Archive for category Work Performance
In recent HR publications, there has been a new addiction highlighted. This addiction is becoming more and more common and is typically seen in a positive light but can certainly have detrimental effects. Workaholism affects an estimated 30% of the general population and is characterized by a dependence on work (Elowe, 2009). A recent Harvard Business Review study produced statistics about workaholism: nearly 35% of higher earners work more than 60 hours per week and 10% work an average of 80 hours per week. An extreme worker is one who works 60 hours per week with tight deadlines and may have lots of subordinates and responsibility for profit (Pfadenhauer, 2007).
Workaholism is similar to other addictions in many respects. Workaholics may sneak around work, they may lose interest in other activities, and they may constantly think about how much they prefer to be working. Workaholics even have the perfect vices to keep them in contact with work – smart phones and laptops. In addition, the workaholic is further bred by a culture that reinforces success, overachieving, and the importance of accomplishments. Most workers who fall into this “workaholic” or “extreme” worker category are given constant praise, opportunities, and higher wages (Osterweil & Hitti, 2011).
So, higher wages, being successful – wow! Sounds great! Now, what’s the flip side? Well, there are negative implications of workaholism as well. Certainly, there have been notable effects on ones’ health; the workaholic may experience higher rates of anger, depression, anxiety, and even psychosomatic issues. In addition to these unpleasant effects on ones’ health, the workaholic may strain or even ruin family relationships and friendships (Osterweil & Hitti, 2011).
Much like other addictions, workaholics are often in denial. Remember, this is the worker who refuses to take time off of work, thinks about how much they want to be at work while on their cruise, or puts off their son’s games to meet important deadlines. Big picture: they are so embedded in work that they can’t even imagine asking for help or setting better boundaries (Osterweil & Hitti, 2011).
There are some small steps that employers can take to encourage employees to enjoy a work-life balance. Only allow personal time off (vacation, sick, personal, etc) to accrue so high. Also, consider not allowing employees to “cash out” their accrued time so they “use it or lose it.” Don’t set precedence that hours worked correlates to more success in the company. Acknowledge that your healthier, happier employees will likely be more efficient.
Are you a workaholic? Take this quiz…
Daniél C. Kimlinger, MHA
Human Resources Specialist
Elowe, J. (2010). Workaholism: Between Illusion and Addiction [Abstract]. Clinique Psychiatrique, 4(36), 285-293.
Osterweil, N., & Hitti, M. (2011). Are You a Workaholic? You might as well face it — you’re addicted to work. Could your workaholism be hurting you? In Health and Balance. Retrieved April 19, 2011, from WebMD website: http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/are-you-a-workaholic
Pfadenhauer, D. (2007, June 4). Workaholism, the New Addiction. In Strategic HR Lawyer. Retrieved April 19, 2011, from EP Advisors website: http://www.strategichrlawyer.com/weblog/2007/06/workaholism_the.html
Employee stress is thought to be the leading health risk in the workplace and a serious hazard. The American Institute of Stress states that in the United States, about one million people are absent from work each day because of stress (American Institute of Stress, 2004). This has also resulted in more than 10 billion dollars in lost workdays for executives. Although it is difficult to be anything more than supportive to your employees dealing with their personal stressors, managers may be “key” in helping their employees deal with workplace stress (Collie, 2005).
The following are common workplace stressors identified by the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health (Collie, 2005):
- “The Treadmill Syndrome” - Employees experiencing this problem feel that they can never finish their tasks, they have too much to do, and need a 24-hour workday.
Possible Solutions: Check in with your employees often about their workloads. Don’t assume that everyone is comfortable with the same workload. If there are complaints over being overwhelmed, consider another hire for help or delegating tasks.
- Constant Interruptions - This stressor occurs when the employee feels that they cannot finish their work due to constant interruptions including phone calls, demanding supervisors, and constant foot-traffic into the work areas.
Possible Solutions: Be upfront about frequent interruptions in the early stages of the interview process. If you have an employee who complains about constant interruptions, see what you can do to accommodate a better workspace for them. This may include moving their desk, allowing them to turn their phone off and perhaps even working remotely.
- Uncertainty - This occurs when changes constantly occur without reason and clear communication.
Possible Solutions: Keep employees informed! Those three words are so important to keep your employees’ uncertainty nerves calmed. Whether they are large or small changes, communicate them. Even if they do not feel that the changes are significant, they will appreciate the efforts.
- Feelings of Mistrust and Unfairness - When employees cannot trust management, their performance suffers and stress increases.
Possible Solutions: Treat all of your employees fairly. The truth is, treating even one favorably or unfavorably affects everyone’s morale. Be sure to be honest with employees when they ask questions, and if you cannot communicate the answer, tell them that.
- Unclear Company Focus and Policies - When policies are ambiguous and employees are uncertain of the company focus, employees begin to stress.
Possible Solutions: Keep your policies in a working document and communicate the changes with the employees. If large changes occur, offer training so employees understand the policies as well as the reasoning behind them.
- Ambiguous Communication about Positions - When employees stress about whether or not their positions are secure they begin to feel helpless.
