APA announces 2010 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards

From a recent post by Dr. David Ballard at the American Psychological Association:

2010 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award Program Winners

The APA has announced the winners of its 2010 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award Program, recognizing North American employers who excel in these five categories:

  • “Employee involvement”
  • “Work-life balance”
  • “Employee growth & development”
  • “Health & safety”
  • “Employee recognition”

The winners are:

American Cast Iron Pipe Company (ACIPCO), Alabama
Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH), Florida
Advanced Solutions (HP Company), British Columbia
Toronto Police Service (TPS), Ontario
Leaders Bank, Illinois

2010 Best Practices Awards

The APA also has recognized 10 companies “for a single workplace program or policy that stands out for its facilitation of a psychologically healthy workplace.”

For complete information and links, see the APA’s Good Company blog.

Americans and Taxes: Pay Less, Expect More

New York Times economics columnist David Leonhardt (link below) nailed it this week in a piece on taxes and expectations.

Citizens of richer societies generally prefer more government services…. With their basic needs met, they want a military to protect them, good schools for their children, comfortable retirement for the elderly, medical care even when it isn’t profitable and a strong social safety net.

As people seek more from the government, they have been willing to pay higher taxes to secure these services and benefits.  Rising levels of taxation in the U.S. through most of the 20th century demonstrated that willingness.

Lower taxes, growing demand

However, that is not the case today:

Taxes are no longer rising. They fell to 18 percent of G.D.P. in 2008 and, because of the recession, to a 60-year low of 15.1 percent last year.

Nevertheless, we still want more:

Yet our desire for government services just keeps growing. We added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. Farm subsidies are sacrosanct. Social Security is the third rail of politics.

Who will pay?

This has led to a growing disconnection between our demand for government services and benefits and our willingness to pay for them:

This disconnect is, far and away, the main reason for our huge budget problems. Yes, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the recession and the stimulus have all added to the deficit. But they are minor issues in the long run. By 2020, government spending is projected to equal 26 percent (and rising) of G.D.P., mostly because of Medicare and Social Security. Taxes are on pace to equal just 19 percent.

The anti-taxation drumbeat of the past 30 years coupled with growing expectations of getting something for nothing are setting into play a social, political, and economic train wreck.  It will not be pretty.

Leonhardt column

Chief People Officer on psychological torture at work

Chief People Officer Kevin Kennemer serves up a compelling blog entry about a recent televised social experiment in France where participants in a fake game show were ordered to administer electric shocks to those giving wrong answers.  (It’s a remake of sorts of the famous 1960s Milgram experiment which tested obedience to authority.)

The results are stunning and disturbing.  Kevin then relates the gruesome truth to psychological torture in the workplace.

Questions to ask

Kevin concludes by suggesting that we ask these questions about our own workplaces:

  • Does your company employ leaders and/or employees who lack that strong inner conscience to resist  shocking behavior?
  • Do you think your coworkers are capable of inhumane treatment?
  • Do psychologically abused employees find themselves stranded and secluded from their coworkers?
  • What do you do if you see an employee being psychologically abused by a supervisor?
  • Going too far?

    Some might think it a stretch to relate these experiments, with their obvious connections to the “just following orders” justifications of the Nazis, to abusive behavior at work.

    I disagree.

    While certainly bullying and abuse at work cannot be equated with genocide, the underlying human instincts can be shockingly similar.  Severe, malicious mistreatment at work often carries with it eliminationist tendencies — a desire to rub someone out of the workplace — even if they apply “only” to one’s career versus a life.

    Check out Kevin’s post, including the YouTube video link.

    NPR on work-life balance and shift work: Not bad, but what about unions?

    National Public Radio’s Jennifer Ludden just concluded her very good three-part series on work-life balance with a segment on shift work.  Ludden’s piece opens with the story of Vickie Underwood, who had a stellar 22-year work record for an Atlanta-area printing plant until problems erupted when, at the end of her shift, she was asked to work overtime:

    When she got off at 3 that afternoon, Underwood needed to hurry home to register her kids at two different schools and sign up the youngest for aftercare. The county was holding a one time all-day registration, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., to accommodate working parents — which is ironic, considering what happened at 2, with an hour to go in Underwood’s shift.

    “I was asked to work three hours mandatory overtime. I mentioned to them that I had to register my kids for school, and they told me that I couldn’t leave,” Underwood says.

    Underwood had worked last-minute overtime dozens of times before, but on this day she said no. Since school registration is mandatory, she didn’t really think she’d get in trouble. In fact, her bosses skipped right over any disciplinary measure and fired her.

    Benefits of Family-Friendly Scheduling

    The segment goes on to examine the benefits of providing lower wage shift workers with family-friendly scheduling support, referencing an ongoing study by the National Institutes of Health:

    The NIH wanted to know whether this kind of flexibility at work can improve employee health, so they matched manager flexibility against various measures of employee well-being. [Study co-leader Ellen Kossek] says those with the most accommodating managers “had better physical health reports, better sleep quality, higher job satisfaction, and less stress over work-life conflicts.”

