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The beginning of autumn may bring cooler weather, fall festivals and decorative gourds, but it also marks the next round of state-level Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award winners. Large and small, for-profit and not-for-profit, these employers understand the link between employee well-being and organizational performance and are taking steps to involve employees in meaningful ways, promote workforce health and wellness, provide flexibility and opportunities for growth and advancement, and recognize employees for their hard work and contributions.

I was honored to be invited to participate in the Hawaiʻi Psychological Association's recent 2014 awards event in Honolulu. Hawaiʻi has long been a valuable part of our award program and HPA's winners demonstrate the importance of workplace practices that are customized to meet employee needs and take cultural values into consideration. Over the years, we've seen outstanding examples of how organizations can help support and promote a strong sense of family and community and this year was no exception.

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Led by Dr. Jeffrey Stern, HPA's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Committee, pictured here, put on an outstanding event that showcased the winning organizations, demonstrated the value of psychology in the workplace and provided a great learning experience for psychologists and non-psychologists alike.

It's always one of the highlights of my year to participate in local award events, meet the winners and see the program in action at the grassroots level, where it really makes a difference for individuals, organizations and communities. Mahalo to Dr. Stern and his team for including me this year.

The 2014 State-Level Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award winners from Hawaiʻi are:

  • 4th Signal Center, Regional Cyber Center Pacific
  • American Saving Bank
  • Atlas Insurance Agency
  • Kokua Kalihi Valley
  • Staffing Solutions of Hawaii
  • United Healthcare Community Plan Hawaii

Stay tuned to our Good Company Newsletter in early 2015 for more information about the winning companies from Hawaiʻi.

In other parts of the country, the Kentucky Psychological Association awarded its 2014 State-Level Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award to Passport Health. You can read more about Passport's efforts here.

The Maine Psychological Association also recently presented its 2014 State-Level Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards to the following organizations:

  • Kennebec Technologies
  • Coffee By DesignAmistad
  • Alpha One
  • Scarborough Department of Public Safety

You can learn more about Maine's awards and watch a video clip of Dr. David Prescott talk about the importance of creating a psychologically healthy workplace here.

Congratulations to the recent state-level award winners. You can see a list of all the 2014 local winners (reported to date) here and read more about those local winners who have gone on to receive top recognition from the American Psychological Association here.

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It seems like every week that goes by produces more and more weirdness in the world of work-life balance. Here’s what I’ve learned relatively recently:

  1. Too many U.S. workers fail to use up all of their vacation time, so we must all be workaholics.
  2. Since workers don’t know when to call it quits on a workday, we must use an automated pulley system to physically raise work desks into the ceiling.
  3. And even if we force people to go home, apparently they are struggling with “having it all” at home, too.

So, we all work too hard and need our employers to force us to quit working at the end of the day. But even if they do, we can’t manage to balance our non-work demands either, so what’s the point?

Something is missing from the conversation, something very, very important. There’s an insight that seems to go unnoticed, unmentioned or simply ignored. All too often, the blame for poor work-life balance is placed squarely on the shoulders of the employer. And while I think there are some employers that foster unrealistic expectations about the number of hours employees are expected to work, it certainly isn’t all of them. What’s missing from the conversation is the importance of self-management, which, if the Google definition is to be believed, involves “the taking of responsibility for one’s own behavior and well-being.”

And that is the missing element in a lot of the conversation regarding work-life balance. There seems to be a refusal to acknowledge the responsibility that each of us has to manage ourselves.

Take for example, the poll conducted by the American Psychological Association in 2013 regarding communication technology. Of those surveyed, 53 percent said they checked work messages at least once a day during days off, and 52 percent said they checked email during non-work hours on workdays. However, 71 percent reported that they had control over whether or not they did work outside of normal work hours.

That tells me is people are often choosing to do work outside the office. They are choosing to add demands that are not required of them.

