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Customer Service Week emphasizes the importance of customer service and celebrates the people who provide customer service daily. The celebratory week is an effective way for organizations to improve morale, motivation and teamwork; raise awareness of the importance of customer service; and thank internal departments for their support. Customer Service Week is held during the first full week of October each year.

There are simple things any company can implement to recognize their employees who provide customer service both internally and externally. Here is a look at how the American Psychological Association celebrated Customer Service Week this year.


At APA we hosted a number of activities, both fun and educational, during Customer Service Week. This year our theme was Celebrating Everyday Heroes. 

The main event was an Open House of Heroes. Employees were invited to dress as their favorite superhero and participate in competitions to win prizes.

APA’s executive managers welcomed employees to the event and operated the Wheel of Customer Service activity. Employees spun a wheel and were asked to answer a corresponding customer service-related question such as, “Can you describe a time when you went above and beyond for a customer?” Employees also had the opportunity to recognize their colleagues for being a customer service hero and give them a superhero alias. These notes of appreciation were then posted in the lunchroom for everyone to see.


Another popular activity was the employee spotlight, titled Unsung Heroes. Each day a different employee was featured, sharing a time when they were a customer service hero.

For a causal learning opportunity, APA’s executive director of membership recruitment and engagement gave a lunch-time talk on how employees can provide excellent customer service and how the membership office can help other departments do the same. One person from each major office attended and reported back to their group.

All week long employees were encouraged to wear their “Everyday Hero” wrist band, given out to all employees. Whenever a member of the Customer Service Week committee caught someone wearing their band, they received a raffle ticket. At the end of the week prizes were given to employees who engaged in the week and reminded others that they are everyday heroes.

Even implementing one activity can go a long way to appreciate customer service providers and improve customer service.

Editor's note: This post is part of an ongoing series that shares some of the initiatives, events and activities that support employee health and well-being at the American Psychological Association. We don't only talk about how businesses and organizations can be psychologically healthy. It's a model we've also adopted ourselves.


Katelynn Wiggins is assistant director of the Staff Initiatives Office, which is part of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence.


The American Psychological Association recently released a report discussing the potential upsides and downsides of having conversations about politics – and specifically the upcoming U.S. Presidential election – in the workplace. Not surprisingly, 27 percent of workers reported at least one negative outcome as a result of political discussions in the workplace during this election season. Granted, some workers also felt more connected to their co-workers (24 percent) or had a more positive view of their co-workers (23 percent) as a result of political discussions.

I will not attempt to summarize all of the results here, though I recommend people to take a look at the full report as there were some differences that emerged as a function of sex and age. Perhaps most importantly (and surprisingly to some folks), this is not a Republican versus Democrat or a Liberal versus Conservative issue, as there were hardly any differences between the various political affiliation or philosophical classifications.

Instead, the positive and negative consequences of discussing sensitive – and sometimes divisive – issues at work can happen to anyone regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum.

But politics is not the sole source of potential divisiveness in the workplace, as different individuals and groups have lined up to voice their support or displeasure about NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s and other players' actions during the playing of the National Anthem, to argue their perspective on gender-neutral restrooms, or various other controversial issues that emerge over the course of any given year.

I could list one example after another, but in truth, they would all have at least one core commonality: they tend to evoke strong opinions on both sides of the issue. If these events become the topic of conversation at work, those conversations could degrade the quality of the work environment if not managed properly.

While the majority of workers in the APA poll reported that co-workers were generally respectful of those with differing political views (60 percent), that means a large minority of workers were either neutral or disagreed with this sentiment. In other words, there could be very real consequences for an organization, especially in terms of productivity and employee relations.

Should organizations actively promote or discourage conversations surrounding sensitive issues?

Idealistically, one could argue that an organization’s culture might be such a supportive environment that workers could constructively share their opinions on topics like these without ridicule or negative consequences. While this may be an accurate descriptor of some organizations, I would be surprised to learn that it was accurate of more than a small minority of them (especially, given that most organizations develop sub-cultures that vary to a fairly large extent).

