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Strong work relationships help GC steer through tough times

In time of crisis, the benefits of good organizational support frameworks cannot be overstated

Work can become a panacea when life gets tough. As Teresa Allan, VP, General Counsel and Ethics and Compliance Officer at Capgemini Australia says, “It’s a relief to get on with work because it is actually within your control.”

Teresa speaks from experience, for there was a time when she was pummeled by heart-wrenching happenings to her nearest and dearest that were out of her control – her husband was seriously injured in a bike accident and her daughter got bitten by a shark. For both, their recovery and rehabilitation period would be lengthy. These traumatic events were further compounded by news from the UK that Teresa’s mother’s health was failing, so she dashed across the world to spend precious final days with her beloved parent.

United in their grief, Teresa and her family drew support from each other. But also, importantly, the support she received from her workplace helped her cope with the host of pressures she was under - the death of her mother, being away from her husband and daughter, and the demands of her job at Capgemini. 

“What really helped me during that time were the strong relationships I had with my bosses and my team,” she says. “My team was able and happy to pick up the slack when I had to duck out. This was partly to do with the massive store of credit I’d built up over time [she had been with Capgemini for over a decade], but also due to my willingness to ask up front for support when I needed it.”

Teresa credits the robust structure at Capgemini for its ability to fill the gaps when initially she decided to withdraw from some group projects, then also when she had to drop everything during the weeks she was in the UK. She says that the company-wide training on wellbeing and mental health has helped shape Capgemini’s culture and EAP providers, and the combination of sound policies and great managers has created a safe workplace. 

“This contributes to the culture of it being okay to talk about these things.” 

Being comfortable to “lean out” a little was the result of having prioritized openness and trust in her work-life. So, when confronted with personal crises, Teresa felt safe sharing what she was going through, confident that she would not be judged about her capabilities while she was juggling commitments on the home front and at work.

Teresa is a firm believer that the “perception of perfection” lawyers hold of one another isn’t a healthy trait, and that a good leader should not be afraid to show their vulnerability. As a leader, she felt encouraged to be honest with her team about her capacity. “At Capgemini, we have the motto of bringing your whole self to work, so I really just embraced leading by where I was at.” 

On a personal level, Teresa uses regular exercise as a way to stave off stress. She tries to exercise most mornings; it helps her to clear her head and allows her to maintain perspective on any issues she is dealing with. Essentially, she opts for the glass half-full approach - with a healthy dose of realism added to the mix. 

“My husband used to be a paramedic and that taught me that someone is always faring worse than you,” she says.

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