As Millennials enter the workforce, many are clinically depressed

Duke University psychiatrist Doris Iarovici, blogging for the New York Times, believes that anti-depressant medications can help her patients, but she also expresses deep concern over an increasing share of young people who are using them:

…(A) growing number of young adults are taking psychiatric medicines for longer and longer periods, at the very age when they are also consolidating their identities, making plans for the future and navigating adult relationships.

This trend is especially significant for people finishing school and entering the workforce:

Indeed, the psychologist Jeffrey Arnett calls the young adult years “the age of instability.” Dr. Arnett coined the term “emerging adulthood” to define a new psychological developmental stage for 18- to 29-year-olds in industrialized countries. But now, growing numbers of young people experience rapidly changing living situations, classes, jobs and relationships only while taking an antidepressant.

Iarovici adds that some of these younger people are arriving at college “so burned out by the pressures of high school that they get to college unable to engage in the work,” and they are “so fragile or overprotected in their formative years that they fall apart at the first stress they encounter.”

In a piece for PsychCentral.com, Dr. John Grohol echoes some of these observations, noting high levels of depression and weak emotional coping skills among many Millennials:

All of this is informed conjecture, of course, as there’s not much research that’s been done in this area. But some of it rings true to me, and from talking with others — both therapists and young adults — I’m not the only who sees more and more young adults who just don’t seem to have the emotional and psychological coping skills as young adults that were once more commonplace.

Implications for workers and workplaces

These trends do not bode well for those individuals and the places that employ them.  Some folks will arrive at work dependent upon anti-depressants to get them through the day. Some will struggle to deal with stressful work situations that inevitably arise. They also may lack the means to build personal resilience toward life’s ups and downs, some of which will be related to work and careers.

Their employers also will pay a price, dealing with a larger share of a workforce pushing the boundaries of psychological well-being and less capable of handling the emotionally challenging aspects of employment.

I can’t say I’m surprised about burnout symptoms appearing as early as college. The competition to get into the “best” schools has become brutal, and the treadmill of activities, prep classes, and AP classes necessary to play that game has become steeper and faster. Young people are being pushed to relentlessly chase their futures before they know what they want those futures to look like.

Let’s not blame the Millennials

These observations should not be taken as a slam on a generation. As an NPR program this week noted:

The “millennial generation” has been getting a bad rap in popular culture in recent years. Millennials, roughly defined as people born in the 1980s and ’90s, frequently see themselves depicted as entitled, coddled and narcissistic.

But many — including millennials themselves — dispute those characterizations. Young adults today are tolerant, civic-minded and entrepreneurial, they note, and are thriving despite entering into a tight job market, often with significant amounts of student loan debt.

Lots of Millennials are being raised a certain way and then pushed into a world that has raised the credential bar for their success and saddled them with other burdens passed on by preceding generations. In terms of weaker coping skills, Grohol points to the “helicopter parent” mentality and overly protective upbringings as likely culprits.

As a university professor for over 20 years, I’ve now taught students spanning three generations — Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials. In the aggregate, I do see generational differences, and I can offer generalizations about each, some positive, others less so.

Like any generation, the Millennials bring their strong and weak qualities to the workplace. It is disturbing, in any event, that depression appears to be disproportionately present among them. This reflects most critically not on the Millennials themselves, but rather on the preceding generations that have ushered them into the world.

LOL: Humor as a salve for a lousy workplace

photo-47

If you’re dealing with a less-than-wonderful workplace, then maybe a dose of humor can help to ease the experience.

Recently I posted an article, “Dealing with a bad workplace: Getting to tolerance,” that offered some coping points for those in unpleasant work situations. I’d like to supplement the post by suggesting that some hearty laughter may make a positive difference too.

For some, being able to kick back and enjoy a funny movie, television show, or book may be a healthy way of dealing with a bad workplace. I’ve offered some suggestions in the photo, while conceding that my sense of humor is not exactly, well, refined. For those whose emotional ages have transcended adolescence, some other selections may be more appropriate.

