Category Archives: Health & Wellness

How Face-to-face Conversations Help Us Deal with Technostress

As I was sitting patiently waiting for my car to be repaired at the car shop the other day, I came across a great story in AARP Magazine titled, “Is Conversation Gone for Good?” It confirmed to me something I have been thinking about a lot lately — the missing element of face-to-face conversations and the level of stress we experience living in a high-tech world.

The article raises two important points I want to mention here:

  • Today, our talks are more results-oriented and less people-oriented. In person, we ask closed questions that can be answered by yes or no and we share brief exchanges. The author of the article remarked how his recent “conversations” were, in fact, Facebook postings.
  • The paradox of contemporary life—simultaneous connection and isolation. Think about it for a minute. We reach out to connect to others (many times strangers) through social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and yet, when we are in the same room with other people, we don’t have much to say to them.

We are bombarded by and bombard others with so much information that there is actually a term to describe this — technostress.

Technostress is stress resulting from our over-reliance on technology. According to Rebecca J. Donatelle, Ph.D., technostress is “a dependence on technology, the constant state of being “plugged in,” and the fear of technology failure” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 74).

She says that when technostress takes a hold of you, it sometimes interact with other forms of stress “to create a never-ending form of stimulation that keeps your stress response reverberating all day” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 74).

The power of technology allows us to be productive and encourages people to multitask, juggling many different things at once. We see this actually advertised and prized as a desired quality in an employee or person. However, research indicates that “people who multitask…are less efficient than those who focus on one project at a time” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 74).

A recent Harvard Business Review post says that multitasking leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity, increased stress, and a 10% drop in IQ (Bergman, 2010).

Signs of technology overload (Donatelle, 2009):

  • Increasing heart rate and blood pressure
  • Irritability and memory disturbances
  • Inability to relax
  • Feeling nervous and anxious during times when you are supposed to be having fun
  • Headaches
  • Stomach, digestive problems, ulcers
  • Skin irritations
  • Frequent colds
  • Difficulty in wound healing
  • Difficulty sleeping or lack of sleep
  • Gaps in attentiveness and changes in ability to concentrate

TIPS FOR FIGHTING TECHNOSTRESS (Donatelle, 2009):

1. Become aware of what you are doing.
Log the time you spend online, on social networking sites, e-mail, voicemail, etc. Set up a schedule to limit your use of technology. For example, spend no more than a half-hour per day answering e-mails.

2. Give yourself more time.
If you are surfing the Web for resources for a paper or project, begin early rather than the night before it is due.

3. Manage the telephone—don’t let it manage you.
Rather than interrupting what you’re doing to answer the call, screen phone calls with an answering machine or caller ID. Eliminate call waiting because it forces you to juggle multiple calls, and instead, subscribe to a voicemail service that takes messages when you’re on the phone.

4. Take regular breaks.
Even when you’re working, every hour get up, walk around, stretch, do deep breathing, or get a drink of water.

5. If you are working on the computer, look away from the screen and focus on something far away every 30 minutes.
Stretch your shoulders and neck periodically as you work. Play relaxing background music.

6. Resist the urge to buy the newest and fastest technology.
Such purchases causes financial stress and adds to your stress levels, especially when dealing with the glitches that occur from installing and adjusting to new technology.

7. Do not take laptops, PDAs, or other technological gadgets on vacation.
If you must take a cell phone for emergencies, turn it and your voice messaging system off, and use the phone only in true emergencies.

8. Back up materials on your computer at regular intervals.
There’s nothing more frustrating and stressful than losing work because of a power outage. In college, I heard about a girl crying hysterically because she lost a paper she had spent hours writing. The culprit was a squirrel who sacrificed his life running into a power line. Poor girl and poor squirrel.

9. Expect technological change.
The only constant is change. Nowhere is this more true than with technology. We blink and what we purchased or become accustomed to will become yesterday’s news. No matter how comfortable you are with your current computer, cell phone, PDA, and so on, at some point you will need to move on to a new one.

10. Unplug or Disconnect, Step Away, and “Talk.” – this last tip is my own.
When I was in my teens and early twenties, I was quite impatient as I suppose some people are growing up. But the older I become, the more I slow down to soak life in. It was this epiphany that led me back home, from working overseas, to be with my aging parents.

