Monthly Archives: July 2017

Mental-Stigma-And-Stress-In-The-Workplace

Mental Stigma And Stress In The Workplace: Employers Need To Pay Attention To Workplace Stress Factors

Why employers should manage the mental health of the workplace

Employees undergoing mental distress affect most, if not all, organisations. This trend explains why people often take a day or two off work. To make matters worse, many individuals often experience anxiety when faced with the thought of confronting and discussing the subject because mental health continuous to be a taboo subject. Promoting mental health at work is beneficial to all parties involved including the supervisors because poor mental health will ultimately affect corporate productivity levels and, with it, the bottom line.

Mental-Stigma-and-Stress-in-the-workplace

Although companies are bound by law to protect the physical and psychological well-being of their employees, they often lack specific guidance as to how to go about improving and protecting employee health. Issues in the workplace that impact on the mental stability of an employee include:

  1. Stigma or any form of discrimination
  2. Professional burnout
  3. Substance abuse
  4. Bullying and abuse in the workplace

When the mental health of employees is secured in the workplace, it means that the employers care for their employees and that they are interested in promoting their wellbeing. One of the best ways to safeguard the mental health of employees is to eliminate or handle negligent and reckless behavior that may add to an employee’s stress level. Another way to promote the mental stability and safety of employees is by eliminating anything that induces chronic anxiety and excessive fear among employees.

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The process of safeguarding people’s mental health at work should be initiated by top executives. Employers must take active steps to improve their workplace culture as the culture is often a triggering factor for inducing stress among employees. Alternatively, companies can also create comprehensive strategies aimed at promoting mental wellness. Procedures should include initiatives and policies that promote psychological safety.

Employers are advised to consult their employees before developing strategies aimed at protecting their mental health. The end result of well-formulated policies is a progressive workplace where the employees are encouraged to empower themselves. Comprehensive strategies that are implemented properly will automatically improve productivity levels significantly. Other advantages of improving employee mental health at work (in addition please read our discussion paper – Silent Expectations) include:

  • Levels of creativity are improved, which also improves their level of engagement.
  • Encourages employee retention and low turnover.
  • Drastically improves employee satisfactions and morale.
  • Opens the lines of communication between subordinates and supervisors.
  • Improves the levels of recruitment for your organization.
  • Reduces the culture of absenteeism and promotes increased attendance.
  • Reduces workplace injuries
  • It cuts down the amount of grievances that come up at the workplace.

Too many employees suffer in silence due to poor mental health at work, and it is the responsibility of business leaders to take steps to improve the situation.

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the self assessment to find out.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Workplace loyalty is dead?

Workplace loyalty is dead. Or is it?

Looking around at today’s organisation and it would seem as though employee loyalty to their organisation and organisations’ loyalty to their employees is dead. For many of today’s workforce, the greener grass at the other company or new position is too tempting to pass up. In fact, a recent study by LinkedIn showed that Millennials, those who reach adulthood in the 20th century, will work for nearly twice as many companies in the first five years of their career than their parents did. What’s more, today the average person will have twelve to fifteen jobs in their lifetime. Is this the nail in the coffin for loyalty?

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Workplace loyalty is dead?

A look at history

In the not-so-distant past, loyalty in the workplace meant remaining at the same company throughout a person’s career. During much of the 20th century, employees would work their entire career for one or two employers and in return, the organisation would give their employees the unspoken promise of lifetime employment and a pension retirement. With the popularity of unionisation throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, collective bargaining agreements and the promise of steady raises and consistent employment held employees to their companies during uncertain economic times where double digit inflation was the norm. However, as the grip of unions began to loosen in the 1990’s in favor of human resource departments and individual performance reviews, employee loyalty began to loosen as well. With the advent of the internet and the expansion of a global economy, suddenly labor costs could be cut dramatically by hiring a less expensive workforce in another country and a company’s loyalty to their workers at home was cast aside in favor of global expansion and rising profits.

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Redefining Loyalty

While it is tempting to assume that in today’s economy, it is impossible for organisations to show loyalty to their employees, it perhaps is more important to redefine what loyalty looks like in the 21st century. Where our parents and grandparents showed loyalty to their company by doing their job tirelessly for 30 or 40 years, today’s worker is more likely to look for ways to use their individual talents on behalf of the organisation. Whether they are looking for innovative ways to solve a problem, creating effective work teams or helping employees reach their own career potential, today’s workers are driven by a need to see how their work relates to the organisational objectives as a whole. Managers who use performance reviews to discuss how an individual’s goals relate to the overall organisational mission will be rewarded with loyalty to that objective. Such loyalty is arguably more productive in today’s fast-paced business environment and contributes to a strong workplace culture.