On the other hand, without deliberate consideration of ways to address the occurrence of these conversations (by either promoting or dissuading them), managers and organizational leaders may be increasing the likelihood they will occur--and possibly occurring to the detriment of productivity. Therefore, it may be in the organization’s best interest if it takes a deliberate stand--not on the issue itself, but on it's position regarding the discussion of sensitive and potentially divisive topics in the workplace.

Editor's note: This post is part of an ongoing series that shares some of the initiatives, events and activities that support employee health and well-being at the American Psychological Association. We don't only talk about how businesses and organizations can be psychologically healthy. It's a model we've also adopted ourselves.


Everyone likes to be thanked, but did you know that employees who received recognition are more likely to report higher levels of satisfaction, motivation and work effort? APA's 2014 Employee Recognition Survey linked effective recognition practices to positive outcomes for both employees and organizations.

At APA we offer a wide reaching awards and recognition program to allow supervisors and colleagues to recognize employees in formal and informal ways. Other organizations can use APA’s programs as inspiration to start or expand their own awards and recognition program.

APA’s biggest recognition event is our annual Recognition Day each spring. The event is held in a conference room on site and is made up of different activities including information about our programs, recognition themed games, goody and ducky grams you can send to your colleagues. Receiving a ducky gram has become a coveted gift at APA. Each year employees can send each other a different themed rubber duck. Many employees have their desks lined with all different rubber ducks. At this year’s event we ran out of ducky grams in less than an hour. Once the ducks were gone, staff were able to send their colleagues sweet or salty snacks along with a note of gratitude.

Our informal recognition program includes e-cards and thank you notes. At any time, employees can send their colleagues e-cards and print cards to thank them for their help on a project, congratulate them on a brilliant idea or even let them know they enjoy being on the same team.

APA has a formal awards program that allows any employee to nominate their colleague for a Service All Star or Core Values Award at any time. Employees can also nominate a colleague for the most prestigious title, the Raymond D. Fowler Award. Nominations are reviewed by past winners of the Raymond D. Fowler Award.

A Service All Star is someone who goes above and beyond their normal job duties to benefit a coworker, department or the association as a whole. Up to 12 employees can receive the Service All Star Award each year. APA has nine core values: decency and fairness, teamwork, flexibility and resilience, individual differences, employee development, collaborative decision making, open communication, health and well-being and organizational self-knowledge. One award is given for each core value each year to employees that embody the essence of the values.

There are a number of options for recognition at APA – both formal and informal. As an important part of overall organizational wellness, we encourage employees and managers to participate whenever possible. Maybe you’ll find a duck on your desk next!


Katelynn Wiggins is assistant director of the Staff Initiatives Office, which is part of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence.


Almost everybody wants to take a vacation at some point during the year, but a recent poll suggests that vacation time might not be taken as often as it once was for U.S. workers. This should come as no surprise, given that the average number of vacation days employees take per year has declined from 20.3 in 2000 to 16.2 in 2015. While a myriad of reasons may be to blame, two likely causes would seem to be technology and overwork.


Technology, especially the reliance on electronic forms of communication and document sharing, has steadily increased over the past 15 years. Although there are a variety of benefits, the reliance on electronic communication has also resulted in about 44 percent of people reporting they check work messages at least once per day when on vacation, with a small minority of workers (11 percent) reporting they check work messages hourly when on vacation.

There is also no doubt that technological advances have made U.S. workers more productive, allowing fewer workers to perform more activities today than would have been possible 30 or 40 years ago. However, increased efficiency from technological advances is not without its downsides. Often, this increased efficiency means there are fewer people to whom work can shift when someone goes on vacation. Add to that the emphasis on increased efficiency and doing more with less that occurs during a recession, and many organizations have been left without the slack resources that would permit workers the flexibility they need to effectively take vacation.


The “do more with less” attitude has permeated the workplace. APA’s Stress in America survey highlights the impact of work on people’s stress levels. Two-thirds of U.S. workers reported that stress is a somewhat or significant source of stress, second only to money. Furthermore, the latest results from the Work and Well-Being Survey indicated that a burdensome workload and long work hours were cited as two of the top five sources of work stress.