Just like the author of the AARP article, I too am enjoying conversations (face-to-face ones that is) with others. In the past few years, those precious conversations have been with my mother. And, like the author, I am finding wonderment in the “transformative power of human contact,” one that offers glimpses into the lives of those with whom I hold face-to-face conversations.

When I talk and listen to my mom, it’s almost as if time stops. When I am truly engrossed in conversation with her, I feel as though I’m traveling back in time to years past, learning about her, about myself, and about life. With our manic society, hyperactive workplaces, and a 24-7 mindset about being plugged in, it is comforting to know that, sometimes, the most profound and yet easiest solution on “unplugging” is to simply “talk.”

References

Bergman, P. (May 2010). How (and why) to stop multitasking. Harvard Business Review, May 20, 2010. Retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2010/05/how-and-why-to-stop-multitaski.html

Donatelle, R. (2009). Health: The basics (8th ed.). San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Dudley, D. (Mar/Apr 2010). Is conversation gone for good? AARP Magazine, Mar/Apr 2010, 62-67.

5 Reasons Why Employees Stay

Earlier in 2010, the Conference Board surveyed 5,000 U.S. households and found that only 45 percent of those surveyed say they’re satisfied with their jobs. It notes that this number is down from 61.1 percent in 1987.

According to Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center of The Conference Board, “[w]hile one in 10 Americans is now unemployed, their working compatriots of all ages and incomes continue to grow increasingly unhappy.”

John Gibbons, program director of employee engagement research and services at The Conference Board, believes that challenging and meaningful work is important to engaging workers and that “[w]idespread job dissatisfaction negatively affects employee behavior and retention, which can impact enterprise-level success.”

These findings offer valid concerns and serve as a wake-up call to organizations of employee discontent and why they ultimately leave.

Ok, so we know why employees leave. But, why do they stay?

I’m sure there are lots of good reasons, but I like what the editors of Harvard Business Review’s Answer Exchange (a forum to ask questions, get answers, and engage with other business professionals) say about why employees stay.

5 REASONS WHY EMPLOYEES STAY:

  1. Pride in the organization. People want to work for well-managed companies.
  2. Compatible supervisor. People may stay just to work for a particular individual who is supportive of them.
  3. Compensation. People want to work for companies that offer fair compensation, including competitive wages and benefits as well as opportunities to learn and achieve.
  4. Affiliation. People want to continue working with colleagues they respect and like.
  5. Meaningful work. People want to work for companies that let them do work that appeals to their deepest, most passionate interests.

References

Originally posted on HBR Answer Exchange (now defunct); Adapted from the book Harvard Business Essentials: Guide to Hiring and Keeping the Best People, Harvard Business Press

I Can’t Get No…Job Satisfaction, That Is: America’s Unhappy Workers. Research Report #1459-09-RR. The Conference Board.

April 30 The Fall of Saigon

Photo: 
A North Vietnamese tank crashes through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon, Vietnam on April 30, 1975. The taking of the palace marked the fall of the U.S.-backed south during the Vietnam War and the end to two decades of fighting.

[NOTE: This post was updated October 2017]

To many in the U.S., April 30th isn’t a day of significance. It’s not a holiday nor is it the birth or death of anyone famous. But to me, my family, and millions of Vietnamese around the world, April 30th will forever hold a special place in our hearts and minds. Today, April 30th marks the anniversary of the ending of the Vietnam War and the fall of Saigon (now called Ho Chi Minh City) to Communism. It is a day that dramatically changed the course of my life, and which ultimately brought me to America.

Photo: An American punches a Vietnamese man in the face as he tries to close the doorway of an airplane overloaded with refugees seeking to flee Nha Trang, which was being taken over by Communist troops in April 1975.

On April 30, 1975, the South Vietnamese government surrendered to the North Vietnamese Communist forces ending a two-decade long civil war (1954-1975) known as the Vietnam War. Besides the political consequences, there were the emotional, social, and cultural effects that resulted from the fall of Saigon.

Had it not been for that fateful day of April 30, 1975, my family and I along with millions of other Vietnamese “boat people” refugees might have never left our country.

“In the spring of 1975, 130,000 refugees escaped Vietnam. Tiny boats full of South Vietnamese soldiers and their families set off down the Mekong River in the hopes of surviving the 600-mile journey to the Malaysian coast. They were the first wave of Vietnamese boat people. But they were not the last.”