Loyalty can also be defined as compensating employees fairly for the work they are completing. Too many companies rely on their organisational mission for their compensation strategy, arguing that contributing to their purpose should be enough to combat unfair wages. In reality, organisations who compensate their employees fairly and who have clearly defined objectives for bonuses and raises are more likely to retain their employees.

While it is nice to talk about organisation-wide strategies for both garnering and showing loyalty, applying these principles on a team level may be even more important. While more than 30% of Fortune 500 chief executives have lasted less than three years over the course of the last two decades, research from the Gallup organisation shows that employee engagement, a common indicator of productivity, has declined across industries over the last decade. Since top-down initiatives cannot function if senior leadership is in constant fluctuation, the lot falls to mid-level managers to foster team loyalty:

  1. Identify and reiterate the team’s purpose. Align the team’s short and long-term goals with organisational strategy that will help team members see how their success contributes to the business as a whole.
  2. Encourage open discussion without blame or shame. Creating an environment where ideas, opinions, successes and failures can be shared without fear of negative repercussions fosters a sense of loyalty amongst a team’s members.
  3. Ask more questions than you answer. Casting a wide net throughout the team for feedback and input allows everyone to express their feelings and work toward a consensus.
  4. Openly praise success. Both individual and team-based success should be frequently praised in public when objectives are achieved.

While it is unlikely a person will end their career with the same company they began it with, loyalty to a team or organisation is not dead. Instead, it has a new face that is reflective of a fast-paced, changing economy.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Pivotal-Generation

The Pivotal Generation: How Today’s Teens Will Change the World

Peter recently was asked for his thoughts on ‘the pivotal generation’ and given perhaps their most defining trait of always being ‘plugged in’ to the internet and social media, what mental health challenges they may face, if any, in the workplace. Following is an excerpt from that interview.

Centennials / Gen Z have been dubbed the “pivotal generation.” Do you agree with that title? What does it mean with regards to teens’ roles in society today?

It’s definitely an interesting title.

Pivotal-Generation

There’s no fixed age range, but generally speaking the term ‘Pivotal Generation’ refers to people currently under the age of 18. Why pivotal? Because the research shows they are displaying different patterns of thinking and behaviour to the Gen Y / Millennials before them. And some have suggested that those differences put them in a position to change the world.

In that sense, the Centennials have the opportunity to be pivotal but it’s yet to be seen whether they’ll take on that challenge. As a challenge it’s a big one, and it comes with a lot of responsibility.

What concerns me is whether a whole generation, whose obsession is with branding and personal (not collective) success, is ready to change the world.

That’s an interesting point – do you think today’s teens will in fact change the world?

Yes of course, every generation changes the world, in a sense. They cannot help it. The question is whether it will be an accidental change or an intentional change. The Centennials are in a world full of resources. Will they be able to get together collectively and decide how they want to shape it? There is no evidence to show they are any more willing to do that than previous generations. They are highly motivated for sure, but their focus appears to be on personal success over the collective.

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We are at a pivotal moment technologically speaking. How will the human engage and interact with the technological and what impact will it make around the world? We have the option of self annihilation or evolution of the species.

I’d like to think we’ll go for evolution, but there are some indicators we are headed for self annihilation – just look at the increasing suicide rate for example. And that has been linked to an existential crisis magnified through technology like social media. For a species to evolve we need to be more ‘other people’ focussed, not just about ‘me’.

Have we taught the values of compassion and interest in others needed to drive meaningful change to Centennials or are they caught up in their own egocentric search for meaning through material things? And are these drives enough to change society? That remains to be seen.

In the workplace, definitely the pace of change has the potential to be more significant than with any previous generations. There’s a need for innovation. We’re already seeing challenges between Millennials and the older generations with older generations losing out – being slower to learn new technology (generally speaking), less able or willing to show initiative, or to think on their feet and adapt rapidly. They are more wired to an old-school academic mentality of first learning the theory, and following instructions. But that mentality is not able to rewire itself as needed. One exciting thing about Centennials is they live in a world where they do not need established institutions to learn what they need to learn at an expert level. Almost all skills are at their fingertips and they know where and how to get the knowledge.

What would you say are some of the defining characteristics of Gen Z / Centennials?