So, how much of the stress in our lives, the stress we experience while trying to create an effective work-life interface, is actually brought about by our own inability to effectively engage in self-management? How much time do we waste watching television, piddling around on Facebook and other mindless diversions? How much time do we lose because we try to engage in multiple tasks at the same time (like watching T.V. while we’re trying to work)? How well do we proactively manage our schedules, so that we don’t overcommit? And how often do we set priorities and stay true to them by telling our kids, our friends or even our employer the simple word “no” from time to time?

The fact is, there are only so many hours in a given day or week. There is only so much effort and energy to go around, and people are only so good at managing their limited resources. Yet, that issue is so seldom discussed in the articles and news items you find on the Internet. Instead, what you see most often is an emphasis on blaming the organization. Yet, forcing people to use their vacation time or lifting their desks into the ceiling to prohibit work beyond a certain time does not address the underlying problems that produce the stress people experience.

The problem with forcing people to use vacation time or implementing a mandatory end time for work is that those types of policies simply force people to suspend the allocation of time and energy on work demands during arbitrary periods of time. They do nothing to:

  1. Reduce the number of demands (if I can’t work on something at home tonight, it’s just one more thing I have to do tomorrow),
  2. Give employees the opportunity to work when they are most likely to be engaged (such as for those who prefer to work in the evenings), or
  3. Provide people with the needed competencies to better manage their time.

And as long as we continue to take a paternalistic approach to work-life balance, which assumes that all workers are the same and removes accountability to self-management, we will continue to hear story after story of people who are having a difficult time “having it all.”

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/agaumont / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Guest post by Stephanie Andel, Sodexo Research Fellow

I recently had the honor of serving as a student volunteer at the 2014 Work & Well-Being conference in Chicago on September 11th and 12th. In case you have never heard of it, this conference is presented by the APA Center for Organizational Excellence with the mission to unite psychology and business practices in order to ultimately create health promotion and wellness efforts that are impactful, successful and sustaining.

Among other things, one unique and inspiring aspect of this particular conference that I noticed was the attendance and participation of both scientists and practitioners in a variety of different areas (including counseling psychology, clinical psychology, consulting psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, nursing and more!). There was something incredibly refreshing about this integration of empirical evidence and practical implementation. Through witnessing this collaborative effort, I was exposed to just how much of an impact we can make on changing organizations for the better if we continue to close the scientist-practitioner gap that is often so evident in psychology.

The conference was packed with informative and novel information related to psychologically healthy workplace practices that are imperative for organizations to acknowledge when designing initiatives aimed at enhancing employee well-being. For instance, in his opening address, Dr. David Ballard explained how in the past, organizations generally saw safety prevention and health promotion as two separate issues. However, recent research suggests that combining these programs yields a synergistic effect that has beneficial outcomes for both the employer and employee.

This impressive and informative opening then set the stage for the rest of the conference, which was chock-full of ways to make these comprehensive health programs both feasible and practical. For instance, speakers discussed various empirically-based healthy practices that could be integrated to improve employees’ workplace experience, including the promotion of coping strategies stemming from the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) model and the importance of sleep. Further, we discussed ethical issues that are relevant to organizational consulting and learned various techniques to improve innovation and creativity—both of which will surely come in handy when attempting to design and implement programs that promote employee health and wellness.

In addition to all of the aforementioned topics, we also had the opportunity to hear from Thomas J. Walter, who is the CEO of the Chicago-area company Tasty Catering. Tasty Catering has won various local, regional and national awards, and was also the recipient of APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award. Such recognition is due to the attention and focus the company gives to ensuring that employees have an optimal, healthy and fulfilling workplace experience. It was truly an honor to be exposed to all of the wonderful and innovative ways in which Tasty Catering has developed such a wholesome and collaborative workplace culture.