Previous research has shown that the psychological detachment that corresponds with various types of breaks from work (with vacations being one type of break) offer significant benefits for stress, health and well-being. However, these benefits are often short-lived. If workers are on vacation but still investing their resources into work activities, one would have to wonder whether such a break would possess the requisite psychological detachment to be of benefit.

We Need More Than Encouragement to Get the Most Out of Vacation

With all of these factors working against employees being able to effectively take vacations (and benefit from them), it is not sufficient for managers to simply encourage employees to take some time off. The issue is much broader than that; the system has to be designed to allow employees to regularly detach from their work.

Yet, in the era of doing more with less, most systems are not designed to provide the appropriate detachment necessary to support ongoing health and well-being. While manager support and encouragement is important, the following should also be addressed:

  • Provide deliberate attention to the issue of temporary responsibility shifts. This may include using technology to aid workers in coordinating vacations across the unit, so that work unit staffing can be appropriately managed.
  • Provide cross-training so workers can actually shift their work. When only one employee is capable of performing a given task in the unit, and said task if required on a regular basis, that employee can seldom ever fully detach from work. But when multiple employees are capable of performing that task, it becomes easier to manage around one worker’s absence. Cross-training can be an effective way to develop important competencies in multiple employees, which can be a benefit when employees take vacation (not to mention offering a myriad of other benefits).
  • Ensure vacations avoid peak periods. Avoid scheduled absences that would put undue pressure on other employees. Many employers have blackout periods and require sufficient notice before an employee is permitted to take a vacation. This allows them to ensure that those employees who will be in the office are not unduly burdened while the vacationing employee is absent. However, many organizations lack such structure, and the vacation process can result in significant increased stress for employees still in the office.
  • Employees should plan appropriately to ensure a relaxing vacation. Employees should prepare to shift their responsibilities when they leave. Appropriate planning needs to occur so those who will be overseeing job responsibilities while a given employee is on vacation have the needed information to do so.
  • Make time off a regular occurrence, not a once-a-year perk. Because the benefits of vacation are short-lived, time off from work should be encouraged regularly. It does not have to be weeklong vacations, but taking one or two days off on a regular basis can be beneficial for worker health and well-being. Furthermore, if organizations were to proactively build such an emphasis into their cultures, they could create systems and processes that are easier to manage than when employees scramble to cram their vacations into a shorter period of time.

If organizations and employees would begin thinking more strategically and systemically about vacations and other forms of time off, worker well-being and organizational productivity would both benefit. Such win-win scenarios are the hallmark of a psychologically healthy workplace, and the opportunity to detach and recharge is a necessary component of such a workplace.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/doctorow/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Editor's note: This is the first post in an ongoing series that shares some of the initiatives, events and activities that support employee health and well-being at the American Psychological Association. We don't only talk about how businesses and organizations can be psychologically healthy. It's a model we've also adopted ourselves.


You’ve heard of happy hour, but what about a healthy hour? At the American Psychological Association employees have the chance each month to gather at Healthy Hour for a break from their work and participate in physical and mental competitions, play sports and dance games on a Wii and socialize with colleagues.

Organized by APA’s Staff Initiatives Office, the monthly event energizes employees, increases healthy behaviors, improves morale and creates camaraderie among the staff.

Competitions range from hula hooping to memory games and plank holding to hopping across the room on one foot. Physical activity isn’t the only offering: employees can watch funny TV shows and snack on healthy foods. Winners of the games are rewarded with fun prizes, but let’s face it—with healthy breaks we are all winners.

Encouraging employees to get active pays off: Research has shown that employees who spend 2.5 hours a week being physically active were more satisfied with the quantity and quality of their work, reported increased work ability and took less sick time than employees who did not engage in physical activity.

At a recent Healthy Hour, APA employee Heather Dade takes a break during her workday to play a game, meet up with coworkers and snack on fresh-cut vegetables, fruits and dip. “Participating in Healthy Hour always rejuvenates me,” she says. “I love the games and other activities offered, the healthy snacks, and getting a chance to chat with co-workers that I don’t get to see regularly.

