was this – no one goes into work wanting to be unhappy or enjoying feeling behind, so how does the organizational structure reinforce these ideas and keep us all working? Like, we’re all still there, we enjoy our jobs in other ways, and we all have a reason for staying wherever we are if we are unhappy. So what keeps us there, and what holds us back from moving on?

One of the most powerful moments in our conversation came when Robyn discussed how most workplaces normalize dysfunction. She highlighted that from day one, employees are indoctrinated with the belief that “this is just the way things are done,” placing the blame on the individual rather than the system. Be sure to listen in to this part of the conversation, because she breaks it down beautifully. And since this message is reinforced consistently through policies, language, and culture, it leads many to accept unhealthy work environments as standard—a cycle Robyn is determined to break. And I will do whatever I can to help her get that message out. I hope you will too – so be sure to share this podcast, read her book, do whatever you can to get the word out.

While leadership bears the brunt of responsibility, Robyn and I did discuss the crucial role of employee awareness and self advocacy. Understanding one’s rights and recognizing the signs of a healthy workplace can empower us to demand better conditions or decide when it’s time to walk away. Being able to name the behaviour creates power and essential for breaking the cycle of abuse and mistreatment in the workplace. However, the reality is that sometimes the only safe option is to leave, and in other cases, leaving isn’t possible. For those who must stay, finding ways to make it work becomes imperative. If you’re a research administrator and resonate with the issues discussed in this podcast, I highly recommend reading Robyn’s book and following her insights on Instagram.

  1. Educate Yourself: Understand the signs of a toxic work environment and know your rights as an employee. Read the book, follow her on TikTok and Instagram
  2. Communicate Openly: Foster an environment where honest conversations about work conditions are normalized.
  3. Lead by Example: For those in leadership, prioritize the well-being of your team. Their health is your organization’s strength.

Robyn L Garrett is CEO of Beamably and a top TikTok and Instagram leadership expert, known by millions for witty insights and practical, modern strategies. She is the author of Happy at Work: How to Create a Happy, Engaging Workplace for Today’s (and Tomorrow’s!) Workforce and Be True to Yourself: The Personal Values Workbook. After many years as a startup executive, Robyn became tired of working with “leaders” that continuously put profits before people. She wanted to guide a new generation of leaders, teaching them to bring a “beam” of light into the lives of others. Now, she is building tools and technology to further this mission. Robyn has been featured by NPR, Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Hill, and numerous podcasts and other media outlets. Learn more at

By Minessa

With over 20 years of experience, Minessa Konecky has worked with small startups and hospital systems and academic centers in managing a variety of Federal, private and industry awards. They are comfortable with the entire life cycle of awards and have worked with investigators to secure and extend their research funding. They see themselves as the facilitators of the research business enterprise, and approach all solutions from that lens. Their passion is helping people find joy and fulfillment in their work using a human-centric approach to efficiency and optimization. They host of the Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself Podcast, and hold the position of Research Administration Process Improvement and Training Director at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Minessa takes great pride in their desi heritage and being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. They live in their seaside cottage on unceded and occupied lands of the Wampanoag and Pokanoket people in Plymouth, MA with 3 dogs and their partner, Alex.