Liz Fosslien

How to Cope with Big Feelings at Work with Liz Fosslien, Author and Illustrator, and Head of Communications and Content at Humu

When Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy pitched their second book, Big Feelings: How to Be Okay When Things Are Not Okay, to their publisher in January 2020, the authors were met with questions about its relevance. Fast forward six months (and three months into a new and terrifying global pandemic), and the publisher recognized this was, in fact, a very relevant book to publish. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why. In these turbulent times, with millions participating in The Great Resignation, new Covid variants emerging every few months, derailing our collective plans to move on, and many dealing with the grief they’ve experienced from the loss of loved ones to the virus, Big Feelings couldn’t have come at a better time. Liz Fosslien, the co-author and illustrator stopped by Left to Our Own Devices to dig deep into big feelings. On this episode, Liz and Erica discuss the new book, how to express selective vulnerability (aka, bringing your most appropriate self to work), the importance of being intentional and taking time to connect and check in with colleagues, and how to introduce more stability into our teams during ever-changing times. Liz also offers two salient examples from Humu and IDEO on how to onboard in ways that will give new hires a sense of psychological safety as well as permission to bring their human to work. Big Feelings: How to Be Okay When Things Are Not Okay, by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy is out today! Pick up your copy wherever books are sold.


“Our work is not an invitation to be a feelings firehose. We talk about this a lot in the context of leadership. And we have a practice that we call selective vulnerability. So it’s really, how do you balance sharing, which builds trust and does bring teams together and increases performance over the short and long run, but you also can’t really over share, right? It is still a workplace context and especially if you’re leading a team, part of your role is to create stability and clarity for that team.”

“I have emotions, some of them are really, really difficult. You will have them too, that’s perfectly okay. But as your leader, I’m still thinking about how to make sure we’re all okay together in the future.”

“I will say, I am an introvert. My job involves a lot of writing and thinking, so I personally love working from home. I think back on being in an open-office floor plan, and it boggles my mind how I got anything done ever because it’s so overstimulating. So I think the keys are, when you are in person, really prioritizing relationship building and connection and seeing that as how you’re going to perform better in the long term.”

“I’ve learned to take a deep breath and say, ‘Okay, we should have that five minutes [at the beginning of a meeting] just to check in with one another. And it actually makes the call much, much nicer. So I think it just requires you to be more intentional and have the moment of, ‘What do I want out of this meeting, what is my goal in connecting with this person, and then how can I structure the next 30 minutes to make that happen.’”

“Somehow I always forget how restorative it is to just step away from my computer and walk outside. And I’m lucky enough to live in California, where that’s an option year round. It’s like, wow, being outside in the sun for five minutes has this huge impact, and I’m just always not doing it!?”

On Humu’s onboarding: “[Laszlo Bock] was like, ‘Hey, this is your first day, and I just want to reinforce that the interview—the audition is over. You’re not auditioning anymore. You’re here and we want you to grow and learn and ask a lot of questions. You’re going to make mistakes, but you don’t need to be worried about your position—that part is over.’”

“The audition is over! We’re so excited you’re here, you’re bringing all these valuable skills to the team. Please lean into your abilities—that’s why we hired you.”

“The 7 emotional states [from the book]: are uncertainty, comparison, anger, burnout, perfectionism, despair, and regret.”


Order Liz and Mollie’s book, Big Feelings, out now

Liz and Mollie’s website

Liz’s website