I fully acknowledge that humor is not a cure-all. If you’re experiencing an abusive work situation (as opposed to a “merely” unpleasant or dysfunctional one), then this suggestion probably isn’t for you. Humorous distractions are of limited value if you’re feeling targeted or mistreated. Also, while a good laugh or three may be a salve for a bad workplace, it’s not a fix for the situation itself.

But maybe, just maybe, that LOL movie may be enough to put you in a better mood. It sure does beat the opposite.

Should HR be eliminated?

Lauren Weber and Rachel Feintzeig, in a piece for the Wall Street Journal, examine an emerging trend of employers replacing their human resources departments with outsourced personnel management firms and even software programs that perform basic HR tasks:

Companies seeking flat management structures and more accountability for employees are frequently taking aim at human resources. Executives say the traditional HR department—which claims dominion over everything from hiring and firing to maintaining workplace diversity—stifles innovation and bogs down businesses with inefficient policies and processes. At the same time, a booming HR software industry has made it easier than ever to automate or outsource personnel-related functions such as payroll and benefits administration.

Misguided cheers?

From those who have had terrible experiences with an HR office, I can practically hear the (understandable) cheering. Eliminate HR, and you’ve taken care of the problem.

But it’s not that easy.

In fact, Weber and Feintzeig go on to examine the functions that may fall through the cracks by closing down the HR office, including ensuring that managers comply with employment laws and resolving interpersonal disputes between employees.

In a post for Workplace Prof, law professor Charles Sullivan (Seton Hall) largely concurs with the assessment of the potential downsides:

While outsourcing many of the mechanical operations of HR is much easier today with technological advances, it remains true that both managing “human resources” and complying with the law requires a more sophisticated understanding of both than a typical outside firm can provide.

The real culprits

Long-time readers know that I can be hard on HR, especially HR offices that are complicit in advancing bad, unfair, or abusive management practices. But when it comes to acknowledging the importance of an in-house office charged with implementing employee relations policies and practices, I see the HR function as essential.

Good HR offices serve a valuable training, compliance, and mediating role in the workplace. They do so with a much better understanding of the organization’s people and culture than any outside firm could provide. And they can troubleshoot issues over pay and benefits better than any software program.

Bad HR offices, by contrast, are often tools (negative connotation intended) of bad executive leadership. HR offices may get the lion’s share of blame for poor handling of employee relations, but in reality they may simply reflect and advance the values of their equally terrible (or worse) bosses. Show me a nasty HR director and I’ll show you the organization’s nasty CEO.

In some workplaces with lousy top leaders, “rogue” HR officers with conscience and heart may serve a mitigating presence by helping to stave off or soften the impact of bad personnel decisions and practices that reduce morale and increase liability risks.

As I’ve suggested before, to get to the core of what makes for a good or bad place to work, we typically need to look higher up on the organizational chart. The character and values of those at the top commonly dictate the kind of HR office that you can expect to encounter.

***

Related posts

HR, workplace bullying, and the abandoned target (2013)

Quiet cover-ups (2011)

Can an ethical HR officer survive at a bad company? (2010)

Don’t assume that HR is your buddy (2010)

“HR was useless” (2009)

Visioning law and legal systems through a psychologically healthy lens

One of my periodic “battery rechargers” is the opportunity to reconnect in person with a network of law professors, lawyers, judges, and students associated with a school of legal thought called therapeutic jurisprudence (“TJ”), which examines law, legal procedures, and the legal profession from the standpoint of psychological health. Law professor and TJ co-founder David Wexler (U. Puerto Rico) defines therapeutic jurisprudence this way:

Therapeutic Jurisprudence (TJ) concentrates on the law’s impact on emotional life and psychological well-being. It is a perspective that regards the law (rules of law, legal procedures, and roles of legal actors) itself as a social force that often produces therapeutic or anti-therapeutic consequences. It does not suggest that therapeutic concerns are more important than other consequences or factors, but it does suggest that the law’s role as a potential therapeutic agent should be recognized and systematically studied.

David was among those who came to Boston and Suffolk University Law School for a Friday public symposium, “The Study and Practice of Law in a Therapeutic Key: An Introduction to Therapeutic Jurisprudence,” followed by a smaller Saturday workshop to plan future TJ activities and initiatives.

