PLC Newsletter: Ideas on How to Have Your Own “Shandar”

Author: Shamis Pitts

Organizations invest significant time and money to source, hire and onboard talent. Rightly so, tremendous focus is put on identifying whether an individual’s skills and capabilities align with a particular role. However, there is considerable opportunity for organizations to think about whether they have created the optimal environment for that person to thrive post-hire. Regardless of an organization’s size, the quality of the work environment can retain or repel an employee. 

That brings me to Shandar (pronounced “Shon-da”). Who is Shandar? She is PLC’s Director of Operations. I was able to lure her away from a large, established organization three years ago to join my start-up human capital consulting firm. I knew that Shandar had the skills and capabilities that I needed for the job. Full disclosure: We worked together in the past. I also knew that a work environment that did not truly promote engagement would result in Shandar 1) telling me quite bluntly about myself 😂 and 2) looking for other employment if PLC didn’t walk the talk. I don’t mean to imply that I needed Shandar to ensure that I was doing the right thing. More so, that I would receive clear, direct feedback if I wasn’t.

Over the past three years, many people who have worked with PLC have said to me, “I want a Shandar!” I always tell them,😂I figured it is high time for me to ask Shandar what keeps her engaged at PLC that makes her want to stay, since we know engagement is a key driver of retention. Her comments will be organized based on the three levers of engagement: psychological meaningfulness, psychological safety and psychological availability. Her comments below have been lightly edited.



Shamis: Overall, I want to understand why you still work for PLC, given the fact that everyone who meets you wants to poach you. Let’s start with the engagement driver of psychological meaningfulness. I’m defining that as whether or not you feel that you have a reason to engage in your work, and whether your job is set-up in a way to motivate you to do your best work. What does that look like to you? How does that align, or not, with your experience at PLC? Why does it matter?

Shandar: It’s all about how I can challenge myself within the role.  Is the work that I’m doing meaningful? Do I have the power to make decisions or navigate my work the way I see fit? I know if I don’t have challenges and my work becomes very monotonous, I get bored. At PLC, I have the opportunities to enjoy the variety in my work as a project manager and my role in operations – it keeps me on my toes and engaged.  Knowing the expectations and being flexible to redefine them, when necessary, helps.

I’ve seen in various organizations, the lack of support, collaboration, opportunities for growth and professional development are factors that cause employees to feel disengaged, which I have experienced.  Many organizations underestimate the value of investing in their employees. At PLC, you ensure that I have opportunities for growth and professional development, along with creating a collaborative environment and providing the tools and support.

I know you like to joke that I will be ready to tell you about yourself (haha), but I really appreciate that you provided the space for me to give you feedback.  This is so crucial! Feedback goes both ways. Having you listen and acknowledge my feedback makes me feel heard and seen.  You hired me for a reason, and just like I would expect to hear feedback from you to help navigate my responsibilities, I appreciate that you listen to my feedback to help improve the organization.  Overall, I know I am needed, supported and provided with the tools I need to succeed. This is what matters.


Shamis: Thanks. That’s helpful to hear! Let’s move to psychological safety. A term that has really been amplified over the past few years. Just to align, that’s defined as whether or not you experience the freedom and safety to engage in your work rather than feeling like you have to protect yourself in some way. Same questions: What does that look like to you? How does that align, or not, with your experience at PLC? Why does it matter?

Shandar: I don’t think people recognize how crucial this is.  I am a Caribbean woman who is black in America – educated and often being perceived as younger – and I am proud of who I am. Unfortunately, I have experienced my intelligence, color or my skin and gender as being a threat in other workplaces.  

Experiencing bias, lack of respect, favoritism and a threatening environment will make employees feel unsafe and alone.  By the time an employee feels this way, there is no trust. At PLC, you’ve created the environment for discussions with an open mind grounded in fairness and respect, where we can understand different perspectives and feel included. I feel safe and supported. I love the fact that I can be myself at work.

Organizations need to be more aware of their environments – are they doing what’s needed to create an inclusive, safe environment? As in any other situation, if you feel unsafe your instincts are to flee from the situation.  This is no different in the workplace.

Without psychological safety, employees will shut down and do the bare minimum. What’s the point of going above and beyond if I don’t feel acknowledged and respected? Organizations need to understand that we are not robots. If you want to ensure employees want to stay and do their best work, psychological safety is needed.


Shamis: I appreciate your honesty, Shandar. Thank you. Finally, psychological availability is about whether or not you have the capacity to engage. Specifically, whether you have the opportunity to renew outside of work. What does that mean to you? How does that align, or not, with your experience at PLC? Why does it matter?

Shandar: This is so important!  If I am burnt out, stressed, unable to take breaks to feel refreshed, you’re not going to get the best output of work.  All organizations have their busy and regular seasons, but if I have to constantly take personal days for my mental health regardless of the season, that’s a problem – it’s bad for both the employee and organization.

I love that we have balance at PLC.  It’s not just work-life balance, but overall life balance.  Just like too much of one thing isn’t good, if I’m always working without breaks for exercise, walks, or days off, what’s the point? Being constantly stressed and overworked will lead to me not producing my best work – the quality will take a nosedive.  

PLC provides this balance, enabling me to balance the demands of my job and resources.  Recognizing that we all need balance to be our best selves in order to do our best work, is an awareness that both you and your organization should acknowledge. Whenever I take time off or even as simple as going for a walk to clear my mind, it is respected by both you and my colleagues.  I am working to live the life I want, not living to work. 

Overall, having a balance to ensure my physical and mental wellbeing needs are met, is necessary to having an engaged employee like me. I should feel energized to tackle my tasks versus dreading coming to work. This makes a huge difference on how I show up to work. If organizations provide the right environment, support and balance, employees are more likely to be engaged and in turn reduce the turnover.  

I love that PLC gives me the opportunity to thrive.


I think the final thought gets to come from Shandar. 

“Recognize that, to have your own ‘Shandar’, make sure you find out who that person is, what they want to do and where they want to go with their career. Or just treat them like a person. But also recognize that you have to create the environment to make them want to stay. PLC has created the environment where I feel comfortable and safe and challenged, and that’s key.”

PLC would love to talk to you about what you are doing to retain your “Shandars.” Reach out if you want to probe into what’s possible!



Nishi, L. (2018). Improving engagement. Cornell University.

Comments (0)


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *