An Interview with Jonathan Dunn

In the wake of the Great Resignation and the disruption caused by the COVID19 pandemic, millions of people are looking for a way out of their jobs. In fact, the number of workers quitting their jobs, often without a replacement lined up, hit another record high in September 2021. 


They’re following their dreams. This week Jonathan Dunn, founder of the Dream Leader Institute, joins Geeks Geeks Googlization to discuss the primary reason why employees are dissatisfied and disengaged at their current workplace, and how employers can help change this mindset.

The Working World’s Toxic Side

Our current labor market shows acute signs of imploding with employees of two major companies poised to strike: those of John Deere and of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. Throughout the pandemic, more and more employees have been speaking out against toxic workplaces, and there’s a chance these strikes could spread and have long lasting effects.

Data is building that reveals employees dissatisfaction is growing across manyindustries. In August, 4.3 million Americans left their jobs. In September it jumped to another record high of 4.4 million. Seventy percent of those separations are voluntary – in other words, the employee quit! That’s almost double the rate just 10 years earlier. 

Ninety percent of workers said they would accept reduced pay in order to have meaning or purpose in the work that they do, and 74 percent of current job seekers are seeking more meaningful positions. 

That’s not all. Eighty-nine percent of people claimed they felt burn-out symptoms from work over the past year with 40% of employees stating they would likely quit their jobs in the next three months regardless of whether they had another job to transfer to. All of these data point to a workforce that is tired, beat down, and sick of spending so much of their lives doing work they don’t actually enjoy.

All of this negativity feeds into the office environment, where toxicity seems to have increased. Researchers have found a 300 percent increase in clinical anxiety that is related to toxic work environments along with a 13 percent rise in substance abuse problems and a 20 percent increase in domestic violence. Toxic workplaces can sap the motivation, mental, and physical health out of an employee, leading to a tired worker that feels hopeless and lost.

Normalizing Happiness in the Workplace

So why are we still working in positions we don’t like? Dunn says many of us believe we don’t deserve to be happy at our jobs; that a job is something we do because we have to rather than because we want to. Dunn points out that approximately 75 percent of people have experienced some sort of trauma or betrayal in their lives, many of whom turn out to be bosses that believe higher incomes will relieve emotional stress at work. This attention focused on pay for distress and toxicity verges on exploitation, which is where we find ourselves today.

Fortunately, not all employers are content with disgruntled employees. That’s where Dunn and his team from the Dream Leader Institute come in. 

One of the first exercises Dunn conducts with a new organization is asking how each employee would rate his/her current job satisfaction from 1 to 10. He often gets low numbers, which leads him to ask, “What does a 10 out of 10 look like?” Most people, employees and employers alike, don’t know the answer to this question. Some employers, Dunn says, don’t want their teams to find out what this looks like because it may not fit within their current plans. If this is the case, Dunn suggests the employer help their employee discover what their 10-out-of-10 position is, as this could lead to more dedicated and happy employees overall.

The Dream Leader Institute

Individual dreams make up the collective dreams (or purpose) of the company. Before a company can reach its highest potential, it must step back and find each employee’s working dream. When asked how to accomplish this, Dunn uses an example of his old colleague, who believed himself to be worthless after his father abandoned him.

After an argument with his mother, the colleague took his SATs in order to go to college, which came back with a total score of 1480 out of 1600. With this score, the colleague no longer felt worthless and continued on to college, where he got his degree and eventually started a profitable company. Years later, an audit revealed his scores to be 760 instead of 1480.

Despite this score, the colleague’s attitude never changed. Dunn points out that this mindset is important for all employees to have, that they believe their job title or grade or degree does not define them; their behaviors and attitudes do. Because of the impact job titles and social status have on our identities, employers must recognize that employees are humans who need to feel valued before the company can grow, progress, and innovate.

At the Dream Learning Institute, Dunn offers companies and individuals courses from the business’s own curriculum to fight the disengagement many employees struggle with. Not only does this promote healthy work communication, but recognizing an employee’s worth can help reimagine the attitude towards work.


 “Toxic work, bad bosses, can also induce epigenetic changes in our DNA.” (4:38)

 “7.5 out of 10 people in their lives have had loss, trauma, or betrayal. And if people don’t transform that damage, they end up transmitting it.” (6:33)

“There [is] 67% of the working population still not engaged.” (10:31)

“I love to see what I’m seeing with people taking chances on themselves.” (11:13)

“People all the time would ask him, ‘Man your life really changed when you got that 1480?’ He says, ‘No. My life changed when I started behaving like a human being that got a 1480.’” (20:48)

“Part of the culture of every organization has to be a culture of over belief.” (25:32)

“If it took someone 30 years to become the way they are, it’ll take a little time to undo it.” (27:30)

“The great leaders in this world are teachers” (32:45)

“The #1 cause of disengagement is people not being connected to their job.” (33:45)

“You can’t get to the transactional pieces of business that you think are important until you address the relational pieces of business first because people won’t care about their job until they know that you care about them as a person and the work that they’re doing.” (35:59)


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