A little less than a year ago, our family grew by one when we brought home the sweetest little Jack Russell puppy that my wife lovingly named Gherkin. Yes, Gherkin as in the little pickle (see photo from when Gherkin first met another gherkin.) From day one, we knew he was a special dog given his innate curiosity, strong independence and love of others. While I have had independent and affectionate dogs before, I am continually amazed at the curiosity, rather than fear, for the unknown that our little guy exudes.
I was reminded of this the other night while eating dinner at home when I spun a coaster on the wooden table and it made an intriguing sound as its spin slowed and it eventually came to rest. I looked down to see Gherkin staring up towards something he could not see that was making a sound he had never heard before. As I spun the coaster again, his interest piqued and he stood on his hind legs trying in vain to better understood what his ears were experiencing for the first time. Did I mention he weighs 14 pounds and is built like a Dachshund?
As a loving father, I picked him up and while he almost pulled away in fear of the unknown, his desire to understand overcame his trepidation. As his eyes cleared the table top and I spun the coaster one more time his head cocked to the side, his ears perked up and then he looked back at me with a very clear, ‘alright, I’m good now’ look and jumped down to the floor and ran off to finish his own dinner.
In that moment I was reminded how powerful it can be when rather than shying away from things we don’t understand, we make a mindful decision to stay open and explore the unknown.
So what does this mean for those of us honored with the privilege of leading people as well as organizations? It means being open to new ideas that lead to ground breaking innovation rather than shying away from an unknown that may bring potential risk. It means being curious, rather than averse, to people who bring backgrounds or personalities that we may not understand. It means fostering a culture of inclusion where all employees and customers feel welcome, valued and safe.
The list or organizational and leadership implications could go on and on, but as I type this, there’s a little pickle that keeps pushing his favorite R2D2 tug-toy against my leg begging for some play time.
So the next time you find yourself being apprehensive about a new project, a customer that you can’t figure out, a teammate who you clash with or an employee who just doesn’t seem to get it, take a lesson from the adorable Gherkin and turn that feeling into curiosity. Within no time you will find that once faced, the fear is alleviated and you too can get back to the important things like leading your team, serving your customers or, like Gherkin, finishing your dinner!
Interested in learning about how Perspectives helps organizations foster inclusive cultures where curiosity thrives? Click here to connect with Jonathan.
People often come in to speak with EAP counselors feeling that they have a “Work/Life Balance” issue. Traditionally, the responsibility for correcting this “imbalance” is placed solely on the employee, such as exercise and meditation and scheduling free time but more employers are jumping on board to become a part of the solution.
One of my clients reached out to the EAP to address a myriad of stress management concerns: she was experiencing dissatisfaction on the job after returning to work from a 6 month maternity leave, was working through marital stress related to the adjustment to having a baby, and was struggling with work deadlines. She loves her job but wants more flexibility in her schedule. However, she fears that asking for assistance from her co-workers and boss might lead them to believe she is not capable of doing her job. This, by the way, is very common.
We all experience difficult periods in our lives and EAP can help to address the “Life” parts of “Work/Life Balance” such as family and relationships. Many employers can and are willing to consider making a few simple accommodations like adjusting employees’ schedules to help with daycare or allowing the returning employee to work from home (if the job allows for it.) These can reduce some of the tension in the employee’s marriage and lessen the financial burden for the employee but also allow the employer to retain an engaged employee.
So what’s preventing the client from addressing the situation with his/her manager or employer?
Well, as I mentioned earlier, the employee has some responsibility for having this conversation but that is easier if the organizational culture supports open and safe communications where employees feel that asking for help is okay. Here are 3 things that employers can do to establish this kind of positive caring workplace:
- Offer Open Communication Just like parenting, management can encourage openness and trust in open communication, so that both work and personal problems are addressed in a timely fashion. It also helps if managers begin to have these conversations before someone takes any kind of planned absence. Although things can change while someone is away from work, this at least gives a message that it is okay to talk about this.