In addition to thanking David, I’d like to extend my warm appreciation to out-of-town participants Mark Glover (U. Wyoming), Michael Jones (Arizona Summit), Shelley Kierstead (York U., Osgoode Hall), Michael Perlin (New York Law School), Amanda Peters (South Texas), Amy Ronner (St. Thomas U., Florida), and Carol Zeiner (St. Thomas U., Florida), as well as to my Suffolk colleagues Gabriel Teninbaum, Kathleen Vinson, and Patrick Shin, for being a part of the two-day program.

You can view the agenda for the Friday symposium here. My presentation on  employment law drew heavily from this blog to emphasize the significant stress and anguish experienced by workplace bullying targets, the importance of multi-faceted counseling & coaching for those targets (legal, mental health, and career), and the need to reform our legal processes for resolving employment-related disputes.

As a law professor and lawyer, the TJ community has become my intellectual home base. Equally important, it has provided me with a group of dear friends and colleagues. Last night, a group of us went out to a karaoke bar here in Boston, and while we probably shouldn’t count on Plan B careers as performing artists, we had great fun. Tonight we’ll be heading out for a nice Italian dinner in Boston’s North End. Such fellowship with good people confirms that I’m running with the right crowd for me.

***

For more on the International Network on Therapeutic Jurisprudence, go to the network website.

You may also join the TJ Facebook page here.

 

Roundup on bullying and mobbing in higher education

On Thursday I’m presenting on workplace bullying in higher education at the annual continuing legal education conference of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, being held this year in Boston. I’ll be sharing a lot of the knowledge and insights I’ve gained about bullying and mobbing behaviors in academe, and then examining the legal issues they raise for institutions of higher education.

I thought this would be a good occasion for me to update my primary (and very popular) post on bullying & mobbing behaviors in academe, as well as summarize several other relevant posts. Here goes:

Revised “Foundational” Post

I just revised my very first post (2009) on bullying in academe, Workplace bullying and mobbing in academe: The hell of heaven?, to include updated information and sources:

Academic life can be a great thing, providing one with the opportunity to engage in teaching and educational activities, scholarly research and writing, and myriad forms of public service.

However, the culture of academe can be petty, mean, exclusionary, competitive, and hierarchical.  Bullying and mobbing behaviors occur with surprising frequency, and sometimes with stunning brutality.  They can transcend the type of institution, academic disciplines, and political beliefs.

Other Relevant Posts

UMass Amherst launches campus-wide workplace anti-bullying initiative (2013)

Yesterday the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the flagship entity of a major public university system, publicly launched a workplace anti-bullying initiative with a campus symposium that attracted over 500 UMass employees. This remarkable turnout, which included staff, faculty, and administrators, was over triple the number of RSVPs for the event.

…I had the privilege of presenting the keynote address, and one of the lasting memories I’ll have is that of standing at the podium and seeing the large auditorium fill with people, with some having to stand even after dozens of extra chairs were brought in to accommodate the overflow.

Illuminating bullying, mobbing and conformity in academe (2012)

First, the value placed on compliance empowers some to bully others who won’t go along. A minor “rebellion” such as declining to follow a suggestion for revising a paper or dissertation, or a major one such as refusing to vote a certain way at a meeting, can trigger retaliatory responses. Graduate students and junior faculty are especially at risk in this regard.

Second, the embrace of authority explains the frequency of “puppet master” bullying and genuine mobbing in academic workplaces. Especially in academic workplaces that cannot tolerate dissent or diversity of opinion, individuals seen as not being with the program may face an onslaught of hostility or isolation. These behaviors may be inflicted on anyone, ranging from a graduate student to a senior tenured professor.

Study on incivility toward graduate students reports effects similar to workplace bullying (2011)

During the past decade, we have learned a lot about incivility, bullying, and other negative behaviors in the workplace. However, we don’t know much about similar forms of mistreatment in academic settings.

That void is what led Susan Stewart (Western Illinois U. — Quad Cities), Nathan Bowling (Wright State U.), and Melissa Gruys (Wright State U.) to develop a study that asked graduate student members of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) about their experiences with anti-social behaviors by faculty members and fellow students.