“I get my energy level up playing ping-pong or one of the cool activities that is offered there and come back to my office ready to get to work.”

These types of healthy breaks are good for the employee and also benefit the employer.

People who take short breaks are more productive and able to focus on a task for a prolonged amount of time than people who do not, according to a 2011 study published in Cognition. While this may seem counterintuitive, breaks leave employees feeling more refreshed, recharged and able to complete their next task.

Towhanna Boston never misses a healthy hour. “I attend our healthy hours because it forces me to feel better mentally, physically and emotionally. It is a true refresher in between our daily APA routines.”


Tara Davis is director of the Staff Initiatives Office, which is part of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence.


I was perusing the internet recently, and I came across a piece called “Happiness is the New ROI.” The article equates happiness to a sense of engagement and being a part of a company that is a great place to work. The problem here is that happiness and engagement are not the same thing.

Unfortunately, both of these terms seem to be popular buzzwords in 2016 and have been for several years now. They have been pirated to promote a variety of nonsensical, pseudo-scientific self-help schemes – usually for the purposes of selling books, consulting services or life coaching. A search for the term “happiness” on Amazon will result in more than 92,000 hits on its list of books, and a search for “work engagement” (to avoid any books about getting married) will result in more than 14,000 hits.

Yet, the two constructs are fundamentally different from a scientific standpoint. Dr. Dan Haybron, a philosopher who has been instrumental in moving the study of happiness forward, would most succinctly define it as “emotional well-being” (for a more sophisticated explanation, you might also check out the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

Engagement, on the other hand, would be best defined as "...a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption." It is the persistent experience of a high level of energy and identification with one’s work. It drives us to marshal the mental, physical and emotional resources needed toward the fulfilment of some goal (or set of goals).

While work engagement can contribute to one’s overall happiness, it is not happiness itself. 

Happiness is a much broader conceptualization of well-being, one that is affected by a lot more than just the workplace. In fact, research would also suggest that, at most, engagement is one element that influences happiness (along with others, such as pleasure and meaning). To state the situation more simply, engagement is insufficient by itself to produce happiness, and insufficient research exists to determine even whether engagement is a necessary to create happiness (though few researchers would deny that it is helpful).

In addition, the pursuit of happiness as a goal in and of itself is fraught with challenges. People are fundamentally flawed when it comes to knowing what will make them happy, and sometimes the pursuit of happiness itself can be counterproductive. In some ways, this is probably because people have a sense of when they are happy, but they are not necessarily very good at figuring out why they are happy.

Yet, we seem to live in a buzzword society. Self-help gurus and consulting firms generate an extraordinary number of sales with promises to create happy and engaged workers. They use faulty surveys and gimmicky, scientifically unvalidated tactics (like happiness projects) as their tool kit. Yet, for all their efforts and all the sales of books and consulting services, I have yet to read any headlines indicating that happiness and engagement have skyrocketed.

There is no universal solution for how to be happy, just as there is no universal solution for how to increase engagement among workers. 

However, what we can conclude based on research is that happiness is much broader than work engagement and defines a sense of well-being that extends far beyond the workplace. Instead of trying to focus on making workers happy or engaged, organizations should consider focusing on what they can do to make the organization a better place to work, asking questions such as:

  • How can we reduce or eliminate structures, practices, and processes that keep people from being productive?
  • How can we improve the ability of workers to flexibly respond to the various demands they face, both at work and at home?
  • How do we show people they are valued so they will remain with the organization?
  • How can we improve the management and leadership that exists throughout the organization?
  • How can we identify what is most important to our employees and take steps to address those needs?

I suspect that if organizations ask these questions, rather than focusing on how they can make their workers happy, they will find much greater long-term success. As a goal, increasing the happiness and engagement of workers may be too broad and convoluted (not to mention paternalistic). However, identifying and promoting resources to support productivity, flexibility, retention and other key outcomes is a much more attainable goal.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/8lettersuk/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


A recent article by Mark Murphy on the Forbes website cautioned against the use of items on employee surveys that assess employee satisfaction. He argued that satisfaction is synonymous with contentment, and that contentment is antithetical to employees giving 100 percent at work. Rather, he argued that employees must be inspired “to give [their] best effort,” which is not achieved when they are simply content (or satisfied) with their job. Unfortunately, his perspective may be only partially accurate.