- Clarify Work Expectations Things still have to get done. Set expectations with the employee when making arrangements, and evaluate which aspects can be flexible. The key is to listen to the employee before making any judgments. Usually, our preconceived notions about things are different from what the employee is looking for.
- Cultivate Acceptance and Community Help co-workers establish kindness and respect for other people’s difficulties, while maintaining professional boundaries. An organization can be a huge source of support and co-workers can be very helpful in someone’s adjustment to varying life events. Obviously though this needs to be done with care to respect the person’s privacy.
Sometimes we try so hard to keep life out of work that we forget that work is a part of life. Work does not have to add to the stress. Quite the contrary, it can be a place where an employee can derive support. And how can that hurt? It only increases the loyalty of the employee which therefore, can lead to higher engagement and productivity.
I recently dealt with the long illness of my father which culminated in his death. During that time, I found it difficult to retain a focus on my work. Death is a fact of life, and the circumstances and impact vary for each individual. Yet we do have to continue with our daily lives and careers. Maintaining productivity at work while coping with a loss can be quite a challenge.
Companies do allow for bereavement time which usually is between 3 and 5 days. But does this allow time for one to properly deal with the loss and yet remain productive at work?
The following three tips are helpful in coping with loss while working:
- Share your struggles with your boss: Letting your boss know how you are doing and what you may need is an excellent start. You can do this by meeting with him/her and gauging flexibility in the process. This will allow you to openly discuss how you are feeling and what the expectations the boss might have of you. If a meeting is not possible then a phone call or a letter might be helpful. You may be surprised at how open to your needs your boss may be in terms of timetable for return to full speed, flexibility of work deadlines or via allowing you to have extra breaks.
- Take extra time for yourself to practice stress management techniques when not at work: During non-work hours, taking time to use your current coping strategies can help you while at work. Some of these things can include joining a support group, taking walks, reaching out to friends or family, prayer/meditation; just to name a few.
- Connect with one or two co-workers who can be “back up” for you if necessary: Choose coworkers that you trust who can be called upon during times when you may need an “ear” or “shoulder to cry on”. They can also help in a practical way when you may need help in meeting a deadline or providing coverage.
Taking care of yourself during your grieving process is very important, but being productive at work is also important. For some, immersion in work is helpful, but for others, grief can distract from being productive. Be flexible with yourself and take care to know what works for you. Remember, everybody has different needs, timeframes and ways to work through their loss. Using these few tips above can be a helpful part of the process as you heal through grief.
For further assistance, feel free to reach out to others like friends, family, religious leaders, co-workers or your work’s Employee Assistance Program.
Domestic violence is a personal problem, but it’s also an expensive workplace problem that costs businesses and our economy billions of dollars and contributes to workplace injuries and fatalities.
Domestic violence also known as Intimate Partner Violence, is a pattern of controlling and threatening behavior intended to intimidate and coerce the intended victim. Although men can also be victimized, the most prevalent pattern is men abusing women. It usually begins with emotional or psychological abuse and sometimes can progress to physical harm. The abuser can be a current or former partner.
The time of greatest risk is when the person being abused speaks of or attempts to leave the abusive relationship.
So, why domestic violence has workplace cost and safety ramifications?
- Abusers will usually look for victims at their workplace. If they cannot find them, they are likely to be verbally or physically abusive to other employees.
- 74% of employed battered women were harassed by their partner while at work. This caused 56% of them to be late for work at least five times a month, 28% to leave early at least five days a month, and 54% to miss at least three full days of work a month.
- Those being abused are distracted from their work tasks and experience greater rates of absenteeism and lost productivity. The employer bears the burden of these costs.
- Abusers, including stalkers will use multiple methods to harass their victims, including telephone calls, emails and instant messaging.
- Abusers will also follow their intended victims to work and threaten or harm them as well as vandalize their property.