All totaled, roughly 1.5 million “boat people” left Vietnam after the fall of Saigon to Communism between the mid-1970’s through the 1990’s.

Photo: 
Vietnamese boat people.

I am in awe of how my life has turned out because of April 30th. If the fall of Saigon to Communism on April 30, 1975 had never occurred, I would most likely still be living in Vietnam with my family. I would be fluent in Vietnamese, unlike my current state of stumbling over words. I would be thinking and composing this blog entry in Vietnamese.

Instead, as fortune would have it, my family and I survived a perilous escape in the dead of night…

In the early morning hours of spring 1979, with borrowed money and falsified documents to ensure our escape, my family and I (then 8 years old) joined countless other “boat people” and got onto a small vessel in search of a better life. Three days and four nights later, after outrunning Thai pirates and discarding a dead body, we found ourselves helpless and stranded at sea with little food and water remaining. In fact, my mom told me that many of us did not eat because we were so exhausted.

Thanks to the sheer mercy of God, we were rescued by an oil tanker and brought into a refugee camp on a tiny island called Galang (in Indonesia). After spending 11 months there, we were sponsored by my uncle to come to America.

On April 1, 1980, more than one year after we left our homeland in Southeast Asia, my family and I set foot on American soil for the very first time.

No one ever has to impress upon me the value of freedom because I still remember vividly what it was like to not have it. So while many people simply see April 30th as just another day, for me it holds great meaning. On April 30th of this year as in years past, I pause to give thanks and wonder,

“What if April 30, 1975 had never happened?”

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership Advisor & Talent Development Consultant

National Stress Awareness Day

April 16th is National Stress Awareness Day. One of the areas I cover here at WorkplacePsychology.Net is Occupational Health Psychology (OHP). OHP is important because it is concerned about the health, safety and well-being of workers.

And because I love using visuals to tell a story, today’s post features this infographic (information graphic) by Julie Teninbaum. It is a great example of just how powerful the use of graphics, design, and data can combine to produce something that not only is eye-catching but also conveys important information.

Julie is a regular contributor to Fast Company and does a “Numerology” (infographic). For April, she created this infographic for Fast Company’s article “National Stress Awareness Month, by the Numbers.”

Career Well-Being

In their upcoming book, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements (Available May 4, 2010), Rath and Harter (2010) offer this interesting piece of information about career and its impact on our well-being.

It’s quite astonishing that people recover faster from the death of a spouse than from prolonged unemployment.

Although career well-being is discussed, it is just one of five elements covered.

The Five Essential Elements

  • Career Wellbeing
  • Social Wellbeing
  • Financial Wellbeing
  • Physical Wellbeing
  • Community Wellbeing

This is one book I’m really looking forward to reading.

The Rising Underemployment Rate and its Emotional Impact

In a previous post called The Cost of Unemployment, I wrote about the toll, on health and well-being, that unemployment had on people.

One aspect of unemployment that rarely gets mentioned is underemployment. Gallup defines underemployment as people who are “unemployed or working part-time but wanting full-time work” (Jacobe, 2010, para. 3). According to the latest Gallup poll, the underemployment rate is at a staggering 20% as of March 15, 2010, compared to the 9.7% unemployment rate reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Underemployed Americans are 2x more likely to have been told that they suffer from depression (21% vs. 12% employed Americans)(Marlar, 2010, para. 5).

These findings, both the rate of underemployment and the well-being index score, “underscore why Americans say the most important problem facing the nation today is jobs and unemployment” (Jacobe, 2010, para. 2).

Interestingly, the Gallup data indicates that a decline in the U.S. unemployment rate might be attributed to an increase in the unemployed taking on part-time work and adding to the underemployment rate.

“It is also often suggested that a growth in part-time jobs may indicate future growth in full-time work — that companies hire part-time workers before committing to hiring new full-time employees. While this is sometimes the case, it may not be so at this point in the U.S. economy: Gallup data show that one in three part-time employees who are wanting full-time work are currently “hopeful” about finding a full-time job in the next 30 days — not much of an endorsement of the idea that today’s new part-time work will progress to full-time jobs” (Jacobe, 2010, para. 8).