Previous research would suggest that he is correct about the difference between satisfaction and engagement. Warr and Inceoglu (2012) found that the smaller the difference between the desired and actual features of a job (in terms of a supportive environment, ethical principles, and other factors), the more satisfied they were.

This, of course, comes as a surprise to absolutely no one. However, the more interesting result was that when employees perceived their jobs to lack some of those key features (in other words, features of the job were less than desired), they actually experienced more engagement – likely because they were motivated to pursue those desired job features. In other words, employees were motivated to make their jobs fit better with their preferences.

Overall, the results point toward two phenomena that make perfect sense from a motivational standpoint:

  1. Workers can be satisfied with their actual levels of specific job features, but when they desire greater levels of those features, they experience more engagement.
  2. When their job possesses more of those key features than desired, satisfaction suffers.

Engagement is a motivational experience; we experience it when we are pursuing a desired goal or outcome. Satisfaction, on the other hand, suggests that what we have is sufficient; it is a state of contentment.

To use an example, consider the issue of control. Some people are very satisfied with the amount of control they have over their work. Their primary motivation is simply to maintain what they have. However, others may be moderately satisfied with the control they currently possess, but would prefer to have more of it. These employees may, therefore, experience engagement when they have the opportunity to utilize or pursue greater levels of control over their work.

Neither set of employees is necessarily poor-performing. However, engaged workers will be more likely to value and take advantage of new opportunities to develop themselves in their job. So, in some ways, Murphy is right. Being highly satisfied is antithetical to the experience of engagement.

If you want people to strive for more, they should not be overly satisfied with their job as it is now; they have to want something more (i.e., a goal). If employees would change nothing about their current job (everything about the job is exactly how they want it), they may be satisfied, but they are not likely going to be motivated to pursue something more. That motivation comes from some perceived disconnect between how their job is and how they would prefer their job to be.

This is an underlying principle of what researchers would call self-regulation, which is nothing but a fancy way of saying that people have goals (which are outcomes they value), and they are motivated to achieve them. It implies that what we want in the future is somehow different than what we have now, and we are motivated when we see opportunities to close the gap between our present experience and desired future. However, our desire to close this gap can necessitate a variety of behaviors.

And this is where Murphy’s argument requires some caveats. While engagement is a motivational experience stemming from a desire to achieve a valued goal (i.e., to give our best effort, as Murphy says), if our best effort fail to produce results (i.e., some level of contentment), then we may cease to give our best efforts. Instead, we may choose to withdraw our efforts, either becoming disengaged or perhaps leaving the organization.

And that creates the conundrum. Sure, you want to avoid a scenario in which workers are fully satisfied with the status quo, unmotivated to change anything. Being too satisfied can be detrimental to motivation. However, if workers see too many discrepancies between what they value and their current condition (in other words, they have too many valued goals they are trying to pursue at any point in time), you could be creating a scenario that is also detrimental to motivation.

Instead, it would seem as though the optimal approach would be to create an environment that promotes a moderate level of satisfaction, but also one that promotes the motivation to push for something more. In that way, you could benefit from both satisfied and engaged workers.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/clement127 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


We spent the month of February asking people to tell us why they love their jobs. Here's our final selected submission, sent in by Ansley Gammage, human resources coordinator at the American Accounting Association

"My job is great. I wish everyone enjoyed their company as much as I enjoy my work and coworkers at the American Accounting Association. They truly respect each and every one of us and want us all to feel appreciated. I work hard daily complete work that makes myself, my team, and my boss proud.

"When we accomplish something huge, whether as individuals or as a team, it's discussed and we're praised. We have monthly team interactions, and we have task forces that work together to create lunch and learns and our association newsletter, AAA News and Views.


