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Check out the video, below, to learn about the components of a psychologically healthy workplace and the link between employee well-being and organizational performance. The video also includes interviews with some of our award winners and highlights from our 2010 award ceremony. You'll hear directly from award-winning organizations about their commitment to creating a healthy, high-performing work environment and the results they've achieved.

puzzle_piece_small.jpgGallup recently came out with the revelation that there are five types of well-being: (1) Career, (2) Social, (3) Financial, (4) Physical, and (5) Community. I have not seen any of the behind the scenes empirical work validating these five types of well-being, but the five do seem to make conceptual sense. They are clearly not completely separate types of well-being, as poor career well-being might result in poor financial well-being or social well-being. But, the general premise seems to make sense.

Having read several different pieces on the topic, though, something seemed to be missing. As I was reviewing the most recent Gallup Management Journal article, it finally dawned on me. There seems to be an important element of well-being missing from Gallup’s conceptual framework: Mental Well-Being.

You could make the argument that Gallup’s five types of well-being will likely have some effect on mental well-being. If someone lacks career well-being, for example, then that person may experience greater stress which reduces mental well-being. However, you could also argue that poor mental well-being, perhaps resulting from depression or anxiety, could be the precursor to reduced career well-being. Hence, mental well-being could have implications for most, if not all, of the other five types of well-being.

Though it is unlikely that Gallup will re-consider its “five” types of well-being (after all the books and articles have already been printed), I would encourage practitioners to consider that there might be something missing from the list.

For years and years, our healthcare insurance focused primarily on physical health and well-being coverage, with little attention paid to mental health and well-being coverage. It seems to me that Gallup has done the same thing.

Failing to consider the extremely important mental well-being element means that, at least for some employees, no matter what you do to improve the other five types of well-being, you will not optimize your results.

Photo Credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/yannconz / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


[Since Dr. Michael Leiter was the one who suggested the poll item, described below, I was curious to hear his reaction to the results and he was gracious enough to accept my invitation to contribute this guest post to our blog. If you're on Twitter, you can follow Dr. Leiter at @workengagement -DB]

The Psychologically Healthy Workplace poll asked a question that goes to a core issue for workplace health and productivity: I can rely on my co-workers when I need help at work. We didn’t ask whether people trusted anyone at work nor did we ask if they trusted everyone at work. Rather, the question went to whether they had a general sense of trust towards co-workers.

The good news. Of the 243 people responding, a solid 2/3, agreed or strongly agreed with this statement.

The not so good news. One third of respondents did not agree, with nearly 1/8 of respondents strongly disagreeing.

rely-on-coworkers-sm.pngTrust describes a meeting of the minds: people are willing to reach out and others are willing to respond. Trust is a big issue when asking for help. It gives confidence that others have both the wherewithal and the willingness to lend a hand. Trust shapes how others respond to requests, as well: people share cheerfully only when they have confidence in the other person’s good intentions.

Mistrust of colleagues poses a serious problem in today’s work world. Mistrust separates people, introducing speed bumps in the flow of information, energy, and emotional support. People hesitate to ask and to respond.

As put succinctly in the Job Demands/Resources model the availability of effective resources is a major determinant of whether people will experience work engagement or burnout in the face of intense demands at work. In an information/service economy people find the most relevant resource in the energy, knowledge, and abilities of their colleagues.

Work today invariably involves teamwork. For example, in hospitals, high quality care for a single patient draws upon the talents of various providers across shifts. Individual providers cannot address every dimension of care over an extended period. This shared quality of work pervades every economic sector.

Good working relationships have implications beyond productivity. A career is more than a means of making money or an opportunity to ply one’s craft. Careers bring membership in a community. The richness of relationships within that community contributes a lot to a person’s potential for fulfillment.

The vision of my research and consulting focuses on enhancing workplace communities. Improving the quality of working relationships has huge leverage for both productivity and workplace health. Solid working relationships, worthy of trust, underlie anything a team strives to do. Civil, respectful working relationships are the infrastructure of worklife. They permit resources to flow without the hiccups of mistrust, resentment, misunderstanding, or fear. One potential approach is CREW (Civility, Respect, and Engagement with Work).

Recognizing Mistrust within a Workgroup
  • Info Gaps. When talking with members of a workgroup, you find that they lack key information available to other members of the group.
  • Complaints. When lacking trust, member of groups complain to people outside of a group. In time, those complaints circulate around an organization or even with outside partners.
  • Low Morale and Energy. Mistrust is an unhappy experience. So much of what makes work fun occurs among people who enjoy one another.

What to Do about Low Trust?
  • Talk about Relationships. When delivering progress reports, leaders can ask about working relationships. Working relationships become part of the conversation.
  • Define Projects With Team Building Potential. Ideally, leaders can integrate team building experiences into their workflow, while dealing with actual tasks.
  • Get Serious about Core Values. A group needs to make its commitment to a positive quality of worklife a top priority.

Questions
  • How do you determine someone’s trustworthiness? Words, nonverbal communications, actions?
  • Are most employers today deserving of trust from their employees?
  • What has your organization done to build trust in the workplace?