- While the majority of fatal occupational injuries and deaths impact male employees, female employees experience a greater incidence of workplace injuries and fatalities from intimate partners.
Why domestic violence is expensive for businesses and negatively impacts our entire economy.
According to the NCBI, “Intimate partner violence against women cost $5.8 billion dollars in 1995…including $320 million ($136 to $503 million) for rapes, $4.2 billion ($2.4 to $6.1 billion) for physical assault, $342 million ($235 to $449 million) for stalking, and $893 million ($840 to $946 million) for murders. Updated to 2003 dollars, costs would total over $8.3 billion. Intimate partner violence is costly in the US. The potential savings from efforts to reduce this violence are substantial.”
So, what can employers do to prevent or intervene in this scourge ?
- Develop a policy for your company, “Maintaining a Safe and Respectful Workplace” that will directly addresses workplace and domestic violence and include a safety plan. The policy should include who an employee can contact if they have concerns about themselves or coworkers and emphasize that there will be no retaliation for reporting any concerns. Firing employees who are being stalked or victimized is considered retaliation. Strongly consider having a knowledgeable and experienced consultant available to you for workplace situations causing you concerns before they become menacing or violent. Employee Assistance Professionals are a resource that can assist you with this.
- Provide recurring training to all your employees, including managers, so they know what to do and whom to call should there be a concern or incident. Employee Assistance Professionals are also an excellent resource in development and execution of such training.
- Understand your legal obligations, for example, in Illinois the “VESSA” law requires that employees who are victimized by domestic violence are entitled to time away from work for medical attention, victim services counseling, safety planning and legal assistance. Other states have similar laws. Such laws as they pertain to your business, should be mentioned in your employee training.
As employers, we can make a difference. Education about the issue of domestic violence and resources to confidentially assist those in need of help are two of the most effective ways to do this.
With business’s today facing rapidly increasing benefit costs, demand for lower cost alternatives have provided insurance embedded EAP’s an expanded window of opportunity to compete with full service EAP’s.
Similar to real estate where value is based on “location, location, location, location”, EAP’s value for many companies is “utilization, utilization, utilization.”
Our greatest exposure to embedded products is in those markets such as manufacturing and banking who traditionally have low utilization, often due to the majority of employees whose positions are directly involved in daily production not having access to the full suite of services. It is much harder to prove value to the customer, and often their broker partner, when only 5%-10% of the employee population is using our service offerings. It is a much easier argument when 40%- 60% or more of the employees are engaged.
How can we make help customers understand and appreciate the value? Here are three suggestions:
- Try and establish what the company’s senior executive, HR, and Operations team’s perceived value of the EAP is. You may often find that their points of view differ. For example, does the senior team view the EAP only as a required recruitment benefit similar to health & welfare plans? Does HR see real value in having a partner that works with them to assist troubled employees? Do Operations view the EAP as interfering with production? It is also important that you understand what value the customer brings to its clients so that our service offerings are in sync with company goals. Having as much of the above information as possible can be very helpful in obtaining value alignment which often results in internal support and promotion of the EAP and increased utilization.
- Understand the makeup of the employee base that will be using EAP services and, where possible, tailor promotional materials to their needs. A hospital versus manufacturing versus a school system has unique needs driven by their respective business goals. The stressors of a production line are very different from those of a nurse or teacher and tailored materials and services help our HR liaison and employees understand how we can assist them while adding value to their company.
- When discussing utilization, make sure we tell a story that weaves in the value of our internal liaisons’ assistance in promoting the program. Use a few success stories. A story of an employee whose life has been improved through an interaction with the EAP also helps the customer see an employee whose value to the business has been saved and helps their bottom line.
Embedded EAP’s will continue to appeal to those customers who are primarily interested in the cost of an EAP program but for many of our customers this is an opportunity to frame and expand the value of our services.