Possible Solutions: Wouldn’t you want to know that your job is secure? Of course! So do your employees! Be honest about struggles that could affect the business but be reassuring whenever possible. You will likely lose your best employees first if feelings of job uncertainty are lingering around the office.
- Lack of Feedback – When employees have no idea if they are meeting expectations, how they can improve, and how they are performing, stress results.
Possible Solutions: There are mixed reviews of standard performance appraisals but feedback is still important. Consider implementing regular meetings with your employees on a monthly or quarterly basis. Also, consider feedback on the spot when appropriate. This allows employees to evaluate where they are and how they are doing.
- Lack of Appreciation - When management fails to show employees that they are appreciated, employees begin to stress, compromising future initiatives on the employees’ part.
Possible Solutions: Why put forth any extra effort if it’s not noticed? Show your employees that you appreciate them; this can be as simple as utilizing “thank you” or holding an employee appreciation event.
- Inadequate Communication - When communication within an organization is poor, employees don’t know what to think, rumors begin, and so does stress.
Possible Solutions: Communication seems simple, but it wouldn’t be a stressor if it was a given. Communication doesn’t only refer to the top-down approach but also from the front-line up. Bottom-up communication not only shows employees that the managers care, but may also bring forth some great suggestions and ideas to the management.
- Inability to Control - The most commonly cited stressor within the workplace is the feeling of no control. Employees may stress about their lack of control over the outcome of a project or inability to contribute.
Possible Solutions: Involve the employees in decision-making, who knows the work better than they do? Employees love when their individual contributions fit into the big picture.
Dani Kimlinger, MHA
Human Resources Specialist
Collie, D. (2005, August). Top Ten Workplace Stressors. HillsOrient. Retrieved from http://www.hillsorient.com/articles/2005/08/202.html
The American Institute of Stress. (2004). Job Stress. Retrieved from http://www.stress.org/job.htm
How to make 2011 a successful year for you and your employees
Dr. David Javitch wrote a wonderful article published at Entrepreneur.com that I would like to share. As resolutions/goals are a popular topic at years end, his highlights can give a a great foundation for setting goals relative to your employees.
For example, he mentions that cross training employees can help motivate them and allow them to assist collegues in completing new tasks. Their value and and responsibility will naturally increase while motivating them.
You can find the entire article and the other tips here.
Posted by Ian Holtz, Manager at MINES and Associates.
Posted by minesblog in Anxiety, BizPsych, business psychology, C Level, Centering, CEO, education, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), Leadership, Managed Behavioral Health Care, Management, Meditation, Mines and Associates, Parenting, Psychology of Performance, Stress management, substance abuse, Supervisor, The MINES Team, Tips, Work Performance on October 21, 2010
Gina Kolata wrote an outstanding article in the New York Times on the psychological and behavioral aspects of the psychology of performance that I want to pass on to you. She has a number of points that are useful in business as well as personally.
Have a day filled with equanimity
Robert A. Mines, Ph.D.
CEO and Psychologist
A Denver police detective, who also heads up the wellness and employee assistance program for the officers, was visiting with a fellow officer when he learned that the officer’s kidneys were failing. He started a drive to search for a donor for his fellow officer and the search lead to himself. What an incredible story of selflessness and compassion. Thanks to the Denver Post you can read the entire story here:
Posted By Ian Holtz, Manager BizDev at MINES and Associates
Posted by minesblog in Alcoholism, Anxiety, BizPsych, business psychology, C Level, Centering, CEO, depression, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), Leadership, Managed Behavioral Health Care, Management, Mines and Associates, Psychology of Performance, Stress management, substance abuse, Supervisor, The MINES Team, Tips, Work Performance on September 20, 2010
In his book The Mindful Therapist, Dr. Dan Siegel discusses the role of mirror neurons in actions that have a perceived intention behind them. He stated that the mirror neurons function as a bridge between sensory input and motor output that allows us to mirror the behavior we see someone else enact (p.36). Practically this means that when we see someone drinking from a glass, the mirror neurons become activated (firing off electrical currents called an action potential). If we were to drink from the same glass, the same specific neurons that fired when we saw someone else drinking also become activated. Dr. Siegel said “We see a behavior and get ready to imitate it,” (p.36).
The implications of this line of research are significant for performance. For example, if you watch a movie with alcohol being consumed and you are in recovery, now you have internal neuronal firing similar to drinking the alcohol yourself. Now you have to override the neuronal firing with “white-knuckling it,” or better yet with mindful awareness, or you will increase your probabilities of a relapse.
The upside of this research is that seeing others perform a behavior successfully – mentally rehearsing the image – would theoretically strengthen the neuronal firing and increase the probabilities that you will execute the behavior successfully. This concept is foundational to performance coaching. As coaches, therapists, and bosses we need to think about our current training techniques and how they incorporate watching, rehearsing, and doing as part of the sequence.
Have a day filled with Mindfulness,
Robert A. Mines, Ph.D.
CEO & Psychologist
MINES and Associates
In our consulting through BizPsych (www.BizPsych.com), organizations ask us to assess and intervene with vertical relationship conflicts as well as cross-departmental conflicts on a regular basis. These conflicts are often rooted in unclear accountability and authority for the C-level, vice-presidents, managers, supervisors and front line producers. This creates significant performance and execution problems throughout the organization.