 

The main objectives of schooling (and how mainstream higher ed is retreating on some of them)

In a 1990 lecture at the Harvard Extension School, renowned educator Mortimer Adler identified what he believed to be the “three main objectives of schooling”:

  • “preparation for earning a living”
  • “preparation for intelligent fulfillment of one’s civic duty, to be a good citizen of the republic” and,
  • “preparation for fulfilling one’s moral obligation to lead a morally good life.”

Each objective, Adler noted, would be “enriched by the continuation of learning after all schooling is terminated.”

Last week, I wrote about how many American colleges and universities are embracing the values of the New Gilded Age and retreating from their obligations to help us create a better society. Adler’s main objectives of schooling offer a useful framework for that critique.

Plenty of schools are emphasizing jobs and careers, and that’s fine. A college education should enhance someone’s employability and facilitate their vocational future. But this shouldn’t occur at the expense of preparing students to become useful, knowledgeable citizens and helping them grow into better human beings.

Indeed, one of the perverse ripple effects of the economic meltdown is how so many standard brand universities are cutting back on instruction that might shed insights on the very political, economic, social, and moral dynamics that led us to the Great Recession in the first place! More concretely, this has manifested itself in the decline of the liberal arts and humanities in the basic college curriculum.

Especially given the runaway costs of higher education, I understand the significance of a college education having some “return on investment” in terms of the job market. But it must be about more than economic gain. A higher ed industry that simply readies the next generation of worker bees is failing our society. We need a world of good workers, good citizens, and good people, with hopefully most of us possessing a healthy mix of all three qualities.

Peter Drucker’s “Managing Oneself”

Managing Oneself

The late Peter F. Drucker’s Managing Oneself (2008), an offering in the Harvard Business Review Classic series, is a smart, thought-provoking little monograph on career development and assessment. He opens this way:

History’s great achievers — a Napoleon, a da Vinci, a Mozart — have always managed themselves. That, in large measure, is what makes them great achievers. But they are rare exceptions, so unusual in both their talents and their accomplishments as to be considered outside the boundaries of ordinary human existence. Now, most of us, even those of us with modest endowments, will have to learn to manage ourselves. . . .

In fewer than 60 pages, Drucker asks us to consider the following questions:

  • “What are my strengths?”
  • “How do I perform?”
  • “What are my values?”
  • “Where do I belong?”
  • “What should I contribute?”

He also urges us to think about our “responsibility for relationships” and to develop opportunities for “the second half of your life.”

Drucker was a man of the 20th century, so he references many historical leaders of the era. But even if you’re a 21st century kinda person, his larger points merit consideration. Drucker was one of the most forward looking thinkers in management theory and practice, and his ideas remain very relevant today. This little book provides more questions than answers, but that’s probably the way it should be. The rest is up to us.

Announcing the U.S. Academy on Workplace Bullying, Mobbing, and Abuse

academy-web

The Workplace Bullying Institute and the New Workplace Institute are collaborating on an important new initiative, the creation of the U.S. Academy on Workplace Bullying, Mobbing, and Abuse.

The Academy will support and promote the multi-disciplinary work of its Fellows, a group of leading and emerging educators, researchers, practitioners, writers, and advocates who are dedicated to understanding, preventing, stopping, and responding to workplace bullying and related forms of interpersonal mistreatment.

Although we recognize the universality of these destructive behaviors, we are creating this network to focus on the unique challenges posed by American employee relations, mental health, and legal systems.

This initiative has been in the works for over a year, and I’m delighted to see it taking shape. The Academy’s website, to which more will be added in the months and years to come, is here. And here is the initial list of Fellows.

Academy Co-Facilitators

    • Gary Namie, Ph.D.
      Director, Workplace Bullying Institute, Bellingham, WA
    • David C. Yamada, J.D.
      Professor of Law and Director, New Workplace Institute, Suffolk University Law School, Boston, MA

Academy Fellows

(Note: Fellow status does not imply agreement with, or endorsement of, editorial, analytical, or public policy positions taken by the Workplace Bullying Institute or the New Workplace Institute.)

    • Beverly J. Aho, M.B.A., J.D.
      Attorney, James H. Gilbert Law Group, Eden Prarie, MN
    • Carol Arao, M.A.
      Co-Coordinator, California Healthy Workplace Advocates
      Columnist, Workplace Bullying Institute blog
    • David W. Ballard, Psy.D., M.B.A.
      Assistant Executive Director for Organizational Excellence
      American Psychological Association, Washington, DC
    • Peggy Ann Berry, Ph.D. candidate, R.N., SPHR, COHN-S
      Owner, Thrive At Life: Working Solutions Dayton, OH
    • Jane Bethel
      President, SEIU/NAGE Local R4-200, Norfolk, VA
      State Coordinator, Virginia Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Sharon Brennan, Ph.D.
      Past Pres. & 2014 President-elect, Division of Organizational, Consulting & Work Psychology
      New York State Psychological Association; Psychoanalyst, NY, NY
    • Jessi Eden Brown, M.S., LMHC, LPC, NCC
      Psychotherapist, Seattle, WA
      Professional Coach, Workplace Bullying Institute
    • Carrie Clark, M.A.
      Co-Founder, California Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Ellen Pinkos Cobb, J.D.
      Senior Legal Analyst, Isoceles Group, Boston, MA
      Author, Bullying, Violence, Harassment, Discrimination and Stress: Emerging Workplace Health and Safety Issues (2013)
    • Lana Cooke
      State Coordinator, West Virginia Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Barbara Coloroso
      Author, The Bully, The Bullied and the Bystander (Wm. Morrow, 2009)
      Expert in Youth Bullying, Littleton, CO
    • Pamela Countouris
      Bullying Prevention Trainer and Consultant, TCB Training & Consulting, Pittsburgh, PA
    • Teresa A. Daniel, J.D., Ph.D.
      Dean & Professor, Human Resource Leadership Program, Sullivan University
      Consultant & Author, Stop Bullying At Work (SHRM, 2009)
    • Michelle K. Duffy, Ph.D.
      Professor, Work & Organizations, Center for Human Resources & Labor Studies
      Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota
    • Maureen Duffy, Ph.D.
      Author, Overcoming Mobbing (Oxford U Press, 2014) and Mobbing: Causes, Consequences & Cures
      (Oxford U Press, 2012) and Psychotherapist & Consultant, Miami Shores, FL
    • Lisa Farwell, Ph.D.
      Professor of Psychology, Santa Monica College
    • Carol Fehner
      Co-Coordinator, California Healthy Workplace Advocates
      Union Bullying Consultant, AFGE National Officer (Ret.)
    • Bernice L. Fields, J.D.
      Arbitrator & Attorney, Minneapolis, MN
    • Jackie Gilbert, Ph.D.
      Professor of Management, Middle Tennessee State University
      State Coordinator, Tennessee Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Denise Halverson, Ph.D.
      Professor of Mathematics, Brigham Young University
      State Coordinator, Utah Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Leslie Hammer, Ph.D.
      Professor of Psychology, Portland State University
    • Katherine A. Hermes, J.D., Ph.D.
      Professor of History, Central Connecticut State University
    • Victoria Johnson, Ph.D.
      Author & State Coordinator, Pennsylvania Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Melody M. Kawamoto, M.D., M.S.
      Public Health & Occupational Medicine Physician, Cincinnati, OH
    • Loraleigh Keashly, Ph.D.
      Associate Professor of Communications, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
    • Wynne Kearney, Jr., M.D.
      Surgeon & Activist, Mankato, MN
    • Kevin Kennemer, M.A.
      President, The People Group, Tulsa, OK
    • Paul Landsbergis, M.P.H., Ed.D., Ph.D.
      Associate Professor, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences
      SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY
    • Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik, Ph.D.
      Associate Professor of Communication, North Dakota State University
      Author, Adult Bullying: A Nasty Piece of Work (2013)
    • Lewis Maltby, J.D.
      Founder & Director, National Workrights Institute, Princeton, NJ
      Author, Can They Do That? Retaking Our Fundamental Rights in the Workplace (Portfolio, 2009)
    • Andrew Mitchell
      Activist, Blogger – Stop Workplace Bullies Now, Dixon, IL
    • Ruth F. Namie, Ph.D.
      Founder, Workplace Bullying Institute
      Author, The Bully-Free Workplace (Wiley, 2011) and The Bully At Work (Sourcebooks, 2009, 2nd ed.)
    • Joel H. Neuman, Ph.D.
      Director Center for Applied Management, State University of New York at New Paltz
      Associate Professor of Management and Organizational Behavior
    • Christina Purpora, R.N., Ph.D.
      Associate Professor of Nursing, University of San Francisco
    • Judith A. Richman, Ph.D.
      Professor of Epidemiology in Psychiatry, University of Illinois, Chicago
    • Heidi R. Riggio, Ph.D.
      Professor of Psychology, California State University, Los Angeles
    • Kathleen M. Rospenda, Ph.D.
      Associate Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago
    • Mike Schlicht, M.S.
      Founder & Co-Director, New York Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Peter Schnall, M.D., M.P.H.
      Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, Irvine
      Director, Center for Social Epidemiology
    • Michelle E. Smith, M.A.Ed.
      Co-Founder, California Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Gregory Sorozan, M.Ed., L.C.S.W.
      President SEIU/NAGE Local 282, Quincy, MA
      State Coordinator, Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Matt Spencer, Ed.D.
      Consultant, Workplace Bullying in Schools Project
      Author, Exploiting Children: School Board Members Who Cross the Line (R&L Education, 2013)
    • Len Sperry, M.D., Ph.D.
      Clinical Professor, Florida Atlantic University & Medical College of Wisconsin
      Author, Overcoming Mobbing (Oxford U Press, 2014) and Mobbing: Causes, Consequences & Cures
      (Oxford U Press, 2012)
    • Lamont E. Stallworth, Ph.D.
      Professor of Human Resources and Industrial Relations, Loyola University of Chicago
      Founder & Chairman, Center for Employment Dispute Resolution
    • Kerri L. Stone, J.D.
      Associate Professor of Law, Florida International University, Miami, FL
    • USN LCDR Leedjia A. Svec, Ph.D.
      Director & Senior Scientist, Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, Patrick AFB, FL
    • Bennett J. Tepper, Ph.D.
      Deans Distinguished Professor of Management & Human Resources, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
    • Darren Treadway, M.B.A., Ph.D.
      Associate Professor of Organization & Human Resources, State University of New York at Buffalo
    • Esque Walker, M.S., Ph.D.
      Arbitrator/Texas Credentialed Distinguished Mediator
      State Coordinator, Texas Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Tom Witt, M.L.S.
      Co-Director, New York Healthy Workplace Advocates

As U.S. universities embrace the New Gilded Age, what institutions will help us to grow a better society?

Suffice it to say that American higher education, as a general proposition, is embracing the values of the New Gilded Age. A growing number of American colleges and universities are degenerating into career training centers, touting unpaid internships while charging sky-high tuition, neglecting the liberal arts, and loading up on well-paid administrators and exploited adjunct faculty while shedding full-time professors.

These trends are disturbing in and of themselves. Moreover, they raise a challenging question: If universities are heading in this direction, what institutions, structures, and networks will help us to blend research, theory, and service toward creating a better society? And how do we create decent, paying, sustainable jobs to support this work?

Of course, the fate of the public intellectual in higher education has been a subject of debate for some time now, especially since the 1987 appearance of Russell Jacoby’s important book, The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe. Among other things, Jacoby posited that sharp trends toward narrow specialization in academic scholarship were creating a professoriate that is less relevant to the major public issues of the day.

Yup, one could argue that part-time college teaching jobs, unpaid internships, “non-stipendiary” fellowships, and assorted volunteer gigs offer outlets for expression and creativity. And between individual blogs, sites like The Huffington Post, and free websites, there’s no shortage of online venues for publishing or sharing one’s work.

The problem is that most people have this weird need for food, shelter, and clothing. “Exposure” and “contacts” don’t pay for those basic necessities. A little bit of job security wouldn’t hurt either.

During the coming months, I will devote some space to exploring this and related questions, incorporating a variety of new and emerging voices on public intellectual life in this plutocratic, New Gilded Age. In doing so, I’ll be talking about educators, researchers, activists, practitioners, writers, artists, and others who share a common, understandable concern that our society has no place for them.