Throughout his presentation, Mr. Walter discussed how employees are encouraged to speak up, voice their ideas, treat others with respect and work as a team. It is apparent that every single employee’s opinion counts and is heard. Ultimately, it was refreshing to see not only how valuable the company sees each employee, but also how much the employees truly felt a desire to give back to the company as a result of being treated with so much respect. Tasty Catering’s approach to enhancing its employees’ workplace experience is unprecedented, and it was great to see a company truly embrace and champion our mission for companies to promote both psychological and physical employee health.

Overall, I left the Work and Well-Being Conference with a vast amount of knowledge, development, networking experience and energized passion for the field. I very much look forward to future Work and Well-Being Conferences and I am especially excited to see the beneficial impact of such collaboration in organizations all over the world. Thank you to all of the organizers and attendees for such a rewarding experience.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/e_monk / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Social media is a way of life and work. It connects us to each other and to people and resources that we wouldn’t have access to otherwise. But the distinction between personal and professional lives on social media is often blurred, making the enforcement of equal employment opportunity laws complex.

Should an employer have the right to request an employee’s Facebook password? Currently, 12 states ban the practice. The issues of social media in the workplace span across HR, legal and management, and involve concerns about discrimination, recruitment, screening and background checks, hiring, harassment, social media policies and discovery for legal proceedings.

“Equal employment opportunity law is increasingly touched by the advance of social media,” said Jacqueline A. Berrien, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair at an EEOC meeting this past March. The meeting focused on the legal issues surrounding social media in the workplace and included a panel of attorneys discussing how social media complicates the enforcement of equal employment opportunity laws.

According to recent research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), only 30 percent of the organizations surveyed that use social media or online searches as part of their recruiting and selection process have used information that came from online search engines and/or social networking websites to disqualify job applicants.

It’s important to remember that regardless of where employers obtain information about a person’s race, sex, disability or other protected status, hiring decisions cannot be based on that information, even if it did come from social media.

It’s difficult in ways that aren’t always apparent to separate personal and public lives for people who use social media for work, as their profiles are linked through various platforms. This is especially true of milliennials and employees who work in the world of online media and communications.

Of course employees and job applicants should use social media responsibly because even posts that you think are private are out of your control once they are online. Of note is that the EEOC does not plan to issue any regulations or guidance on the use of social media in the workplace, rather, the purpose of their meeting was to open a discussion about the importance of social media and its impact on employment law.

Renee Jackson, an attorney with Nixon Peabody in San Francisco, shared sage advice for employers to use social media as part of a recruitment plan that also includes traditional media and referrals. Jackson further advised employers “not to ask applicants or employees for their private user names or passwords and insert language that encompasses social media into the employer’s code of conduct and harassment policies.”

Social media changes at a pace faster than most people who don’t work in the field can keep up with. It is important to ensure employees, especially supervisors and managers, understand that their friendships with subordinates on social media may encumber them with additional responsibilities under the law.

Access to the EEOC meeting transcript, video and Twitter feed is available online.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonahowie / CC BY 2.0

The American Psychological Association once again conducted a national public opinion poll just in time for the Labor Day holiday in the U.S. The press release and survey report both provide a variety of insightful results. For me, though, there are a few really important takeaways to which I wanted to call attention.

First, less than half of respondents indicated that their employer recognizes individual job performance. In fact, only 46 percent indicated this was the case, while only 29 percent indicated their organization recognizes team or work unit performance and only 21 percent indicated their organization recognizes its own performance. That means more than half of workers are expected to perform well strictly due to intrinsic motivation, rather than because someone – anyone – is going to formally recognize that performance. That is a troubling statistic, especially given that only 51 percent of respondents even reported feeling valued by their employer, and only 39 percent reported that their organization recognizes employees with salary increases. It’s no wonder there are some concerns about employee work engagement.

Second, we hear lots of talk about verbal or written appreciation as a low-cost form of recognition, and according to the APA survey results, approximately 28 percent of workers value that form of appreciation. However, substantially more workers value monetary forms of recognition, including salary increases (62 percent), fair monetary compensation (47 percent) and performance-based bonuses (43 percent). Hence, money may not be everything, but according to the results of this poll, money is valued by substantially more workers than are other forms of recognition.

