A decade ago, I put forth a list of eight questions designed to determine whether or not a workplace is psychologically healthy, productive, and socially responsible toward its own workers. I called it the “Eightfold Path” to a psychologically healthy workplace. Looking back at it, I would add “dignity affirming” to the qualities implicated by these questions. Otherwise, I pretty much still like what I wrote. Here goes:
1. Is there a sense of zest, “buzz,” and opportunity in the workplace?
2. Do employees feel they are valued and treated with respect and dignity?
3. Is the organizational culture friendly, inclusive, and supportive?
4. Is organizational decision making fair, transparent, and evenhanded?
5. Are diversities of all types welcomed and accepted?
6. Does the organization face tough questions concerning employee relations?
7. Are allegations of mistreatment of employees handled fairly and honestly, even when the alleged wrongdoers are in positions of power?
8. Are compensation and reward systems fair and transparent?
The conceptualization of this list was strongly influenced by relational-cultural theory, as pioneered by Dr. Jean Baker Miller. (Go here to access the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute’s website.) Dr. Miller, whose work came to my attention via Dr. Linda Hartling of the Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies network (link here), asserted that “Five Good Things” come from growth-fostering relationships:
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.”
As we consider what types of organizations and work experiences we want to create and sustain, these points should continue to inform us.