27 karmaJoined Feb 2022


Answer by Cait_LionMar 27, 2023110

Hi! As background, I work at CEA's as their Head of People Operations. I've been with CEA about six years.

First, I'm sorry you are currently having this experience. Second, I want to echo other people's sentiments that there are roles and managers within EA orgs where the expectations not be the stressful "on call all the time" setup.

My aim for everyone who works at CEA is that they have a work structure that's sustainable for them, where sustainability means "starts each week feeling energized" not "is able to physically continue doing this." I can't claim that we always meeting this goal for all staff, of course, but it's certainly the aim. Different people need different work setups to thrive and I think a minority of people can sustainably work in the "always on call" mode you describe. I try to support all of our teams in helping people figure out what structure will be ideal, and I'm much more frequently in the position of encouraging people to take more time off, be more protective of their weekends, etc. than the reverse. Many people at CEA have strict work-life boundaries as you describe. I am personally protective of my evenings and weekends.

I think Alfredo's advice of being clear with prospective employers about what you are and aren't willing to do is great. I'd generally respond positively to someone communicating clearly about that in a job interview.


CEA has grown so much under your guidance. Your leadership has been patient, curious, and insightful. I've been immensely impressed by the humility you've shown while leading CEA, and which show in this post and this decision. I've personally learned a great deal from working with you and being managed by you. Thank you for all you've done for CEA!

I recently wrote a note in CEA's work slack and thought it might be worth writing up for the Forum, too. All of these are my own perspectives and not those of my employer.

Here’s a shower thought about evaluating people/what happens during high-pressure interactions:

  • Talking to ~powerful people can be scary
  • When I'm stressed or feeling judged, my reasoning and communication abilities seem to get noticeably worse, at least some of the time
  • I think this is common
  • And hard to control for in evaluative contexts (like job interviews)

So, if Powerful Person and Being Evaluated Person are talking, and BEP is having trouble articulating their thoughts, I often see one of three things from PP:

A. Silence
B. Quickly moving on to another topic, mentally tagging BEP’s answer as insufficient/poor
C. Putting words in BEP's mouth

  • and sometimes continuing as though the answer BEP parroted was generated by BEP

I think C can be pretty hard to avoid, but avoiding it is vital.

What I try to do instead:

1b. (common tactic:) Be generally reassuring and soothing.  

  • I think this tactic can be helpful, if you don’t let it lead you into B or C.

2b. (less common:) try to help them scaffold their arguments without actually providing the answer. It takes a lot of curiosity and patience. Poke, explore, ask. I don’t think I’m great at this, and I don’t have bullet-proof guidance for how to do it, but I try to:

  • Reflect people’s positions back to them to check I’ve actually understood what they were trying to say
  • Ask “why” a lot
  • Explore reasoning chains step by step, digging in when I notice confusion or disagreement
  • If they say something hyperbolic or bizarre, I check in to give them a chance to tweak what they’ve said (“All EAs should do X immediately!” “All EAs?” “Well, ok, what I really meant was. . . .”)

I want more PPs who are in evaluation mode - formally or informally! - to remember how nerves can throw noise into the interaction. I want people to be doing way more of 2b.