Finally, in my view, the most profound results concerned recognition outcomes. Though we hear a lot about the importance of the supervisor in providing recognition, the results of the poll suggest that it may not be the most important predictor of recognition outcomes.

Instead, when it comes to predicting overall satisfaction with recognition practices, the feeling of being valued by the employer and motivation to work harder because of recognition received, it turns out that the strongest driver was employee perceptions that their employer’s recognition practices were fair. When it comes to predicting employee motivation to do their best and overall job satisfaction, the poll results suggest that the strongest driver is the extent to which employees value the recognition they receive.

In addition, it turns out that when workers have been recognized more recently (such as within the past year), they tend to report more positive perceptions of their supervisor’s effectiveness at providing recognition, the perceived value of the recognition they receive and the fairness of the organization’s recognition practices.

So, what can organizations take away from these latest poll results regarding recognition? Well, since you asked:

  1. Employ recognition practices regularly. When less than half of workers even report the presence of a particular form of recognition, that indicates a lack of consistency in the use of various types and forms of recognition. However, you should also ensure that employees do not have to go a period of years before they are recognized.
  2. Provide recognition that employees value. While no organization has unlimited financial resources, it is clear that financial forms of recognition are important. Rather than spending tons of money on forms of recognition that employees do not value, survey your workers, find out what types of recognition they do value and find a way to implement recognition practices consistent with those preferences.
  3. Ensure recognition practices are implemented fairly. Look for ways to improve the transparency of your recognition practices.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic / CC BY 2.0

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DC Psychological Association now accepting applications for its Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award

Organizations headquartered or located in the District of Columbia can apply now for the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award, which recognizes employers for understanding the link between employee well-being and organizational performance and taking steps to create a positive work environment where employees and the organization can thrive. Large, small, for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, as well as government agencies are eligible to apply.

Since 1999, Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards have been presented to organizations by state, provincial and territorial psychological associations across the U.S. and Canada with support from the American Psychological Association. Applicants are evaluated on their workplace practices in the following areas: employee involvement, health and safety, employee growth and development, work-life balance and employee recognition.

Award winners will be honored at a special awards event and may be featured in the media, recognized by community leaders and nominated for national recognition.

Demonstrate your commitment to the health and well-being of your employees and get your organization the recognition it deserves.

For more information about the application process, employers can call APA's Center for Organizational Excellence at 202-336-5900 or email phwa@apa.org. Deadline for entries is October 15, 2014.

Apply Now!

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

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As millennials (defined roughly as those born after 1979) have entered the workplace, they have been accused of self-centeredness, short attention spans and a sense of entitlement. The implication of these stereotypes is that millennials at work are unlikely to be invested in causes bigger than themselves. Yet, the 2014 Millennial Impact Study begins to debunk these myths. This report focuses on the extent to which millennials are inspired and motivated by their company’s engagement with social causes. In fact, millennials ranked a company’s involvement with social causes as the third most important factor in deciding whether to apply for a job. Coming in at #1 and #2, respectively, were “what the company specifically does, sells or produces” and “the company’s work culture.” Notably absent from the top three were pay and prestige. It is time to stop defining millennials as “generation me” and to start seeing them as “generation meaning.”

In other words, instead of solely working for personal gains, millennials are motivated by engagement with colleagues and causes. For millennials, work, community and relationships are all intricately linked, rather than distinct spheres of life. While older generations may have preferred to keep their values and friendships separate from the work that they do to “pay the bills,” millennials make no such distinction. The report found that the majority of millennials want to engage in volunteerism through their company and with their coworkers. Millennials want to share their authentic selves and their unique knowledge and skills with their organization and their communities.

For companies that want to fully engage their millennial employees, this report yields several important take-aways.