References

Jacobe, D. (2010, March 19). Underemployment hits 20% in mid-March. Gallup. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/126821/Underemployment-Hits-20-Mid-March.aspx

Marlar, J. (2010, March 9). The emotional cost of underemployment. Gallup. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/126518/Emotional-Cost-Underemployment.aspx

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov

Consumerism & Affluenza – How Society Shapes Our Thinking about Happiness

Within the past several decades, an alarming trend has developed, one that goes far beyond just “keeping up with the Joneses.” You see, no longer is it enough to simply “keep up.” It seems that in today’s microwave mentality, we have to have things, and we have to have them right now. Everything becomes a necessity. We no longer eat to live. We live to eat. We no longer shop to survive. We survive to shop. Or as I heard it on the radio – shop til you drop, then crawl!

We have, in fact, become a society of conspicuous consumption [spending lavishly on goods and services for the sole purpose of showing off] and consumerism [equating happiness with buying and consuming goods].

There is a name/description/label to this madness. It’s called AFFLUENZA, formed from the words affluence (wealth) and influenza (also known as the flu).

Affluenza is defined as (1) The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses; (2) An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream (Affluenza, n.d.). Affluenza is the term used to explain the problems that occur “when individuals are in pursuit of money, wealth, and material possession at the expense of other sources of self-esteem and contentment” (Koplewicz & Williams, 2006, p. 1).

Although I originally wrote about this topic of affluenza (several years ago while working in the school system) to address the madness that parents go through to feed into their children’s demands to have the latest and greatest material things, I am presenting it here now to shed light on this epidemic and its impact on adults.

Affluenza affects people across all age groups and socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. “Contemporary affluenza researchers contend that if we do not begin to reject our culture’s incessant demands to work harder, spend more, and buy more, our society will begin to pay later with significant effects thrust upon our offspring” (Koplewicz & Williams, 2006, p. 1).

The incessant pressure to acquire material goods can result in the following (Koplewicz & Williams, 2006): As you go through the list below, notice that it easily applies to both children and adults.

  • Inability to delay gratification or tolerate frustration
  • Difficulty maintaining interest in anything requiring effort
  • False sense of entitlement
  • Expectation of material goods without responsibility
  • Loss of future motivation
  • Life activities don’t seem very real and nothing matters much
  • Low self esteem, self worth, and loss of self confidence
  • Approval dependent on possessions and status rather than on personal values
  • Preoccupation with externals and habituation for more material goods
  • Difficulty believing people like them for themselves rather than for possessions and status
  • Inability to trust prevents true friendships
  • Emotional energy becomes invested in material gains and sensitivity toward others declines

Here are some interesting tidbits (Affluenza…Diagnosis, n.d.):

  • Americans carry $1 trillion in personal debt, approximately $4,000 for every man, woman and child, not including real estate and mortgages. On average, Americans save only 4 percent of their income, in contrast to the Japanese, who save an average of 16 percent.
  • Since 1950, Americans alone have used more resources than everyone who ever lived before them. Each American individual uses up 20 tons of basic raw materials annually. Americans throw away 7 million cars a year, 2 million plastic bottles an hour and enough aluminum cans annually to make six thousand DC-10 airplanes.
  • Even though Americans comprise only five percent of the world’s population, in 1996 we used nearly a third of its resources and produced almost half of its hazardous waste. The average North American consumes five times as much as an average Mexican, 10 times as much as an average Chinese and 30 times as much as the average person in India.
  • Americans on average spend only 40 minutes a week playing with their children, and members of working couples talk with one another on average only 12 minutes a day.

Back in December 2009, I wrote about the hyperactive workplace. I believe what lies at the root of the hyperactive workplace is affluenza – the “epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream” (Affluenza, n.d.). We work long hours and remain in a state of frenzy to pursue that elusive dollar to buy the things we and our families desire. And we do this day in and day out like the hamster running in circles in a cage.

In “Success Intelligence,” (2005) Robert Holden wrote, “The rise of consumerism has certainly influenced our thinking about happiness and success…We are making every effort to ‘buy, buy, buy!’ our way to happiness and success” (pp. 110, 111). While buying things can temporarily bring short-term pleasure, our prior levels of happiness soon return. In other words, we can’t buy our way to happiness.

“[W]e place all our faith in external things to make us happy. The danger here is that we lose sight of inner happiness…We forget how to be happy” (Holden, 2005, p. 112).

Imagine what your own work and workplaces would be like if you changed your views about overconsumption and what it means to be happy.