Birthdays have a way of causing us to reflect and think about where we are, where we have come from and where we are going. And last week I had that opportunity as I celebrated my birthday. Ironically, it coincides with the beginning of Perspectives’ 35th year in business. What this means is that for over 34 years, Perspectives has been helping people and companies with issues that affect their personal or professional lives. I am proud that I have been involved in creating Perspectives and that we have helped thousands of people and organizations grow and thrive.
I feel very lucky to have been in the right spot at the right time to create something that has had such a positive impact on people. And I feel grateful that I have met so many people along the way who have helped me to grow. There have been many folks I have reached out to over my long career who have been more than willing to candidly give me their thoughts and feedback. It wasn’t always what I was hoping to hear but it was sincere and offered in the spirit of friendship.
There are a lot of secret sauces if you will but the most important ingredient to our success, as with any other organization, has been the people on the Perspectives team, many of whom I had known prior to their coming aboard. While I am grateful for the recognition and awards we’ve won for being a best workplace, there is no doubt in my mind that Perspectives wouldn’t be the success it is today if it wasn’t for our people.
I guess I should take some of the credit. It’s like an orchestra. I may be the conductor but without exceptional instrumentalists who really know their craft and how they each fit into the overall piece, there would be no music.
I must admit that when I received my graduate degree in social work at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration I had no idea where I would be today.
Here are a some things that I have learned over this long career and I hope will help others who are starting out today.
- Have a long term “perspective” (I don’t mean to be a shameless huckster in using this term). There will be successes and failures. Learn from both and make adjustments rather than celebrating too much or beating the heck out of yourself.
- Don’t take things personally or hold grudges. They never work and usually come back to haunt you.
- Always try and understand where the other person is coming from irrespective of whether they are your colleague, employee, partner, customer or prospect. That way you will be giving people what they want and need v. what you think they want and need.
- Give back, ALWAYS. It never hurts and most of the time helps. How can it ever be a bad thing to help someone out in need? Whether that is someone right out of school looking for guidance or help in finding employment, a customer or prospect who is not sure what s/he is looking for for her organization or a cause that you feel passionate about, if we can put out good deeds into the world, it will be a better place for all of us.
- Ask questions rather than being quick to give answers. That works for a lot of reasons. First of all, as I mentioned above, the first impulse many of us have is to tell people what we think they need. Asking really helps to avoid that mistake. Secondly, it is a great teaching tool and as leaders we should always be trying to empower those that work for us to be independent minded. To grow our organizations, we will be severely limited if we have to do everything ourselves.
- Be humble. When things go well, be the first to give credit to others and when things don’t go well, be the first to take responsibility.
Sounds good and easy, doesn’t it? Well, make no mistakes. I have had to learn these things and often by first failing. That may feel bad but failure and making mistakes can be a humbling experience. This is where I have learned the most and where I have cemented my relationships with others. People like it when they see you as a real person who is fallible.
Hopefully this helps. I’ve had a great 30 years and am looking for ward to having many more.
“I need help.” Are we ready as organizations to respond to our good performers when they come to us with these three simple words? CC Sabathia, a pitcher for the New York Yankees, wondered the same thing last October, when on the eve of the baseball playoffs, he went into his manager’s office finally ready to speak these words. This 6’7’’ man who had performed in front of sold out stadiums and pitched in World Series was, per his article “My Toughest Out” in The Players’ Tribune, more scared to utter these words than anything he’d ever faced on the field. Yet Yankees manager Joe Girardi, knowing he would be losing a key arm for the playoffs, said, “We’re with you. 100 percent.”
And so Sabathia entered treatment for alcoholism and missed the 2015 MLB playoffs.
As Sabathia admits, it would have been easier and drawn less attention to him to wait til after the playoffs to deliver this news, but he knew how easy it would also be to then talk himself out of admitting the need for help. He was more scared of drinking again than he was of what people thought of him. He finally was ready to act on his addiction. He knew he needed to act now.
