Welcome to Speakfully Insider, a weekly series featuring thought leaders on important topics surrounding workplace mistreatment, company culture, workplace safety, social justice, and more.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Madison Butler, and I am originally a New Englander living in Austin, TX. I am the VP of People at GRAV and the founder/owner of Blue Haired Unicorn. I have 5 dogs, 1 cat. I am Black and Queer AF and want the world to be safe for all kinds of people, not just the ones who exist safely today.
How did you become interested in workplace cultures?
I began my career in talent and quickly learned that hiring was broken, and it was broken because the landscape was only paved for some people. This led me to wanting to have an impact on organizational culture and safety at scale.
What are you seeing in the workplace that positively affects culture?
Being open and honest about the human experience. Life is messy and sometimes that spills over into work. We cannot shut our brains off from 9-5 every day. Societal and personal trauma/feelings are still impacting how we work. The sooner we acknowledge that the sooner we can have more productive work environments.
In the ‘about’ portion of your site, you describe yourself as facilitating hard conversation through storytelling, data, empathy. Will you give us an example of what you mean?
Data is a wonderful tool, but it doesn’t resonate with everyone. I use data as my sidecar and engage with my audience through storytelling, and amplifying the voices of those who have lived experiences.
How do we deconstruct the status quo when it is normal for employees to fear retaliation?
Organizations have the responsibility and power to change the narrative. We must create organizations that protect people. In order to feel safe, people need to feel as if they are heard and believed. Often times we are more afraid to call out racism than the racist/homophobe/transphobe who is causing trauma. We need to have no tolerance for those who cause harm.
How do you define being ‘human at work'?
Being able to show up whole. Often times we are asked to break ourselves into pieces in order to make people comfortable, that isn’t human.
If you were to start a conscience-based movement, what would it be?
I have! I started Rage2Rainbows with the idea that it is important to channel the hate. I often get death threats, hate mail, and ugly comments- I found myself becoming consumed. I decided I wanted to take the power back and use the energy for good. Rage2Rainbows is a social impact movement that empowers people to donate in the name of their haters. For example, for sexist comments, we make donations to Planned Parenthood. My co-founder and I have raised over $13,000 in 6 months!.
Speakfully is a tech platform that allows employees to document uncomfortable work experiences before they are ready to report them, and leadership receives analytics to help guide internal conversations to ensure a healthy workplace culture. How do you see HR tech and ai impacting our workplace in the future as it relates to healthy workplace culture?
HR needs a facelift. I have never referred to myself as HR and that is intentional. Historically HR has protected the business while harming people. I inherently believe I was put here to protect people and uplift them. Technology will always play a role in our education and future, but the people using it need to be open and willing to change as well.
If you had the opportunity to sit down with a historical figure to talk diversity and inclusion, who would it be and what would you talk about?
Audre Lorde. Although she is not a “historical figure” in the traditional sense, so much of her writing resonates with me and my life. I would love for her to know how far we have come, and how far we still have to go.