References

Affluenza. (n.d.). In Affluenza: PBS Program on the Epidemic of Overconsumption. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/kcts/affluenza/

Affluenza…Diagnosis (n.d.). In Affluenza: PBS Program on the Epidemic of Overconsumption. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/kcts/affluenza/diag/what.html

Holden, R. (2005). Success intelligence: Essential lessons and practices from the world’s leading coaching program on authentic success. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc.

Koplewicz, H.S. & Williams, K. (2006). Affluence-Benefit or Handicap? New York University Child Study Center Letter, 11(2), 1-3. Retrieved from http://www.aboutourkids.org/files/articles/dec.pdf

Workplace Violence, Organizational Justice, and Wounded Pride

Recently, a Harvard-educated Ph.D. professor at the University of Alabama, Huntsville was accused of killing three colleagues and wounding three others during a faculty meeting because she was denied tenure. But why is this topic getting attention here on WorkplacePsychology.Net? We normally don’t think of college and universities as organizations, but they are.

In industrial-organizational psychology, the topic of organizational justice is important because it plays a critical role in workplace violence. The manner in which employees see themselves being treated (fairly or unfairly) by their companies affects how these employees will behave (emotionally and behaviorally) in the work environment. In the case of the accused professor, being denied tenure might have caused her to feel that she was unfairly treated by the university.

There are three types of organizational justice: distributive (perceived fairness in allocation of rewards to employees); procedural (perceived fairness of the process/procedure by which rewards are distributed); and interactional (sensitivity with which employees are treated & degree to which employees feel respected) (Landy & Conte, 2007, citing Colquitt, Colon, Wesson, Porter, & Ng).

Cohen-Charash and Spector (2001) found that regardless of age, gender, race, and education, all people view justice similarly. In their examination of 190 studies totaling 64,757 participants, these researchers discovered that job performance and counterproductive work behaviors were mainly related to procedural justice (the perceived fairness of the process or procedure by which ratings are assigned or rewards are distributed) and that perceived injustice causes negative emotional reactions in the forms of mood and anger. Cohen-Charash and Spector (2001) further predicted that procedural justice will be more important than distributive justice (perceived fairness in allocation of rewards to employees) under certain contexts, especially in situation involving difficult decisions that might hurt or be of great significance to the person affected by them (e.g., layoffs).

Another factor related to workplace violence is a wounded pride (ego threat). Challenging the myth that low self-esteem is an important cause of violence, Baumeister, Smart, & Boden (1996) discovered that violence usually results from egos that felt threatened.

People whose favorable self-conceptions are inflated, uncertain, or unstable may become quite sensitive to unflattering feedback and may react with hostility…[H]ighly sensitive individuals may react with considerable hostility to seemingly minor ego threats (Baumeister et al., 1996, p. 11).

In this context, the college professor might have felt that those individuals who denied her tenure threatened her ego (how dare they deny someone with my intelligence and educational background) and violated procedural justice (it’s unfair how they treated me).

Research says that it takes an individual’s personality, a threatened ego, and a view of injustice to contribute to workplace aggression (Baumeister et al., 1996; Hershcovis et al., 2007). Tragically, the mixture of the professor’s personality, her wounded pride, and her perception that others had treated her unjustly resulted in workplace violence that left three people dead, three others injured, and a community in shock and mourning.

References

Baumeister, R., Smart, L., & Boden, J. (1996). Relation of threatened egotism to violence and aggression: The dark side of high self-esteem. Psychological Review, 103(1), 5-33. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.103.1.5

Cohen-Charash, Y. & Spector, P.E. (2001). The role of justice in organizations: A meta-analysis. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 86(2), 278–321.

Hershcovis, M. S., Turner, N., Barling, J., Inness, M., LeBlanc, M. M., Arnold, K. A., Dupre, K. E., & Sivanathan, N. (2007). Predicting workplace aggression: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(1), 228-238.

Landy, F. J. & Conte, J. M. (2007). Work in the 21st century: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (2nd Ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Follow Your Heart

One of my all-time favorite quote is from Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. It was a speech given to the graduating class at Stanford University in June 2005. Jobs was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer in 2004, the year before. Luckily, it was eradicated through surgery and he has since recovered. Below is part of his commencement speech:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart…”

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Feeling Refreshed and Back to Work

Binnewies, Sonnentag, and Mojza (2009) conducted a study involving 358 employees who worked with people with special needs (those who were mentally or physically disabled). I can say, based on experience, it’s a stressful area.

