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Tag Archives for " workplace culture "

Sep 07

3 Proven Psychological Strategies to Add Years to Your Life!

By Dr. Jack Singer | Confidence , Self Improvement , Stress Management

No, we haven’t found the fountain of youth. However, psychologists and neuroscientists have conducted a ton of research regarding how people can flourish in this life and enjoy happiness, while actually extending their lives— in both a physically and mentally healthy way. This post truly captures the essence of the three most powerful, research-based psychological strategies to make this happen – quickly and permanently!

1. Maintain optimistic expectations

Optimistic expectations can help you challenge setbacks that come your way. Neuroscientists have discovered that self-talk can actually re-wire your brain in either a very positive or very negative way, depending on whether it is optimistic or pessimistic. This re-wiring process is called “neuroplasticity.” One of the best ways of changing your thinking is to develop an optimistic interpretation of negative events that you experience.

Burgeoning research by Dr. Martin Seligman (“Learned Optimism”) involved hundreds of studies where people were trained to change their hard-wiring from reacting to disappointing events pessimistically, to reacting optimistically. Thus effectively changing feelings of helplessness and hopelessness (the main contributors to depression) to hope and self-confidence helped them eliminate their feelings of depression.

Many of these studies also show when people develop an optimistic attribution of negative events, they can often recover from the physical challenges associated with chronic depression and anxiety.

So, how do you explain setbacks and unfortunate events to yourself?

How do you persevere and remain resilient under adverse circumstances?

Do you look at setbacks as overwhelming catastrophes or as hurdles that can be overcome?

[Tweet “Be #optimistic, laugh often—build a strong support system. Find out how to extend your life:”]

How Pessimistic People View Setbacks

I refer to this kind of self-talk as “linguistic toxicity.” When bad things happen, pessimistically hard-wired people tell themselves such things as:

  • Internal Cause (“It’s my fault.”)
  • Permanent (“It’s a permanent flaw.”)
  • Pervasive (“It’s always going to be this way for the rest of my life.”)

How Pessimistic People View Good Outcomes

When good things happen to pessimistically hard-wired people, they view it as

  • External Cause (“It was a fluke, or luck.”)
  • Temporary (“This won’t last.”)
  • Exclusive (“I was lucky with this, but the rest of my life is awful.”)

How Optimistic People View Setbacks

I refer to this type of self-talk as “linguistic nutrition.” People who are hard-wired, or learn to give themselves optimistic explanations for setbacks, view them as follows:

  • External Cause (“This was a fluke and an exception to the rule of how things go with me.”)
  • Temporary (“This is a fluke occurrence. It won’t happen again.”)
  • Exclusivity (“I had difficulty dealing with this, but in the rest of my life I am thriving.”)

How Optimistic People View Good Outcomes

People that are optimistic expect good outcomes to occur frequently.

  • Internal Cause (“It’s my skills, work ethic and motivation that caused this to happen.”)
  • Permanent (“I certainly expect good things to continually happen to me.”)
  • Pervasive (“This is just one example in my life where I have the skills and talent to be successful.”)

Obviously, it is extremely important for people who are not hard-wired to attribute unfortunate outcomes in an optimistic sense, to learn how to remove their pessimistic thinking habits, and change them to positive thinking.

2.  Laugh as often as possible

Research on the amazingly powerful effects of laughing on the body and mind started with the groundbreaking book by Norman Cousins (“The Anatomy of an Illness”).  Cousins chronicled how he completely recovered from a terminal diagnosis by laughing out loud several times a day, for at least a few minutes each time.  He produced the humor by watching the funniest videos he could find (“The Three Stooges,” “Candid Camera,” and others) while hospitalized for his illness.

Once he saw how his pain subsided while laughing, he convinced the medical staff to take his blood pre and post laughing episodes.  The results were remarkable.

His symptoms immediately went into remission, and he helped fund massive research projects studying the power effects of laughing and having fun on brain chemistry, and the eradication of physical symptoms.  One of the more modern advocates of the power of bringing fun and humor into ones’ life is Dr. Steve Allen, Jr., a physician and the son of the famous comedian, Steve Allen.

3.  Maintain a strong support system of friends and family

Depression affects nearly 15 million Americans and each year close to 43,000 commit suicide in this country. Recent research into how to minimize depression without using psychotropic medication demonstrates the idea of an “Anti-Depression Toolkit.”

Three powerful tools in the toolkit are are:

a) using healthy self-talk (“linguistic nutrition”)

b) any form of spirituality, including prayer and meditation

c) frequent exercise.

However, the most important “tool” by far is having a caring, empathetic, and non-judgmental support system.  While depressed individuals often lack the energy or motivation to reach out, it is a critical component of mental health. For example, widows and widowers are particularly vulnerable—having lost their soul mate, and they can slip into depression if they do not build an alternative support system. If you suffer from depression, you must also stay away from critical, judgmental, anxiety-provoking, and demanding people. You can always consult with a therapist to decide who to include and exclude from your network.

Research shows that when one has a strong support network their emotional strength grows. This means getting involved with an objective sounding board of like-minded peers, and removing yourself from the isolation that accompanies depression. Social interaction is conducive to a healthy and active lifestyle.

There you have it. Do you want to build amazing resilience to stress, add joy to your life, and extend your well-being far more than you have ever dreamed? Add an optimistic and expected habit. It brings fun and laughter into each day, and nourishes your support system.