  1. Challenge the assumption that millennials are “generation me” and start seeing them as “generation meaning.” From initial recruitment throughout the employment relationship, assume that millennials are searching for meaning in their work and their company.
  2. Create a culture of authenticity and openness. Millennials don’t want to check their values and passions at the door. By creating opportunities for employees to express their authentic selves at work, they will find greater meaning and commitment to the organization.
  3. Use social engagement as a way to strengthen relationships at work. Millennials want to develop meaningful relationships with their colleagues. Cause work can be a great opportunity to develop high-quality relationships – which will then translate to more effective communication and collaboration on work assignments.
  4. Use engagement with social causes as an opportunity for employees to stretch their skills and hone their talents. Pro bono work can facilitate employee development and growth in a way that benefits the organization.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hadesigns / CC BY-NV-ND 2.0

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Join Kyra Cavanaugh, president of When Life Meets Work, for the pre-conference training session at our 2014 Work & Well-Being Conference in Chicago.

Thursday, September 11, 2014
8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

The Westin O'Hare
Chicago, IL

In this era of overwork, with client demands, shrinking margins and changing technology, businesses have increasingly focused on individual performance and 24/7 availability.

Focus on individual productivity is not sustainable long term. It’s time to reinvest in the power of team. This session will show you how encouraging conversation around six aspects of “team life” with your team will improve client service and help you retain your best talent. With a special emphasis on improving the flexibility, collaboration, resilience and communication practices of your team, you’ll walk away with a roadmap for delivering value to clients while meeting employee needs.

This session will help you:

  • Improve communication and connection in dispersed teams
  • Enhance individual and organizational resilience
  • Reduce stress, overwork and disengagement
  • Increase internal mobility across departments and office locations

For more information about the conference, or to register online, click here.

About the Presenter

Kyra Cavanaugh serves as President of Life Meets Work, where she has helped hundreds of companies think differently about how work gets done. She works with organizations of all types to incorporate innovative workforce practices into their day-to-day operations. She specializes in helping organizations prepare for the future of work through consulting, training, speaking and coaching services. Life Meets Work clients have included Deloitte, CenturyLink, Toyota Financial Services, WellStar Health System, Turner and Astellas.

Kyra authored the book Who Works Where [and Who Cares?], a hands-on book that shows managers how to boost collaboration and performance even when their teams don’t work together in the same time or space (2014). She is a key advisor to the Families and Work/SHRM partnership to drive awareness and support for workflex as a business imperative. She’s a nationally-recognized speaker, blogger and commentator on workforce issues and the recipient of the 2011 Work-Life Rising Star Award by Alliance for Work-Life Progress. Her expertise has made her a go-to media resource for publications such as Crain’s, Chicago Tribune, Market Watch and Working Mother Media.

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In many organizations, the role of the manager takes on a great deal of importance. After all, managers are expected to achieve results for their departments or work units. They receive credit when the department does well, and they take the blame (and sometimes rationalize it away) when the department does poorly.

Folks from Gallup recently posted a blog entry on the HBR Blog Network to explain the “traits” that differentiate great managers from the not-so-great managers. The five traits discussed involve ability to motivate others, assertiveness, culture (of accountability), relationship building and productivity-based decisions (as opposed to political decisions). Furthermore, according to Gallup, only 1 in 10 managers possess all of these “traits.” Apparently, most managers just plain and simply suck at their jobs, right? And if only organizations would do a better job of selecting managers, we could have more great managers.