Two questionnaires were given six months apart. The researchers found that when people feel recovered (mentally and physically refreshed) during their leisure time their performance on the job increased.

“[H]ighly recovered individuals showed increased task performance after 6 months because they felt more capable of successfully accomplishing work-related tasks” (p. 252).

They clarified that feeling recovered during leisure time is about how much a person feels refreshed mentally and physically. This feeling of recovery (feeling recovered during leisure time) is positive compared to a need for recovery and mental fatigue. The need for recovery represents a negative recovery because a person is forced to rest due to work-related demands and/or work-induced fatigue.

Put simply, deciding to rest before you’re stressed and exhausted is a good thing. I think this quote from Ralph Marston perfectly summarizes today’s post:

Rest when you’re weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.

Reference

Binnewies, C., Sonnentag, S., & Mojza, E.J. (2009). Feeling recovered and thinking about the good sides of one’s work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 14(3), 243-256.

Welcoming a Fresh Start

[NOTE: Updated December 2020 for freshness & clarity.]

In Japan, the tradition of welcoming the new year is drastically more peaceful and zen-like compared to the U.S. For Japanese, the tradition is called 大掃除 “oosouji” meaning a big cleaning. During this cleanup time, Japanese clean their homes and cars.

New Year is the biggest and most important holiday in Japan. It’s a way to start over, a fresh start. Japanese believe that New Year’s day represents how the rest of the year will be like. Thus, the day should be stress-free and everything should be clean.

Monks in temples ring large bells (Joya-no-kane) throughout Japan signaling the end of the old year and the start of the new one. The bells are rung 108 times because, according to Buddhism, humans have 108 problem desires and by hearing the bells 108 times, we can rid ourselves of all these desires at the end of the year.

While waiting for the arrival of the new year, Japanese eat 年越し蕎麦 (としこしそば (toshikoshi soba), which means “end the old year and enter the new year soba noodles.” Toshikoshi soba (or buckwheat noodles) dates back to around the Edo period (17-19th century) and are believed to symbolize longevity.

Wishing everyone a fresh start to the New Year. Here’s to a cleansing of the old and a fresh new beginning.

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership Development Advisor & Consultant

Reference

Itoh, M. (2008). Toshikoshi Soba or Year-End Soba: A bowl of hot soba noodles to end the year. Retrieved from http://www.justhungry.com/2003/12/toshikoshi_soba.html

Leadership, Psychological Well-Being, and Meaningful Work

We hear often about leadership having an impact on employees. Many blogs and articles online talk about it without properly citing data to back it up. Well, I located a research-based article that offered support for the positive impact of leadership on employee well-being. Because this blog covers employee well-being, meaningful work, and leadership, I felt this topic was captured well in this research article by Arnold, Turner, Barling, Kelloway, & McKee (2007).

The researchers conducted two studies, one involving employees of a long-term care facility and the other study involving funeral directors and dental hygienists.

In Study #1, the researchers sent surveys to 319 employees of a long-term care facility in a midsized Canadian city measuring transformational leadership, meaningful work, and psychological well-being.

Here’s how the researchers defined the terms in Study #1:

Transformational leadership is seen as leadership that communicates a vision, develops staff, provides support, empowers staff, is innovative, leads by example, and is charismatic.

Meaningful work

From Workplace Spirituality scale: included items such as “I see a connection between my work and the larger social good of my community” and “The work I do is connected to what I think is important in my life.”

Psychological well-being

From Positive Affective Well-Being scale: looks at how the employee felt in the last 6 months (e.g., motivated, cheerful, enthusiastic, lively, joyful, and energetic).

In Study #2, the researchers sent surveys to 95 funeral directors and 51 dental hygienists.

This time, the researchers defined the terms in this manner:

Transformational leadership

From the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire: Four dimensions of transformational leadership—idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration.

Meaningful work

“The work I do in this job is fulfilling,” “The work I do in this job is rewarding,” “I do not achieve important outcomes from the work I do in this job”, and “I am able to achieve important outcomes from the work I do in this job.”

Psychological well-being

From General Health Questionnaire: “Been able to concentrate on whatever you are doing?” and “Been able to enjoy your day to day activities?”