Jul 21

Smart Communication Tips for Creating a Healthy Workplace

By Dr. Jack Singer | Blog , Workplace Wellness

In previous articles, I mentioned the ongoing research cited by the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Center for Organizational Excellence in embracing the principles of a “Psychologically Healthy Workplace.”  This is another piece of the Workplace Excellence puzzle—the role of smart communication in the design and implementation of healthy workplace practices.

Smart Communication in the Workplace

Bottom-up Communication

Management cannot initiate new workplace programs or initiatives without understanding employee needs, perceptions and concerns.

When a company invites me to help them develop a new workplace program, the first step is opening a series of programs where employees are encouraged to communicate.

Anonymity is often necessary in order for employees to feel safe in objectively relating their needs, perceptions and concerns.

Examples of Bottom-Up Communication Strategies:

  1. Employee surveys
  2. Suggestion boxes
  3. Individual or team meetings with managers
  4. Maintaining a participative, open, two-way communication culture

The information obtained by communicating with employees must be given genuine consideration by management.  Employees need to believe that the company is truly interested in their perceptions, concerns, and suggestions for improvement, rather than simply soliciting feedback from employees in order to make them feel important.  This includes not only assessing employee needs but directly involving them in the development and implementation of workplace practices that address those needs.

Top-Down Communication 

How management communicates with employees is critical to the successful implementation of new workplace practices.  Not only do employees need a basic awareness of the availability of new programs, but they need to know clearly how to gain access to them, along with strong messages that management encourages and supports these new initiatives.

Examples of Top-Down Communication Strategies:

  1. Newsletter, memos, etc. that explain the goals of Management
  2. Using multiple channels (e.g., print, electronic, and video, orientation and training sessions, staff and team meetings, etc.)
  3. Leading by example, where all levels of management regularly participate in the same psychologically healthy workplace activities with the employees

Nothing encourages employees more than knowing and believing that top management embraces the same workplace activities they are promoting for their employees.

Smart communication is an important part of building a psychologically healthy workplace. On that topic, the honorable Alexis M. Herman, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, said it best:

“This is not pie in the sky: this is about the bottom line. Building psychologically healthy workplaces isn’t just the right thing to do.  It’s also the smart thing to do.”

Jun 23

2016 APA Work and Well-Being Survey: Still a Long Way to Go in Workplace Wellness

By Dr. Jack Singer | Blog , Stress , Workplace Wellness

Every year the American Psychological Association conducts a survey to study stress, workplace wellness, and other critical factors among America’s workers. The 2016 survey was conducted in March and findings were released in June, so it’s time once again to examine the results of the APA Work and Well-Being Survey. The results show key areas where employers can improve their respective workplaces.

My overall thoughts on the 2016 APA Work and Well-Being Survey? The results are both surprising and disappointing.

Main Findings of the APA Work and Well-Being Survey

Overall, the findings show that after all of these years of consistent research findings by professional industrial/organizational psychologists, many companies are still failing in several critical areas.

Some of the most disappointing findings I read:

  • Only about half of those surveyed feel valued by their employer.
  • About half of workers still do not believe that their employer provides opportunities to participate in decision-making, solving problems, or setting goals.
  • The main sources of worker job stress are low salaries and insufficient opportunities for development and advancement

Feeling valued and having the opportunity to challenge yourself, reach goals, and grow as a worker are basic needs that every company must address. These crucial elements help employers nurture their most valued assets—their employees.

Workplace Wellness Findings

In addition to job stress, the APA Work and Well-Being Survey also examined workplace wellness, a topic that I have covered in recent blog posts.

Despite the research and anecdotal documentation of the wonderful benefits of workplace wellness programs, the survey found that only one-third of American workers regularly participates in such health-promoting programs, when provided by their employers.

Secondly, despite the plethora of research proving that workplace wellness programs promote health (for example, by proactively teaching employees how to manage stress), more than half of those surveyed believe that their work climate does not support employee wellness and a third still complain of chronic stress in their jobs!

There is evidence that more than half of the companies in the U.S. still do not see the benefits of promoting worker and job site wellness initiatives.

Much more education regarding the health and bottom line benefits for employees and their companies, respectively, must be provided for HR professionals.

[Tweet “2016 @APA #Work and #WellBeing Survey – still a long way to go in workplace #wellness.”]

What Key Element Differentiates Companies that Embrace Wellness Initiatives from Those that Do Not?

From the survey results, it seems that the key determinant of whether a company embraces workplace health and wellness programs is whether senior leadership supports and encourages wellness.  A whopping seventy-three percent of employees who have senior managers who show support and commitment to well-being initiatives said their companies encouraged and nurtured healthy workplace and healthy lifestyle plans.

There are also other significant, positive outcomes for employees with senior leadership that supports and encourages wellness. These employees:

  • Feel motivated to do their best.
  • Have higher job satisfaction.
  • Have positive relationships with their supervisors and co-workers.

Eighty-nine percent of these employees also recommended their company as a “good place to work” and were less likely to leave their job the next year.

Using the Findings to Create Better Workplaces

Results of the APA Work and Well-Being Survey demonstrate that the presence of senior leadership that embraces wellness programs is linked to many far-ranging outcomes. As David W. Ballard, director of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence, concludes, “When supervisors’ actions match their words, employees notice.” 

The take-home message from the APA Work and Well-Being Survey is that employers must focus training on their senior leaders and be sure they understand the critical need for workplace health and well-being initiatives.  Ballard puts it succinctly: “Employers who truly embrace well-being as part of how they do business create a workplace where both employees and the organization thrive.”