    What about Unions?

    Too many examinations of work-life balance concentrate on professional and executive workers, so kudos to NPR and Ludden for devoting a segment to shift workers.  However, in examining possible responses to the challenges workers face in navigating work and family, it would have been good to focus on the role of unions in negotiating family-friendly working arrangements for their members, rather than centering almost solely on management discretion.

    By leaving it up to managers to offer such arrangements, workers are at the mercy of their employers.  Fortunately, Vickie Underwood was not in such a position:

    Underwood fought a year without pay before finally getting her job back, and she was lucky to have a union backing her up.

    Maybe the real message behind the story should’ve been the central roles that unions can play in negotiating working conditions for their members and supporting them when things go wrong.

    Link to NPR story

    Do school bullying laws pave the way for the Healthy Workplace Bill?

    I’ve been pondering recent posts by attorney Michael Fox, host of the thoughtful and informative Jottings by an Employer’s Lawyer blog, who suggests that the growing attention to school bullying legislation may help pave the way for workplace bullying legislation.  On February 1, he wrote:

    Although there are obvious differences between school and the workplace, and perhaps more importantly between students and employees, once it has become accepted that the appropriate tool for controlling bullying behavior is legislation, I am afraid it is only a matter of time before some state decides if it works for the schools, it will also work on the job. How far are we on the school front? According to Bully Police USA, 41 states already have legislation dealing with bullying in the schools.

    On March 11 he responded to an $800,000 award in a school bullying case with this:

    It has long been my view that the most likely path for a bullying cause of action recognized in the workplace (other than the continuous efforts of Professor David Yamada) is the widespread acceptance of anti-bullying legislation applicable to the schools.

    …It may be yet awhile before the first state enacts anti-bullying legislation in the workplace, but having been following it for more than seven years…, I am beginning to think of it in terms of likely, if not inevitable.

    For Michael, whose practice concentrates on representing employers, this isn’t a welcomed development.  He is no fan of workplace bullying, but he opposes workplace bullying legislation such as the Healthy Workplace Bill, preferring that employers deal with this problem voluntarily.

    Time will tell if school bullying laws soften the way for workplace bullying laws, but I’m heartened by the fact that we’re starting to connect the dots on these forms of abusive behavior.  School bullying, workplace bullying, domestic abuse, child abuse…there are many ties that bind among these forms of mistreatment.

    Fox’s February 1 post

    Fox’s March 11 post

    (These posts represent something of a cross-blog dialogue between Michael and me.  Michael was one of the first bloggers to welcome Minding the Workplace to the blogosphere, and our ongoing exchanges are evidence of how this medium — despite other examples to the contrary — can host honest differences of opinion in a respectful and friendly way.)

    Andrea Adams Trust on Workplace Bullying

    The Andrea Adams Trust is a non-profit organization in England committed to the preventing workplace bullying.  It is named for the late Andrea Adams, the pioneering journalist who popularized the term workplace bullying in the late 1980s and early 1990s in a series of BBC broadcasts and in her book, Bullying at Work: How to Confront and Overcome It.

    AAT has produced an excellent factsheet on workplace bullying (link below) that is worth a look even for those of us on the other side of the Atlantic.  Some of the informational highlights include:

    • The effects of workplace bullying are
    estimated to be responsible for between
    one third to a half of all stress related
    illnesses. UMIST

    • More than two million people at work
    consider themselves as being bullied. One
    in four people report to have been bullied
    within the last five years. UMIST

    • Unofficial estimates put the cost of stress
    related illness in the workplace as high as
    twelve billion pounds or more.

    • 18.9 million working days are lost each
    year as a direct result of workplace bullying
    UMIST. With 30 times more days lost to
    industry than those lost through industrial

    • 3.6% of salary budgets (national average) is
    paid to people absent from work due to
    stress related illness. DEPARTMENT OF


    Website for Andrea Adams Trust

    PDF for AAT factsheet on workplace bullying

    Work in Fiction: Wherefore art thou?

    Jennifer Schuessler, in an essay for the New York Times Book Review, examines how the world of work has appeared in works of fiction:

    The literary novel needs more tinkers and tailors, the argument goes. (The best-seller list seems to take care of the soldiers and spies.) In a video introduction to the latest issue of Granta, dedicated to the theme of “Work,” John Freeman, the magazine’s editor, lamented the literary “invisibility” of daily toil. The essayist Alain de Botton, writing in The Boston Globe, recently called for a new literature “that can proclaim the intelligence, peculiarity, beauty and horror of the workplace.”

    The essay raises important questions of how fiction shapes our worldview and how the underrepresentation of work themes in modern fiction deprives us of an opportunity to consider the experience of work outside of our own.

    Link to full essay

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