Elliot Jacques, in his numerous publications defined accountability and authority for management at all levels. Accountability and authority establishes where people stand with each other. They determine who is able to say what to whom, and who under given circumstances must say what to whom. They establish who can tell who to do what, especially, in the managerial hierarchy, if one person is being held accountable for what another person does or for the results of what the other person does.
Accountability and authority define the behaviors that are appropriate and necessary in the vertical relationships between managers and their subordinates, and in the horizontal, cross-functional relationships between people. The vertical relationships are the means by which the work that needs to get done is assigned, resourced, and evaluated; cross-functional relationships are the means by which the flow of work across functions gets processed and improved through time.
He noted that it is absolutely imperative that organizational leaders be clear not only about their own decision-making accountability, but they must also make it equally clear for each and every manager below them in the organization. All of these managers must also meet regularly in two-way discussions about major issues with their immediate subordinates, in order to get their help in making decisions for which the manager alone must be accountable. In discussions between managers and subordinates, it is always the manager that is ultimately accountable for decisions. Even when the subordinate has more knowledge than his or her manager on a given matter and tells the manager what he or she thinks should be done; if the manager accepts the subordinate’s view then it becomes the manager’s decision. There will be times in an organization’s growth or life span when a manager may have multiple roles/levels that they are accountable for. The manager may be a manager, a supervisor and a front line producer on a given day if the department or work group is small enough or does not have the resources to accommodate separate levels and roles. This is a situation referred to as “down in the weeds”, “wearing many hats”, or “collapsed strata (time span).” This is not ideal; however, at times it may be the best we can do.
How does your organization define accountability and authority at each role? What impact has the clarity or lack of clarity had on your organizations effectiveness and performance?
Have a day filled with equanimity,
Robert A. Mines, Ph.D.
CEO & Psychologist
Mines and Associates
Posted by minesblog in Alcoholism, Anxiety, BizPsych, business psychology, C Level, CEO, education, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), Leadership, Management, Mines and Associates, Psychology of Performance, Stress management, substance abuse, Supervisor, The MINES Team, Tips, Work Performance on July 22, 2010
How effective are your various business units?
What are your performance indicators?
Do each of your employees get held accountable for the results or just the managers?
All businesses and organizations get to address these questions and do their best to implement solutions depending on the answers. Elliot Jacques and Stephen Clement wrote an especially helpful book, Executive Leadership, which addresses these questions and many more. This posting will address a few of the many nuggets in their book.
One of the recurring BizPsych questions we get to answer and intervene on relates to individual differences in performance. Jacques and Clement argue that role theory accounts for performance more than individual differences such as personality. They add that people perform to their role in very predictable ways. There is a significant amount of social psychology research to support this. Yet in many businesses, individual personality characteristics are looked at for explanatory hypotheses related to performance over clarity of role. Role clarity for a manager – from Jacques and Clements point of view – would include an adequate organizational design, an assumption that the manager has the knowledge, skills, commitment, values of the organization, and cognitive complexity to do the functions of the role. In the role of manager they would have formal accountability for results and authority to allocate resources including staff, budget, and decision capability related to the complexity of the tasks in their role. In addition, they have the interpersonal skills to develop a team of people who think they add value as a manager and are enthusiastic about accomplishing the goals of the business unit. The role clarity for a manager includes organizational support to veto an appointment (their manager has the authority to fire the employee if no other suitable position can be found), decide task assignment, decide personal effectiveness and merit awards, and decide to initiate removal from a role.
If the above conditions are satisfied, Jacques and Clements would predict a higher performance level from that business unit versus those that have role confusion. In our BizPsych division we encounter organization after organization that are addressing these topics in their design. If it comes to dealing with human performance, we are all in continuous recalibration mode.
Have a day filled with loving kindness,
Robert A. Mines, Ph.D.
CEO & Psychologist
When you allow your mind to focus on negative emotions does your performance improve or deteriorate?
Negative emotional states arise from expectation violations and then get potentiated by adding judgments about the negative feelings. Does “whipping yourself” help you improve? I had the opportunity to play in the DAD’s day (Dollars Against Diabetes) golf tournament sponsored by the Colorado Building Trades today. Golf is a wonderful laboratory in which there is a richness of self-talk, expectations, and emotional states available to observe in myself and others. A feature of golf is that each shot actually is independent of all of the other shots one makes (much like many aspects of our work). As we let our self-talk build, it can decrease performance; but, the mind has a wonderful ability reset itself in the moment and let go of the thoughts about the previous shot. Practicing a mindfulness meditation technique of just observing the thoughts, feelings, and physical experiences without judging them and then visualizing the shot (performance) you want can go a long way in improving your performance.
This works in the rest of our life as well
It requires gently returning to this technique each time as the old thought habit patterns return with force until you learn to to redirect and focus on the outcome you want, not the outcome you do not want.
Have a day filled with mindfulness,
Robert A. Mines, Ph.D.
CEO & Psychologist