The question this raises is whether we are as ready at our organizations to respond affirmatively and immediately as the Yankees did. Specifically:
Does our substance abuse policy include encouragement for coming forth with a problem or merely focus on what happens if employees are caught under the influence?
- Do we have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in place? Is it visible? Available immediately anytime? Does it provide evaluation, referral, treatment planning, aftercare monitoring and return-to-work planning for substance abuse cases?
And as important, does the culture in our organizations allow that employees are human and may need help at some time in their lives, whether with addiction, mental health or other family issues? Does leadership make this value known? Because once Sabathia came to grips with his need for support, the largest barrier for pursuing it was the shame and embarrassment he felt at saying those three simple words. But he did. And the Yankees were ready. And now they have a valuable employee returned to health.
Last April I posted a piece on the Germanwings air disaster in which I encouraged employers to bring mental health issues out of the closet and encourage employees to seek help and make mental health a wellness priority. I also encouraged employers to use their EAP to promote and assist in maintaining good mental health. Well, today the final report by France’s Bureau of Investigations and Analyses came out and the results pretty much corroborate what I and many others have been saying. It’s about time. Now, let’s see if these suggestions will be implemented.
Here are some of the findings that I think are relevant to this issue:
- There must be stricter monitoring and reporting guidelines for the mental health of pilots. This would include redefining when doctors must warn authorities that a pilot’s mental health may endanger public safety.
- Pilots with mental health issues should be monitored closely and that they allow pilots to fly while using antidepressants.
- Airlines should allow and promote peer support programs that are confidential and, although EAPs are not included in the report, I do believe that the airlines should be required to have these highly effective programs.
- Random testing for alcohol and specified controlled substances is also on the table but has been resisted by pilots’ unions outside of the US.
There were many more such recommendations made but in terms of the mental health issue, these are the most relevant. So, will we finally see the value of destigmatizing mental health and providing resources for assistance? I hope so because it is clear to me that if we could do that, we would avoid and, at the very least minimize the likelihood of these types of incidents to occur.
For more information on how you can help to get your employer, congressperson or trade association to advocate for bringing this out in the open, please contact me, Bernie Dyme at email@example.com.
Does workplace stress really matter? All of us have to do more at work with fewer resources these days. So why are so many companies implementing a plethora of ‘solutions’ to reduce the amount of stress their employees are experiencing at work? I say ‘solutions’ because my experience has shown that rather than addressing workplace stress at the root, what most companies throw at the problem is more of a band-aid for a symptom rather than a solution for the problem.
Think of it this way, if your child was repeatedly falling while riding her bike, wouldn’t you want to figure out why she was falling vs. continuing to only put bandages on her scraped knees? Of course sometimes band-aids are definitely needed to address the outcomes of workplace stress, but if that is the only solution, you may be wasting resources and employees’ time….while likely exacerbating the very issues you’re looking to resolve.
Recently, I was at a client company who had identified workplace stress as an issue in more than 80% of their workforce on a recent Employee Engagement survey. When asked their response to this alarming statistic, I was told that the company had started offering yoga classes to their employees in the morning, was providing periodic all-staff luncheons and even closing the office early occasionally to take everyone bowling on the company’s dime. When I asked about how the stress levels were now that these costly initiatives had been implemented, she mentioned that employees were feeling more stressed now than before. It is very possible that the reason for this was the well-intending organization was responding only to the fact that their people were stressed and not what was causing that stress?
This unfortunately is an all too common reaction to addressing workplace stress. Stress in and of itself is an outcome variable, like job satisfaction or employee engagement. In order to improve any of these outcome variables, you need to know more about what the cause might be. Now, historically, job satisfaction and employee engagement have been outcome variables that can be impacted thanks to the growing industry of engagement and opinion survey providers. The beauty of these vendors and their assessment tools lies in their ability to identify exactly what it is that is causing the undesirable levels of job satisfaction of engagement. Until recently though, no such assessment tool existed for workplace stress….at least not that I am aware of.