"The fun doesn't stop there, though! This wonderful place is dog friendly, so they wander around looking for love--and treats, of course. If we are sick, we either take one of our MANY sick days or we can work from home. They want us to be well, and not to spread our germs so they are very persistent that we take the day off if we are under the weather.

"This appreciation for the American Accounting Association has definitely spread, because many applicants would take any position with us just to get their foot in the door. I'm so very grateful to be working here."

Thanks, Ansley, for your submission. Look for a delivery of special treats as our appreciation for helping to spread the love.

What do you love about your job? Tell us in the comments. The month of February is over, but love of a job can last year round. Whether it be making a difference, working with fantastic colleagues, feeling proud of the organization you work for, having great benefits or whatever else -- it's always a good time to spread the love.

bill gentry.jpg

William A. (Bill) Gentry, PhD, an expert on leadership and director of applied research consulting services at the Center for Creative Leadership, will deliver the keynote address at APA's 2016 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards, which will be presented on Saturday, Feb. 27, in Washington, DC.

In his keynote address, he will talk about the "The Engaging and Engaged Leader" and how leadership development contributes to a healthy workplace.

A senior research scientist at CCL, Dr. Gentry is also an adjunct assistant professor in the psychology department at Guilford College and an associate member of the graduate faculty in the organizational sciences doctoral program at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

Dr. Gentry graduated summa cum laude from Emory University in 2000 and received his PhD in industrial-organizational psychology from the University of Georgia in 2005. Before joining CCL, Dr. Gentry was an organizational effectiveness specialist at United Parcel Service.

In applying his research into practice, Dr. Gentry's current focus is on helping new leaders who are managing for the first time in their lives, particularly those on the frontlines in entry- and first-level positions in organizations. His research interests are in multisource (360) research, survey development and analysis, leadership and leadership development across cultures, leader character and integrity, mentoring, managerial derailment, multilevel measurement, and in the area of organizational politics and political skill in the workplace. He also studies nonverbal behavior and its application to effective leadership and communication, particularly in political debates.

More about Dr. Gentry is available on the CCL website.

In 2011, Dr. Gentry was inducted into the inaugural class of the University of Georgia’s "40 under 40," as one of the top 40 graduates of the University of Georgia under the age of 40 to have made an impact in business, leadership, community, educational and/or philanthropic endeavors, demonstrating dedication to the University of Georgia and its mission of teaching, research and service; and representing the very best of UGA graduates.

In September 2016, Bill’s first book on first-time managers and new leaders will be published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers titled "Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A Guide for New Leaders."

Dr. Gentry also frequently posts written and video blogs about his research in leadership and first-time managers (usually connecting it with sports, music, and pop culture) on CCL’s “Leading Effectively” blog. You can follow him on twitter: @Lead_Better.


It's been two years that Ashley Uhl has worked for an association management company, and her employer doesn't just meet her expectations--it goes beyond. Ashley's submission is our selected pick of the week during our "I Love My Job" campaign in February that highlights the positive aspects of work.

We want to know why you love your job. There is still time to send us your "I love my job" story or submission. We're collecting submissions through the end of February. Our selected submission each week -- like Ashley's -- will receive a sweet treat and care package to share with coworkers.

Here is why Ashley Uhl, senior association manager at Meeting Expectations, loves her job:

"I've been at Meeting Expectations for nearly two years, and I still love coming to work every day. I have fun with my co-workers, and we work hard to deliver the best results for our client.

"The company itself is flexible, giving employees the ability to work from home or flex hours when needed. You can volunteer for new opportunities and to learn new skills with other client teams. And as is the case with people who work hard, we also play hard.

"The entire company (four offices and other remote employees) gathers in Georgia each summer for a fun retreat--where we are NOT allowed to bring our laptops. It takes the focus off of work and deadlines and lets you get to know other people you've never worked with before. And maybe throw someone in the pool."

Thanks, Ashley for your submission. Look for a delivery soon of special treats as our appreciation for helping to spread the love.

What do you love about your job? Making a difference, working with fantastic colleagues, feeling proud of the organization you work for, having great benefits, something else? Let us know. Tell us in writing or send us a photo or video. Help us spread the love and you might even be the next person featured!



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