Certainly we’re generalising here, but I would say they are:

  1. Tech savvy, knowing how to use technology and where to go to find information;
  2. Defining their own way to live, their own kinds of relationships and sexuality;
  3. Focused on ‘success’ and they want it big – and they also have the platforms where that’s possible;
  4. Social media savvy and have their own rules and etiquette for it

How would you say Centennials compare to Millennials, for example mentally, emotionally or socially?

Centennials share the same affinity with technology as Millenials, but this is taken a step further when it comes to the ability to adopt new technologies even faster, and to engage with social media in a more complex way.

In comparison to the Millennials, Centennials in some ways demonstrate a return to the values of the Gen X or Baby Boomers with an emphasis on personal success, ambition, and seemingly materialistic values. Yet they are not restricted in how they go about accomplishing this.

For example, while they are very driven for personal success, Centennials really don’t follow the old patterns of work – Monday to Friday 9-5, or even old styles of entrepreneurship. They can now make a living off of “nothing”. Very intangible stuff, like blogging about a company’s product, for example. This is perfect for the current environment, or perhaps it’s what’s shaping the current environment. Whereas Millennials still have a foot in each door of the old and the new way of working.

The problem I see is that with so much dependence on social media and personal branding, life can become superficial. There can be existential crises when your success is defined by your social media status. But is that really any different from the status of the old days – which was all about climbing the hierarchy in an organisation? At the core, I see the same issues, on a different playing field.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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Owls

When being the boss’ favourite can hurt your career

Machiavelli once ruminated on whether, as a leader, it was better to be loved or feared. While he concluded that it is “safer” to be feared than loved, as humans we crave community and recognition from those we respect or who are in a position of leadership.

Our natural instinct in the workplace is to try to curry favor with the boss so we can be influential in the decision making process, know that our ideas are heard first or bend the ear of our leader when promotion opportunities arise. While all of this might sound great for you personally, it can actually work to your detriment in very important ways.

Owls

Envy brings out the worst in people

When you are seen as the “chosen one” in the office, your teammates and coworkers will inevitably begin to envy you. While it may appear inconsequential at first, your proximity to your boss’s power may present some challenges in doing your job. Coworkers will gradually shut you out of important interpersonal office relationships. Even those who eschew workplace friendships recognise the need for connectedness in sharing crucial work-related information and team communication. If you are seen as the boss’s favorite, you may be left out of the loop, intentionally or not.

Hitching your wagon to your boss’s horse may work against you

Currying your boss’s favor is nice while it lasts. However, bosses who tend to play favorites are also fickle in their affection. You may be the heir apparent to their job one week and at the rear of the pack the next thanks to a manager’s changing whims or perceptions. It is also unwise to attach your merit within an organization to anyone else’s. Sure, your boss is influential today, but should they lose their position or credibility, you will likely lose yours as well unless you are associated with something other than your boss.

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You begin to lose your objectivity

The idea of “groupthink” was first introduced by Irving Janis in 1972. He theorised that groups who are insulated from outside opinions are subject to faulty reasoning, a deterioration of mental capacity and a lack of moral judgment. Whether that group consists of 2 or 20, the concept remains the same. The longer you spend in the shadow of your boss, the more likely you are to insulate yourself from the differing opinions of your coworkers. Without that difference, you lose the ability to make an objective decision. This, coupled with a growing sense of invulnerability inevitably leads to carelessness and negative consequences.

So what should you do instead?

As humans we tend to want to be recognised for our accomplishments. We want to feel as though we are in positions of power to affect change for the better. In order to do this without sacrificing personal integrity or career trajectory, it is important to act decisively and methodically in your relationship with your boss.

  1. Honesty is the best policy. Do not oversell your influence with your peers or your boss. Give credit where credit is due. Never claim success that is not yours.
  2. Honour the workplace team. As tempting as it may be to let favoritism work for you, remember that your work team is where the majority of your tasks are accomplished. If relationships are strained, productivity plummets and your credibility dwindles.
  3. Be impeccable with your word. If something is shared in confidence with you by your boss, do not tell your coworkers until your boss shares the information. If something is shared in confidence by a teammate, do not tell your boss but rather encourage your coworker to build that relationship.
  4. Get to know other executives. Many people who are seen as parrots of their boss can combat this by interacting with other executives and learning from their insights. While some bosses become paranoid about losing their sidekick, most will see your desire to learn as a way to leverage your talents with other areas of the organization.

As nice as it may be to have the favour of your manager, you might find that it leads to greater stress and career hindrance rather than help.

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the self assessment to find out.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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