However, there are some serious flaws with the assertions:

  1. Traits” are defined as “Enduring personal qualities or attributes that influence behavior across situations.” Most of the “traits” listed by Gallup are actually behaviors or outcomes (with the exception of assertiveness).
  2. Good leaders do not motivate others, but instead create an environment where employees can find intrinsic motivation. After all, intrinsic motivation, not extrinsic motivation, is the precursor for engagement. So, no matter how motivating a manager may be and no matter how assertive that manager is, if the people doing the work are not intrinsically motivated to perform that work, performance will not be optimized.
  3. While leaders can influence and build cultures, cultures can also influence and build leaders. Just ask the preeminent culture expert, Edgar Schein. Most managers do not create the culture of their department or unit. Instead, they typically behave in ways that are consistent with the established norms of the department/unit and the organization.
  4. Many managers fail because they lack the competencies necessary to manage the stress of their new role. Johnston and Lee found that within two years of a promotion, most managers’ well-being deteriorates. Hence, while some people may have some innate talents that might make them effective managers, most people still need training and developmental experiences to prepare them for the new demands they will face. This goes beyond just a matter of selection.
  5. Manager effectiveness exists along a continuum, and most managers probably actually fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. I’ve never read a study that suggests that 90 percent of managers are horrible at their jobs, while the other 10 percent are great at theirs. However, this article seems to suggest just that. “Very few people are able to pull off all five of the requirements of good management. Most managers end up with team members who are at best indifferent toward their work — or are at worst hell-bent on spreading their negativity to colleagues and customers.” Hence, the implied conclusion here is that if the manager is not great at all five of the supposed traits, then workers will become negative and disengaged. That seems like an awfully long leap to me, and one not at all supported by a single empirical study I’ve ever seen.

In the end, the blog post proposes a variety of conclusions and assumptions that are really not scientifically established. The fact is that there is no one best type of manager. Each context, each situation, each organization and each work unit is different. I find it difficult to believe that we would ever conclude that what it takes to manage, for example, soldiers within the U.S. army would be the exact same sets of traits and behaviors that it takes to lead a team of synchronized swimmers. I’m pretty sure that someone like the late General George S. Patton, Jr., would have been horrible at leading a team of synchronized swimmers, but his behaviors and tactics led to some very effective management given his time and context.

The truth is, there isn’t going to be a magical set of factors that predict effectiveness in every context. Almost every contemporary theory regarding leadership and management emphasizes the importance of the fit between a leader/manager and his or her environment. Hence, to assume that we can boil down great managers to a list of five supposed traits harkens back to the early days of leadership theories – the great person theories – which have largely been pushed aside by more valid perspectives.

Photo Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Suljo

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On Wednesday, July 2, 2014 the Arkansas Psychological Association will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The purpose of the event is to raise awareness of the impact of discrimination in the workplace on those groups named in the 1964 Civil Rights Act signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2nd.

A committee appointed by the Arkansas Psychological Association Board reviewed the effect of discrimination in the workplace on race, ethnicity/nationality, gender, sexual orientation and religion supported by scientifically-based psychological studies. A public statement has been prepared that summarizes the effect of workplace discrimination on disenfranchised groups and will be read during the event. This statement also addresses the resolve of the Arkansas Psychological Association to work to create a healthy workplace environment for all populations.

Dr. Gwen Keita, Executive Director of the Public Interest Directorate and Dr. David Ballard, Assistant Executive Director for Organizational Excellence will present on the work of the American Psychological Association regarding this initiative. APA has specifically dedicated efforts and program towards fostering employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance. A number of Arkansas companies have received awards over the past decade through APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award Program, recognizing their workplace practices.

The commemoration will also honor icons of civil rights advocacy from this community. Awards will be presented to Dr. Terrence Roberts, psychologist, and one of the Little Rock Nine and Mary Brown “Brownie” Williams Ledbetter, posthumously, for her work through the Arkansas Public Policy Panel. The event is free and open to the public with a reception to follow the program.

The event will be held at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, 9th and Broadway in Little Rock from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Click here to RSVP for the event.

The event is sponsored by the Office of Governor Mike Beebe, the City of Little Rock, Central High Historic Site, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Philander Smith College - Social Justice Initiative and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock - Institute on Race and Ethnicity.

Source: Arkansas Psychological Association

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