Although not earth-shattering, results of the studies offered data to support often hearsay or anecdotal evidence about the relationship and/or positive impact of transformational leadership on well-being.

Based on results of the two studies, the researchers concluded that “transformational leadership of supervisors exerted a positive influence on the psychological well-being of workers” (Arnold et al., 2007, p. 200). Believing and viewing the work as meaningful seems to play a role in explaining this positive relationship.

Sound Bite: “[L]eaders can transform followers’ beliefs to enhance well-being” (Arnold et al., 2007, p. 202).

Reference

Arnold, K., Turner, N., Barling, J., Kelloway, E., & McKee, M. (2007). Transformational leadership and psychological well-being: The mediating role of meaningful work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12(3), 193-203.

The Cost of Unemployment

When people are employed, common stressors at work include physical/task stressors (e.g. heat, noise, pace of work, workload, and number of hours worked) and psychosocial stressors (e.g. role ambiguity, interpersonal conflict, and lack of control) (Landy & Conte, 2007). Workplace stress takes an incredible toll resulting in physical/medical (e.g. heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure), psychological (e.g. burnout, anxiety, family problems), and behavioral (e.g. absenteeism, substance abuse, accidents, violence) (Landy & Conte, 2007, citing Quick, Quick, Nelson & Hurrell) and research has shown a connection between job stress and depression (Dragano, He, Moebus, Jockel, Erbel, & Siegrist, 2008).

Unfortunately, when an individual becomes unemployed, he/she may still experience many of the same symptoms of stress (as when employed) such as poor psychological health, depression, insomnia, irritability, and general anxiety (Landy & Conte, 2007, citing Warr).

In a New York Times’ article about the emotional and financial toll of being unemployed (Luo & Thee-Brenan, 2009), 708 unemployed adults were surveyed between Dec. 5 and Dec. 10, 2009. Here’s what they found about unemployed Americans:

EMOTIONALLY

  • 69% are more stressed.
  • 55% have had trouble sleeping.
  • 48% have experienced emotional or mental health issues (e.g., anxiety or depression).
  • 46% have felt ashamed or embarrassed about being unemployed.

FINANCIALLY

  • 53% have borrowed money from family members or friends since losing their jobs.
  • 54% have reduced visits to doctor or medical treatments.
  • 47% is without health care coverage.

“How far you go in life depends on you being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.” -George Washington Carver

References

Dragano, N., He, Y., Moebus, S., Jockel, K., Erbel, R., & Siegrist, J. (2008). Two models of job stress and depressive symptoms: Results from a population-based study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 43,72–78.

Landy, F. J. & Conte, J. M. (2007). Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Luo, M. & Thee-Brenan, M. (2009). Poll reveals trauma of joblessness in U.S. The New York Times. Retrieved December 15, 2009 from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/15/us/15poll.html

Workplace Incivility Hurts Employees & Businesses

Work stress
Work stress

Earlier this week, I talked about the Manic Society and the Hyperactive Workplace. For today’s post, we’ll shift gears and cover workplace incivility. This topic is a favorite of mine, so I’ll leave you with something to think about for the weekend. NOTE: The information for this post came from an assignment I completed for a class.

Workplace incivility is defined as “the exchange of seemingly inconsequential inconsiderate words and deeds that violate conventional norms of workplace conduct” (Pearson & Porath, 2009, p. 12).

“Workplace incivility is low-intensity deviant behavior with ambiguous intent to harm the target, in violation of workplace norms for mutual respect. Uncivil behaviors are characteristically rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard for others” (Pearson, Andersson, & Wegner, 2001, p. 1397). These are rude, insensitive or disrespectful behaviors in the workplace.

Examples include: ignoring or making derogatory remarks about someone, taking credit for the work of others, passing blame for your own mistakes, belittling the efforts of others, failing to return phone calls or respond to emails, setting others up to fail, leaving snippy voice mail messages, withholding information, leaving a mess for others to clean up, shutting someone out of a network or team, avoiding someone, throwing temper tantrums (Pearson & Porath, 2009).

Workplace incivility is so common that we often don’t even notice it. Pearson & Porath (2009) found in their studies that 1 in 5 people in their sample claimed to be targets of incivility from a coworker at least once a week. About 2/3 said they witnessed incivility happening among other employees at least once a month. 10% said they saw incivility among their coworkers every day.

