Reality Leadership Blog

After spending more than 20 years working with the Reality-Based philosophy and honing Reality-Based tools in hundreds of organizations, I’m excited to finally have current research data that quantifies the cost of Emotional Waste. Organizations are losing billions of dollars annually.

They lose money in two ways. First, they’re investing money and organizational energy in employee engagement surveys, HR initiatives, and Learning-and-Development programs that actually exacerbate the problems they’re trying to solve. Second, organizations aren’t developing leaders who have the mindsets, methods and tools they need to help eliminate costly Emotional Waste.

While I have more than 20 years of qualitative experience from consulting in hundreds of organizations, I wanted to quantify the amount of Emotional Waste found in typical organizations to help leaders calculate the costs of workplace drama. My company, Reality-Based Leadership, recently partnered with The Futures Company to capture data around the phenomenon that the Open-Door Policy brought to my attention.

Our research found that the average employee spends two hours and twenty minutes per day in drama and emotional waste.

While wages and salaries vary greatly from organization to organization, let’s use a hypothetical of a company with 100 employees, each earning $30 an hour and working 40 hours a week. Annually, wages paid would equal $6,240,000. Based on our research on the cost of emotional waste, well over $1,794,000 would have to be written off as a loss.

Now imagine that organization has 10 senior leaders and each spends a minimum of five hours a week dealing with the drama that creates Emotional Waste. (That’s a conservative estimate, based on our research.) Let’s give these leaders a salary that average $60 an hour. That’s another $156,000 of money spent on something that has no return on investment.

Would you continue pouring money into a stock that consistently lost you that kind of money? You’d be crazy to do that, but at least you’d be able to see when a stock is losing money. In organizations, Emotional Waste has been an invisible leakage, much like the slow leak in the upstairs shower that goes unnoticed until it the ceiling and walls collapse and cause untold damage.


Imagine the dramatic impact on profitability that would be seen if you could recapture the two-plus hours per employee per day being expended on Emotional Waste. That is what the Reality-Based philosophy is all about.

Not only have organizations that we’ve worked with seen profound cost savings through the increase in productivity and improved results, they have seen measurable improvements in engagement, collaboration and cross-departmental teamwork. They have been better able to retain the high-accountable employees, do more work with less staff and increase innovation. They have experienced measurable improvements in organizational metrics such as work efficiency, quality control, safety scores and customer satisfaction.

I’ll show you what’s possible by sharing stories collected in my decades of work using the Reality-Based philosophy to dramatically increase employee accountability, which leads to both increased engagement and improved results. Most importantly, I will give you easy-to-use tools and methods, which can be implemented immediately, to help you recapture the hours wasted on processing drama.

All you need to do is tune in, sign up, and follow us at RBL!

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Posted in Leadership by Cy Wakeman on July 14th, 2016.

  1. Great article! I would love for you to say more about how employee engagement surveys and HR initiatives “actually exacerbate the problems they’re trying to solve”. We are spending a lot of time on programs as a result of our engagement surveys without really knowing if they are going to move the needle. Please say more…

  2. Nanette Carvalho says:

    Cy, I really enjoy the message you are sharing. I feel it is spot on and gives leadership great food for thought on how they can improve.

  3. Hi I couldn’t agree more with the amount of time and energy we spend blindly pursuing and analyzing employee engagement surveys. Often it seems they become counterproductive..,, please say more!!!


    • Thanks for sharing your insights, Christel! I wholeheartedly believe that engaged employees are essential to creating great results. In my new book No Ego (now available to order here:, I go into the relationship between engagement and accountability in greater detail, including a better way to measure our high accountable employees in engagement surveys to make sure that we are hearing what they have to say. Most engagement surveys bring to light issues from people who are low or medium accountables, and this leads leadership to start working on the wrong things. The key is filtering the survey by accountability. We have done this with many clients and they are amazed at the results. Here is a quick video on YouTube that talks about this idea a bit more:

  4. Cy Wakeman I am such a big fan of your work and what you and your team are doing with Reality-Based Leadership. I’m from New Zealand and I discovered you by chance on You Tube when I was searching for video information on high maintenance employees. I have worked for the same organisation consecutively for seventeen years, but with the same organisation on and off for at least 24 years. I’ve held a number of management positions over the years and I have learned and trained others through my own research online. When you I came across you, I was so excited to hear that someone finally speaks my language. I’ve even passed on information on your work to my CEO who I think is secretly taking a leaf from some of your you tube videos which is really exciting stuff. You are so right about ditching the drama and calling people to greatness. I use at least one quote from you with someone in my workplace on a daily basis. Thank you for the enlightenment…and now I’m trying to figure out how I can get you to New Zealand without asking my sisters for a loan (kidding). Thank you again.

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