Who are Empower Work Peer Counselors?

Empower Work peer counselors are working professionals who support people through tough work situations and workplace issues. They work across a range of fields and industries and cover a spectrum of geographies.

A number of volunteers say they’ve experienced a difficult work situation at some point in their own career. Many have benefited from mentorship and support during those challenging moments. Others didn’t have someone to turn to, and want to change that reality for other people. Despite their experiences, the motivation is the same: to be there for people when they need support at work.

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Volunteering changed how I interact with colleagues and friends

This post is part of our peer counselor Q&A series which shares the perspectives of our talented volunteers. Rachel is an Empower Work peer counselor and nonprofit professional in the Bay Area.

From Rachel: I saw an ad for Empower Work at a bus stop in San Francisco and went online to learn more. I was looking for a regular volunteer opportunity and was intrigued by the concept. After talking with Empower Work’s founder, I was truly excited by the opportunity to be a part of a mission-driven startup to see something grow from its early stages.

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Volunteering lets me help others while developing interpersonal skills

This post is part of our peer counselor Q&A series which shares the perspectives of our talented volunteers. Deborah is an Empower Work volunteer and career counselor for college students. When she's not using her counseling skills to help others, she's usually spending time with her family or enjoying one of her creative hobbies.

Her comments include, “We've all had moments of frustration at work and needed someone to talk to. I was excited to find an organization striving to address this through the use of technology. The peer counselor role was a perfect fit—I get to help others with struggles they may face at work while further developing my interpersonal skills.”

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From texter to volunteer: how Empower Work helped me at a tough moment

Laura, an Empower Work peer counselor, talks about how why she volunteers, and how she discovered Empower Work when she herself was in a difficult workplace situation.

From Laura: “The Empower Work peer counselor helped me realize that perhaps what I needed most was not necessarily leaving my job--but figuring out what I need to enjoy my job. The fact that the conversation was anonymous and via text allowed me to be more open. I was able to answer questions more honestly without fear of judgement or embarrassment. During such a difficult time, it was really helpful for me to use an anonymous platform to get it all out there to be fully supported in the best way possible for me.“

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You've got an ethical issue at work. Now what?

Ethical questions within workplaces are arising more frequently in the public dialogue. Ethical issues certainly aren’t exclusive to tech. They happen across every industry and field, from banking to nonprofit to healthcare. Most of these don’t make headlines, but can affect our day-to-day experience at work--and our careers. We can’t just switch off our personal values when we step into the office. As Yale professor Daylian Cain explains, “work is often the place where we have the most societal impact; if you can’t bring your ethical values to work, where can you bring them?”

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Have a bad boss at work? You’re not alone

One in two adults in the U.S. have left their job to get away from their manager at some point in their career. Dealing with managers is one of the top reasons why people reach out to Empower Work. Some experience bullying or gaslighting—when someone subtly (or not so subtly) manipulates you into questioning your own sanity. Others mention bosses who are uncommunicative or “ghost” them when they need feedback or support. Others are met with resistance or even retaliation from managers when they voice their concerns about the direction of a product, project, or other business decisions.

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Volunteering helped expand my career coaching skills

This post is part of our peer counselor Q&A series which shares the perspectives of our talented volunteers. Sarah is a career counselor with nearly a decade of experience working in higher education. Her focus is on helping women build confidence in the workplace, leadership development, and salary negotiation.

From Sarah: “"We spend so much of our lives at work and unfortunately, it is all too common for people to feel stuck in a difficult situation with limited or nonexistent resources. Having a place to talk to a trained volunteer where you are free from judgment, potential retaliation, or other negative consequences is crucial for people to move forward in their jobs and careers. In my opinion, having accessible, confidential work support is integral in improving employee satisfaction, retaining great talent, and creating a healthier work environment for everyone.”

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What's it Like to Text with an Empower Work Peer Counselor?

Facing tough issues at work can be emotionally draining, confusing, and stressful––like you’re stuck under the clouds. As the first confidential text line for work issues, Empower Work is on a mission to support people through their toughest, stormiest moments by helping them find a next step that feels right. If you have a non-legal issue that’s impacting your ability to thrive at work, the peer counselors with Empower Work can help.

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I'm an HR professional and gained valuable insight through volunteering

This post is part of our peer counselor Q&A series which shares the perspectives of our talented volunteers. Tracy is an Empower Work peer counselor and a human resources professional focusing on engagement, development, and leadership.

What Tracy sees as some of the benefits of volunteering with Empower Work: “I’ve had the opportunity to directly apply some of the lessons I've learned through my volunteer experience in my career. For example, I incorporated a bias training across my organization. I've also changed my coaching approach when working with managers and employees––I now work harder to help them develop their own solutions rather than simply providing answers.”

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Workplace Issues are Everywhere. Now What?

"Professor Says the Workplace Is the Fifth Leading Cause of Death in the U.S."
"Pregnancy Discrimination Is Rampant Inside America’s Biggest Companies"
"78% of Employees in Tech Report Experiencing Unfair Behavior or Treatment"

These are just a few recent headlines about the American workplace. From microaggressions and gaslighting to being groped by customers to HR teams that retaliate against employees for reporting issues, there’s no shortage of toxic and unacceptable behavior.

The headlines paint a bleak picture. And prompt a critical question: “now what?”

At Empower Work, we’ve seen that people have incredible ability to navigate complex situations if they have trained, informed support to talk through what they know of themselves, their employer, their boss, the players involved. Our text line provides a non-judgemental space to think through the implications, and if needed, get connected to additional resources from reporting tools to legal referrals.

That’s why we’re here. Workplaces challenges are universal. Support to navigate them should be too.

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It Started With a Question and 60 Fliers

One year ago, I sent a file to print — 60 fliers I’d thrown together to test an idea. The idea had been sparked by a question: why wasn’t there an easily accessible resource for people facing work challenges?

As Empower Work began reaching people, we found what was tough for people varied widely — microaggressions, ethical decisions or questions, run-ins with managers, gaslighting, bullying, sexual innuendo, difficulties managing up, being sidelined or worked around, job transitions, harassment, discrimination…the list went on.

The Empower Work approach is based on researched-backed best practices in coaching and counseling. Our peer counselors go through a robust application, screening, and training where they learn to hold space to discuss what people are facing and ask succinct, informed questions that help people go from feeling backed into a corner with no options, to multiple pathways ahead of them. If needed, we connect people to additional resources ranging from legal information to meditation apps. All of our resources are vetted in line with our mission — free, accessible, inclusive.

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What Happened at Snap Isn’t an Anomaly

Shannon Lubetich’s story about Snap highlights not just problems with culture and diversity, but the lack of resources available for employees. People face myriad toxic workplace situations across a broad spectrum including, but by no means limited to, bullying, microaggressions, power imbalances, harassment, unethical practices, gaslighting, and discrimination, to name a small subset. These situations are so prevalent, employees will almost certainly face at least one, if not a combination, while they’re in the workforce. What’s not certain is whether they’ll get the support they need to address these situations as they arise. Empower Work is here to provide that workplace support.

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