Category Archives: Occupational Health Psychology

Undercover Boss and Emotional Intelligence

A new reality TV show called Undercover Boss will soon hit the air. The idea is for top executives to go undercover by working as rank and file (ordinary) employees in their own organization. Each week a different executive will work undercover deep inside their company.

While working alongside their employees, they will see the effects their decisions have on others, where the problems lie within their organization and get an up-close look at both the good and bad while discovering the unsung heroes who make their company run. -Undercover Boss website

The show is set to premiere (in the US) in February 2010 after the Super Bowl (American football).

It seems that by helping executives become aware of what it’s like at the bottom of the ladder in their corporate hierarchy, that they would somehow become enlighten and change how they conduct business and/or run the organization.

Peter Senge says, “The quality of our leadership depends on the quality of our awareness.”

Among the leadership competencies identified, emotional intelligence is one quality that is important for effective leadership (Goleman, cited in Yukl, 2010).

Emotional intelligence is the extent to which a person is attuned to his or her own feelings and to the feelings of others and is able to integrate emotions and reason such that emotions are used to facilitate cognitive processes, and emotions are cognitively managed. – Gary Yukl

Emotional intelligence can help leaders solve complex problems, improve decision-making and time management, adapt to changing situations and better manage crises (Yukl, 2010).

So by working alongside ordinary workers, these CEOs will (hopefully) gain emotional insights into what life is like to work in that job for that company. They will gain skills to better understand what it’s like to “walk in their workers’ shoes.”

Reference

Yukl, G. (2010). Leadership in organizations (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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.

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.

Manic Society

Today, I’ll be doing part I – Manic Society – 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.” Dr. Holden talks about our Manic Society, our Busy Generation, and our Hyperactive Workplace, where people work without vision and joy.

Manic Society

The word “manic” comes from “mania” meaning a state of frenzy. In the U.S., we’re taught to believe the idea that everyone can be richer and happier if we would just go faster and work harder. We live and work in a constant state of mania, of frenzy madness. But for what? We speed through time spent with others that we never truly connect with them (Holden, 2005). We work like mad only to come back to houses wall-off by ten-foot high fences and our children already in bed. In the end, this manic lifestyle and our manic workplaces take their toll on our health, our relationships, and ultimately our happiness.

“The National Institute for Occupational safety and Health estimates that 40% of the U.S. workforce is affected by stress, making it the top cause of worker disability…Around the globe, stress-related illnesses are a major financial drain on organizations, $200 billion per year for treatment alone” (Pearson & Porath, 2009, p. 72).

The Manic Society sells the myth that everyone can be an “instant winner” and an “overnight success” if we would just go faster and work harder. But our nonstop busyness can easily cloud our vision. We’re living faster and working faster, but what for? “Without vision, we can so easily confuse speed with progress, adrenaline with purpose, and urgency with importance” (Holden, 2005, p. 9).

“’We all pay for our mad rush, our blind push, our hurried lives,’ wrote Jonathon Lazear, author of Meditations for Men Who Do Too Much…Vision must always lead the pace, otherwise we are simply fast-forwarding to nowhere in particular” (Holden, 2005, p. 10).

If we don’t get off the Manic Society bus every once in a while, we will lose our sanity while letting life go by. In the process of chasing the “dream”, whatever it may be, we’ll miss out on actually living and experiencing it.

Sound bite: “If we never stop, we end up skimming the surface of life; our time disappears and we miss the richness, depth, and texture of each occasion” (Holden, 2005, p.13).

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.

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.

A 24/7 Mindset about Work is Bad for Your Health

Companies and organizations want employees who are fully engaged at work. Work engagement has been shown to be related to positive organizational outcomes (Sonnentag, Mojza, Binnewies, & Scholl, 2008, citing Salanova et al., 2005). However, if you are someone who is always thinking about work (even during time off work) your health might be negatively affected.

Work engagement is defined as ‘‘a positive, fulfilling work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigour, dedication, and absorption’’ (Sonnentag et al., 2008, p. 259, citing Schaufeli, Bakker, & Salanova, 2006).

Sonnentag et al. (2008) studied 159 workers from five German organizations in various industries. Workers were asked to complete surveys twice a week, at the beginning and the end of four consecutive working weeks. The researchers confirmed earlier findings that engagement at work and disengagement from work during time off the job both predicted workers’ affective states.

The study found that detaching psychologically from work, when you’re off work, is especially important when work engagement is high. It makes common sense to understand that employees who are highly engaged need time off the job to unwind and distance themselves from their work. The researchers recommend focusing on activities not related to work.

Sound bite: Being able to balance between high engagement at work (being “on”) and high disengagement from work (being “off”) will help protect employees’ well-being. Approaching work with a 24/7 mindset “is a double-edged sword that in the end might threaten employee health and well-being” (Sonnentag et al., 2008, p. 273.)

References

Salanova, M., Agut, S. & Peiro, J.M. (2005). Linking organizational resources and work engagement to employee performance and customer loyalty: The mediation of service climate. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90, 1217-

Schaufeli, W.B., Bakker, A.B. & Salanova, M. (2006). The measurement of work engagement with a short questionnaire. A cross-national study. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 66, 701

Sonnentag S., Mojza, E.J., Binnewies, C., & Scholl, A. (2008). Being engaged at work and detached at home: A week-level study on work engagement, psychological detachment, and affect. Work & Stress, 22(3), 257-276.

Positive Emotions Are Good for Business

In today’s tough economy, when resources and rewards are few, creating and maintaining positive emotions in the workplace (e.g. making workers feel valued and engaged) can be a valuable investment that an organization can make.

Shapiro (2009) maintains that this emotional investment improves relationships in the workplace and encourages satisfying, long-lasting agreements. When companies fail to foster these types of relationships, negative communications and conflicts arise.

Shapiro noted in his work with organization and government leaders that there are FIVE predictable core concerns:

  1. Appreciation: recognition of value
  2. Affiliation: emotional connection others
  3. Autonomy: freedom to feel, think, or decide
  4. Status: standing compared to others
  5. Role: job label & related activities

He said that once these concerns are appropriately and proactively addressed, companies “can steer a potentially negative conversation to a positive place” (Shapiro, 2009, p. 30).

Sound Bite: By promoting and modeling emotional well-being in your organization, you’ll get more value out of the good times and do a better job of overcoming the bad.

Reference

Shapiro, D. (2009). Why repressing emotions is bad for business. Harvard Business Review, 87(11), 30.