Thankfully though this paradigm was changed last year when TTI Success Insights, a strategic partner of Perspectives, developed the Stress Quotient which is a tool that provides actionable data related to workplace stress. This assessment not only quantifies the overall levels of stress felt by individuals, teams and organizations, but it measures how stress impacts respondents and identifies exactly how or what may be causing the stress.
As you can imagine, once a company understands what is having the biggest impact on the levels of stress their people are experiencing, they can strategically determine how to utilize resources that positively impact the morale, culture, productivity, engagement and overall wellbeing of their people.
When the client I mentioned above had their team take the Stress Quotient, it turned out that demands of the job and time management were some of the biggest causes of the stress that over80% of their workforce was experiencing. With this information, it immediately became clear why the ‘solutions’ they’d implemented (yoga classes, team lunches, shortened workdays for bowling) were in reality compounding the very thing they were meant to reduce. The good news was that the survey results allowed us to help them devise some targeted interventions at a fraction of the cost that will reduce workplace stress in a way that is relevant for everyone!
QUICK CLIP – To learn more about the Stress Quotient, take a minute to check out a brief interview TTI Success Insights did with yours truly by clicking the following: Perspectives and the Stress Quotient. You can also read about the instrument.
If you want more information, about the Stress Quotient or wish to have a complimentary assessment for a team of your choosing, please reach out directly to Jonathan Eisler at JEisler@Perspectivesltd.com.
Tags: culture, employee engagement, employee engagement survey, job satisfaction, job stress, Perspectives, Perspectives Ltd, productivity, Stress, stress quotient, time management, workplace culture, workplace stress
Well, another week of violence in the workplace. Really, again. It seems like this occurs quite frequently. This time it happened at a lawn care company in Kansas. The shooter killed 3 people and injured 10 more. No need to repeat old mantras about statistics or how bad these events are. We already know that and have said it again and again.
What we really need to do is emphasize is PREVENTION & POSTVENTION. Employers have an obligation to protect their employees from things that can cause injury or death and maintain a safe workplace. Obviously workplace violence is one of those things.
So, what can be done. We have written a number of posts over the years on this topic but we want to highlight the important things you, as an employer, can do (see our post from 3/31/2011). These include:
- Develop a workplace violence policy
- Establish a threat notification system & threat response team
- Provide training through HR to ensure that all supervisors and employees know the policy & the threat response
- Make certain that the grievance procedures are in place and clearly spelled out. (Use training to insure that employees know how to access them. The company has to follow the policy to convince the employees that their concerns will be addressed promptly and confidentially.)
- Provide training through the employee assistance program (EAP) to reduce interpersonal conflict, stress management and anger management
- Encourage employees to use the EAP
Further, leadership can do all in its power to create a culture:
- That doesn’t tolerate bad or disrespectful behavior from any of its employees, customers or vendors.
- In which safety and transparency is the key ingredient, allowing all employees the ability to ask for and seek help. This enables those feeling threatened to get assistance without fear of reprisals and those who have concerns about work conditions a place to air them and get them resolved. Making use of HR; ongoing manager training on what to look for, dealing with difficult employees and when to get help is also valuable. It is also helpful to have EAP services.
- Allows people to enjoy coming to work because the atmosphere is comfortable and fun.
In terms of helping your employees to know what to do when a situation like the Kansas event occurs, there are a number of training videos available but one I think is very good was created by the City of Houston. It is called “Run, Hide, Fight. Surviving an Active Shooter Event“ and provides examples of what employees should do.
Another resource is the Department of Homeland Security which has other videos that can help.
For a complete guide to dealing with workplace violence, go to our website and download “Emotional First Aid after a Trauma or Crisis” or call Perspectives at 1.800.866.7556.