Michael P. Leiter holds the Canada Research Chair in Occupational Health at Acadia University while also serving as President of Michael Leiter & Associates, an organizational consulting firm with a mission of enhancing the quality of worklife. A major initiative is Civility, Respect, and Engagement at Work (CREW) that leads groups to experience supportive relationships. A registered psychologist, he received degrees in Psychology from Duke University (BA), Vanderbilt University (MA), and the University of Oregon (PhD). You can read Dr. Leiter's full bio here. Additional information is available at www.workengagement.com and http://cord.acadiau.ca.
Stress is universal: all people are affected by it in varying degrees. However, the causes and how people deal with stress are different. Stress is becoming more of a problem because of modern workplace pressures and uncertainty. Your goal is to control stress so it does not control you. We can learn about stress by thinking of a violin string. There needs to be a certain level of tension on the string so that it can make music. If the string has no tension, it will not create a musical sound. If it has too much tension, it can snap. Stress through life events creates the tension on the string; people are the string and wood of the violin. People have different levels of abilities to work within and tolerate stress, just like the violin string.  

Some events that cause tension are:
  • employment uncertainty
  • uncertain Future
  • marriage/divorce
  • illness
  • financial problems
  • change
  • workload - deadlines
  • lack of support
  • continual conflict

Some effects of tension are:
  • tight neck muscles
  • churning stomach
  • increased blood pressure
  • headaches
  • ulcers
  • anxiety
  • increased alcohol or tobacco use
  • clenched fist - clenched jaw

Today’s workplace is filled with stress because of: change, uncertainty and economic fluctuations. This last year we have seen unprecedented numbers of people out of work and the highest unemployment rates in decades. Psychologists are seeing many people with stress related problems because of employment and unemployment uncertainty. For each person, we need to identify the causes of stress and how to manage it.

The following steps will help you in managing your stress:

  1. Identify your causes for stress: for example workplace uncertainty, time, family, money, work-related conflicts, too many demands or self-doubt.
  2. Identify your actions/signs of stress; for example, short-tempered, not finishing projects, feeling overwhelmed, angry, blaming others, withdrawing.
  3. Find ways to lessen stress: voice the unexpressed, discuss causes of stress with a friend or write out the causes. Reread the written causes, underline important issues, and develop an action plan. Instead of worrying about statements that you have already made in anger—control your worrying by working out a best/worst case scenario. When you define a worst case, you can then figure out how to deal with it. You can also realize that a best case may be the outcome. Either way, you have mapped out the consequences of your angry statement and, by doing so, can eliminate the worry and feel in control.
  4. Be honest with yourself — don’t try to accomplish more than what is possible in a given period of time.
  5. Take at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted time for yourself daily. Leave your immediate work area and take a brief walk outside or have an informal discussion with a coworker. These activities can relax you and even enhance productivity.
  6. Tension Discharge Rate: Find an approach for releasing stress: take a walk, read, do deep breathing exercises, listen to music.
You can control stress instead of letting it control you by controlling your thoughts and attitudes toward situations and people.
While waiting in the airport recently, I noticed that the guy sitting next to me had taped paper over the webcam at the top of his laptop. I chuckled to myself at first at his apparent paranoia. Then I thought about that kid in Philadelphia who sued his school for taking photos of him on his laptop without his knowledge. So who could blame this young professional at the airport for being cautious? It is more than a little creepy thinking that your boss might be watching you in your hotel room on a business trip. Which got me thinking about trust.

Trust is lacking in many workplaces today. Employers don’t trust employees. Employees don’t trust employers. We see it in the survey business all the time. Clients hire my firm to conduct their employee surveys in part to ensure anonymity of respondents and confidentiality of results. And yet no matter how it’s communicated some employees will never believe their survey responses are anonymous. And so, with the fear of big brother looking over their shoulders, many employees miss the opportunity to provide honest feedback that might improve their workplace.  

In a world where it’s not uncommon to pick up a newspaper to see CEO led away in handcuffs, maybe it shouldn’t surprise us that many employees simply don’t trust their company’s leadership. Based on research that we’ve done with our clients at Questar, nearly 18% of employed adults do not trust their company’s senior management – and another 24% say they’re not sure. And that lack of trust leads to negative organizational outcomes. Employees who report a lack of trust in senior leadership are more likely to leave their job, more likely to join a union, and less likely to put in extra effort when compared with employees who trust their company’s leaders.  
 
So what’s the solution? There are concrete things that leaders can do to build trust among their followers. Research shows that the drivers of organizational trust are a lot more intuitive than you might think.
  • Communicate changes promptly and honestly.
  • Treat all employees with respect, regardless of job level.
  • Show through company actions that employees are important to its success.
  • Support people in taking work-related risks.
  • Conduct business with honesty and integrity.
  • Hold senior managers accountable for living the values and helping the organization fulfill its vision and mission.
  • Practice what you preach about diversity, ethics and values.
The hardest part for many organizations is to acknowledge and confront concerns about trust head on. Trust is reciprocal, so placing trust in employees is also likely to inspire trust in leaders.  And of course – actions speak louder than words. But you already knew that, didn’t you?