Growth-fostering relationships at work


In addition to understanding toxic and abusive work environments, we must comprehend and embrace what good organizations can give to the world. Healthy workplaces nurture, among other things, growth-fostering relationships.

The little card pictured above was distributed at the annual Workshop on Humiliation and Violent Conflict, hosted by Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (HumanDHS) last week in New York. “The Five Good Things” come from the late Jean Baker Miller, a psychiatrist and pioneer in the field of relational psychology:

Growth-fostering relationships empower all people involved in them.These relationships are characterized by:

1. A sense of zest or well-being that comes from connecting with another person or other persons.

2. The ability and motivation to take action in the relationship as well as other situations.

3. Increased knowledge of oneself and the other person(s).

4. An increased sense of worth.

5. A desire for more connections beyond the particular one.

Let’s apply “The Five Good Things” to the workplace! Quality organizations understand that psychologically healthy work environments not only make our work lives more rewarding, but also fuel productivity and positive results. It’s all good, with no downsides.


Jean Baker Miller’s “Five Good Things” and the work of relational psychologist and HumanDHS director Linda Hartling strongly inspired the New Workplace Institute’s “Eightfold Path to a Psychologically Healthy Workplace.”

One response

  1. What about 1) a highly stratified “reward” system that keeps some employees down permanently, and don’t they know it, coupled with an open sense of delight by some management in employee disappointment; 2) banning all agency, covered over by a thick cover of fear-inspired silencing [employees are told the way to survive is to keep your head down and be silent]; 3) a willed blindness about oneself for those in management, coupled with their insistence on the innate, unsurmontable inferiority of some employees — including as to their educability; 4) a zero-sum game of worth — some untouchable, some “untouchables”; and 5) a willingness to accept extra financial reward in exchange for keeping some portion of the staff down. And let’s add an environment where lying by management is acceptable, objecting to being lied to, even with evidentiary proof, totally not, plus considering employees to have “shot themselves in the foot” re advancement if they ever exercised their human and statutory right to file a grievance. However toxic this may sound, work situations do exist where all these principles apply. What was the 1950’s children’s book, The Do-Bees and the Don’t-Bees? That some work situations know the 5 Don’t-Bees so well, almost implies they know the Do-Bees — the question is why do they choose the former, instead of the latter — except for the extra personal cash, of course — it certainly doesn’t make for a more productive workplace (as countless research shows) and it creates a virtually palpable toxic environment. And one more thing — massive, needless personal suffering.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: