Each year, the American Psychological Association sponsors a Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award program, recognizing employers who excel in these five categories:
- “Employee involvement”
- “Work-life balance”
- “Employee growth & development”
- “Health & safety”
- “Employee recognition”
These are all important considerations, and employers that value them in practice are likely to be better places to work than those that do not. However, as phrased, the five APA categories turn the question of what constitutes a psychologically healthy workplace into something of a safe, non-threatening HR checklist.
What’s missing from the APA formulation is a deeper inquiry into psychological health at work that is harder to describe in a categorical sense but that may hold a more significant key. Here are eight questions more likely to reveal the presence (or lack thereof) of a psychologically healthy workplace:
- Is there a sense of zest, “buzz,” and opportunity in the workplace?
- Do employees feel they are valued and treated with respect and dignity?
- Is the organizational culture friendly, inclusive, and supportive?
- Is organizational decision making fair, transparent, and evenhanded?
- Are diversities of all types accepted or merely tolerated?
- Does the organization face or dodge tough questions concerning employee relations?
- Are allegations of mistreatment of employees handled fairly and honestly, even when the alleged wrongdoers are in positions of power?
- Are compensation and reward systems fair and transparent?
These inquiries implicate organizational culture and power, which may threaten bad and/or insecure employers. But if we want to get to the heart of whether a given workplace is psychologically healthy, we must ask these more difficult questions.
To learn more about the APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award Program, go here.
[Addition: For a slightly revised version of these questions, see “NWI’s Eightfold Path to a Psychologically Healthy Workplace”]