As a central part of this inquiry, we need to consider strategies for change. Is it possible to reverse the bad course taken by so many standard-brand universities? Or do we have to think about creating new, sustainable entities that embrace a different, better set of values? If so, how do we go about this?

***

To the many readers who follow this blog because of its focus on issues such as workplace bullying, employee well-being, workers’ rights, and the like, stick with me on this one. Research and ideas matter, including within the realm of dignity at work. However, mainstream academe has not been a major driving force in calling for a more humane workplace, which means that we have to identify, support, build, and create the institutions that are eager to do so.

On leadership: Climbers up the greasy pole, the power of listening, the value of experience, and more

Great leaders, even good leaders, are all too rare these days. From a selection of past blog posts, here are some ideas about leadership, how to sort the wheat from the chaff, and what leadership qualities are best for our organizations and society at large:

1. You want good leaders? (2010) — Folks, I’ve been pushing the article discussed here for years. It’s an address by writer William Deresiewicz to West Point cadets. Here’s how I intro it in the blog post:

Attention organizations: If you want good leaders, then don’t promote the kiss ups, the kick downs, the scheming hoop-jumpers, and the ambitious conformists. Instead, select folks of genuine vision, courage, character, and good judgment.

Don’t take my word for it. Instead, read this remarkable address to West Point cadets by writer William Deresiewicz, titled “Solitude and Leadership,” and published in the American Scholar. It’s worth reading in its entirety.

Deresiewicz writes brilliantly, insightfully about a crisis of leadership in America whereby “excellence isn’t usually what gets you up the greasy pole.” It screams with truth. If you read one article on leadership this year, maybe this decade, make it this one. Take a look at my short summary and then read the whole article.

2. Want a better company? Listen to your employees! (2010) — There’s nothing radical about listening to your employees and giving credit when it is due. Peter Drucker said it for years:

The late Peter Drucker, management guru and author, likely would approve of these practices. In his book Managing for the Future (1992), he extolled the virtues of employee input and participation in problem solving.

Early 20th century industrial theory, he noted, believed in “the wisdom of the expert” and regarded mid-level managers and rank-and-file workers as a bunch of “dumb oxen.” World War II changed that philosophy, however, for when all the experts were in uniform, “we had to ask the workers.” Companies quickly learned that input from workers could increase productivity and improve quality.

3. Great organizational leaders empower and enable others (2011) – Quality leaders know that it’s not all about them:

But when it comes to leading organizations, the ability and willingness to encourage, support, mentor, inspire, and permit others to do quality work is the key to success. These leaders allow people to run with things, responsibly but enthusiastically, and sometimes the results can be extraordinary.

4. When survival is at stake, we need grounded leaders (2012) — We may be swept away by folks who exude vision and charisma, but especially during tough times, we need leaders with strong inner cores:

But I confess that my own experience has taught me also to look closely at leaders who guide their organizations through difficult times with integrity and wisdom.

The best of these leaders arrive at tough decisions fairly and then stand behind them. They take responsibility for measures that may be painful. They don’t seek glory, but rather carry a sense of duty. And their actions are guided by qualities of vision that may have to be temporarily sacrificed during their tenure.

5. Great leadership rarely appears overnight (2012) — Lessons for today on the value of experience from an excellent book about U.S. Navy admirals during the Second World War:

In many historical accounts of the Pacific naval war, these men are presented to us as fully-formed leaders. The Admirals, however, begins with their early lives and careers, and it is chock full of accounts that show us how many of their critical successes during the war can be traced back to their pre-war education, training, and experiences. When they had to step up, they were ready.

. . . In today’s society, we worship and celebrate youth, and this extends to those we anoint as leaders. All too often, in every sector of society, we elevate people to senior leadership positions before they are ready, and not infrequently we pay a price for their inexperience.

6.  On leadership: Genius makers vs. vampires (2013) — You may see some people you know in one of these categories:

The genius makers are “excited about revealing others’ smarts,” “open to creating a shared vision,” and engaged in “creating organizational energy.”

The vampires are “obsessed with proving” their own smarts, focused on others’ flaws, and committed to “sucking the lifeblood out of innocent people.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 898 other followers

%d bloggers like this: