In recent years, wellbeing has earned a special place in the heart of HR departments. It’s a new tool that we’re beginning to use in the various organizational situations we encounter. And, because it’s a new tool, the forger sometimes forgets to send the instructions for use, therefore it’s placed on the “good tool for everything” pedestal and it’s incorrectly used, as in the hilarious situation in which a craftsman is pinning nails with the pliers.
The objective of this endeavor is not to unveil the components of a successful wellbeing program, this is something we’ll talk about on another occasion, but rather look at its internal positioning and the connections of a wellbeing initiative in an organization.
"Psychological wellbeing" is an internal context that’s oriented towards individual balance, taking up a coherent space that’s provided by the multiple layers that make it up: life quality (health, objectives, values, friends, learning, supporting, community, etc), individual resources, personal and professional life balance, the impact and internal resources of burnout and spillover management, the relationship between request and resources etc.
Defining it correctly will not only provide coherence and convergence, but it will also keep the project in the concrete river bed of things that matter for the objectives defined by the program. Please note that, in order not to fall into derision, all of your subsequent initiatives will have to address "psychological wellbeing" on various components of internal interest.
For now, that’s all about the space it can fill, as we move on to seeing what a wellbeing program connects to, from an internal perspective.
Whether we want to or not, experience has shown that, when we choose to address individual wellbeing, as we previously defined it, we have the chance to influence and bring about a change in the employee - organization relationship on individual parameters such as: state of belonging, willingness to stay, the positive manner in which each person relates to the organization, the degree to which he wishes to use his/her potential in relation to you, the desire to invest extra miles etc.
Does this sound familiar? Probably many of you are already thinking about engagement. And for those of you who are makers of strategy, this is in direct relationship with performance and results. How do I position myself? What’s the strategic approach to this subject?
You can choose, as the main purpose, either to increase such individual parameters (engagement), or to have a genuine approach that matters to the individual (psychological wellbeing). And we, the individuals, have receptors strong enough to detect authentic contexts, that are interested in our own good, the same receptors that tell us when to stay away from glazed-type constructions.
In the organizational context, there may be, at some point, too many profit goals and too few people oriented ones, related to creating favorable contexts for individual development and balancing. Sometimes, in the internal organizational speech, we talk too much about “external customer service” and little about “internal customer service”.
If I had to choose, the impact in engagement should be a natural consequence type of impact and not an end in itself.
The relationship between two individuals or the individual-organization one is a process, a continuous exchange of ideas and states. All of our actions in this perpetual transfer bear emotions and create a halo, an emotional imprint on every participant.
Introspection 1: What does the emotional imprint of each of the people in your organization/team look like?// Is it a positive or a negative one?//Is the organization (macro-climate) or the team (micro-climate) a supplier of negative or positive emotions?
John Gottman talks about the “emotional bank account”, i.e. you can look at the people in the team/organization, as two interconnected accounts, and each one is doing daily operations: withdrawals and deposits. Is the balance, at the end of the day/year, a positive or a negative one? Probably different balances, from one case to another.
Introspection 2: What kind of an emotional imprint do you (manager or organization) generate? Who are the contributors of positive or negative "emotional bank account"? // Do you (manager, organization) know when you last made a withdrawal? What about a deposit? // How does a negative "emotional bank account" reflect in the individual desire of the people around to use their potential in relation to you (manager, organization)? // What is the collective potential, the latent energies that remain unused?
We became used to saying individual - organization relationship, as if the organization is an abstract, fluid, bodiless identity. But the body, the spearhead of the organization, consists of other people, the ones in its essential joints, who are creators or who manage contexts. Therefore, when someone talks about an organization or chooses to leave it, he doesn't essentially leave an abstract entity, but leaves other people, who generate inappropriate contexts for him.
Getting back to the wellbeing programs, no doubt, when properly strategized and implemented, they are positive "emotional bank account" contributors and create a positive emotional mark.
But, for some teams or organizations, a wellbeing program might just be too small of a patch to stop an emotional haemorrhage, that's generated daily by a faulty manager-team relationship or by a "job demands/job resources" incoherence.
But what does incoherent emotional relationship or faulty job demands/job resources management mean?
Here are a few coordinates that sound too familiar for some of those living inside an organization: I'm often criticized in public, my boss has a predisposition for favoritism, he focuses only on mistakes, he's avoiding, blames everybody else for his decisions, shows lack of confidence in my abilities, speaks badly about colleagues with other team members, and the list could go on.
But here are a few positive components: I have a clear understanding of my role and how it connects to the strategy, the results, I get rewards and recognition, my expectations are clarified, I receive direction and guidance, I'm treated with respect and honesty, there's coherence in the behaviors that are delivered towards me, my boss positions himself as an unbiased mediator, etc. You've encountered all of the above when talking to engagement measurements specialists.
Drawing a first intermediate conclusion, can we link the two concepts so far, mathematically, into the "wellbeing+engagement= sustainability" equation?
WHAT DO THE STUDIES SAY?
Studies (Robertson& Cooper 2010) show that engagement can be brought to a desirable level, when it's propelled by high "psychological wellbeing".
Robertson& Birch (2010) tell us that, if organizations only target dedication and discretionary effort capacity, without looking after and encouraging "psychological wellbeing", their initiatives will have a limited impact.
Other studies by Towers Watson (Fairhurst& O'Connor 2010) show that, when the two interact on a constant and coherent basis, they can predict a good result: the ones that are "highly engaged", with high levels of wellbeing, are much more productive, while the "highly engaged" ones, but with low wellbeing levels, are more likely to leave the organization.
"Psychological wellbeing" and "engagement" are two entities in direct relationship, that influence and strengthen each other, both acting on the individual emotional mark, through infusions of positive or negative emotions. That's why the programs you have decided to implement need to address both areas in a balanced manner, thus creating an articulate, coherent and meaningful internal context.
The resulting positive account statement will impact on people's desire to talk about the climate they are experiencing in a positive way, on their wish to stay and use their potential - competence in relation to you or to invest extra-miles.
Otherwise, people can choose to leave the organization. What do you have to lose? Just a name or hard-to-build competence?
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