A survey of public sector employees in the United States found that 71% of respondents reported at least some experience of workplace incivility during the previous 5 years, and 6% reported experiencing such behavior many times (Cortina, Magley, Williams, & Langhout, 2001).

What’s more, it’s not unique to the U.S. The researchers (Pearson & Porath, 2009) discovered that 50% of Canadians in their study also reported suffering from incivility directly from their coworkers at least once a week. 99% said they witnessed incivility at work and 25% reported seeing incivility occurring between coworkers daily.

When civility is disregarded in the workplace, the results are negative effects – not only on the target(s) of the incivility, but also the on effectiveness and efficiency of the teams and the overall organization (Andersson & Pearson, 1999; Pearson & Porath, 2009).

Researchers found that workplace incivility has an insidious effect, first negatively impacting the targets, and later with repercussions rippling like waves to other areas of the organization. The end result is an adverse effect on the health of the employee (Cortina, Magley, Williams, & Langhout, 2001) and the efficiency and productivity of the organization (Pearson, Andersson, & Wegner, 2001). What’s even more troubling for psychology and business is that workplace incivility harms not just the targets and the organizations but also those who are witnesses to these incivilities (e.g., customers).

References

Andersson, L., & Pearson, C. (1999). Tit for tat? The spiraling effect of incivility in the workplace. Academy of Management Review, 24(3), 452-471.

Cortina, L. M., Magley, V. J., Williams, J. H., & Langhout, R. D. (2001). Incivility in the workplace: Incidence and impact. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 6, 64–80.

Pearson, C., Andersson, L., & Wegner, J. (2001). When workers flout convention: A study of workplace incivility. Human Relations, 54(11), 1387-1419.

Pearson, C. & Porath, C. (2009). The cost of bad behavior: How incivility is damaging your business and what to do about it. New York, NY: Portfolio.

Hyperactive Workplace

This is part II – Hyperactive Workplace – of a 2-part series on Dr. Robert Holden’s book, “Success Intelligence: Essential Lessons and Practices from the World’s Leading Coaching Program on Authentic Success.” In his book, Dr. Holden discusses the impact that a Manic Society, Busy Generation, and Hyperactive Workplace have on our lives.

Hyperactive Workplace

In today’s workplaces, we’re required “to work faster and better, to do more with less, to change continuously, and to invent new ways of working” (Holden, 2005, p. 28). Our work is dominated by long hours, a permanent state of busyness, goals and to-do lists, attitudes and incivility, and no downtime. In the hyperactive workplace, we’re always “doing” but never getting enough “done” (Holden, 2005, p.29).

“We are ‘doing’ all through the day, ‘doing’ in our free time, and ‘doing’ ourselves out of a life…We’re ‘doing’ to the point of exhaustion [and] literally ‘doing’ ourselves to death-killing ourselves for our careers, [and] in the name of success” (Holden, 2005, p.29).

In a 2008 Quality of Working Life survey among managers in the UK and Australia, over half of managers felt that the hours they work negatively affected their health (53.4% in the UK, 55.6% in Australia); around 45% thought that the hours they worked had a negative impact on their productivity and over half thought that the hours they worked had a negative impact on their social lives and their relationships with their spouse or partner. However, despite this awareness, over 90% of managers in both countries insist on working over their contract hours.

Across the Atlantic, the Conference Board (2007) found, in a survey of 5,000 U.S. households, that less than half of all Americans say they’re satisfied with their jobs, down from 61% in 1987.

Sound bite: “In the hyperactive world of work, we end up overworked and overspent, and our lives are over before we know it. If we are not careful, we get so lost in our constant activity that we fail to recognize what the real work of our lives is about” (Holden, 2005, p. 34).

References

Holden, R. (2005). Success intelligence: Essential lessons and practices from the world’s leading coaching program on authentic success. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc.

The Conference Board (2007). U.S Job Satisfaction Declines, The Conference Board Reports. Press Release/News Feb. 23, 2007. Retrieved December 6, 2009 from http://www.conference-board.org/utilities/pressDetail.cfm?press_ID=3075

Worrall, L., Lindorff, M. & Cooper, C. (2008). Quality of working life 2008: A survey of organisational health and employee well-being. Comparisons of the perceptions of UK managers and managers in Victoria, Australia. Chartered Management Institute, UK.