Vicarious trauma. Depleted bodies. Scrambled brains. Cumulative stress. Burnout. These stress consequences are growing at alarming rates in today’s demanding work environments.
When an occupation exposes a workforce to toxic substances, employers supply protective masks, gloves and/or suits. In sharp contrast, organizations that operate with high stress levels rarely provide adequate protection for emotional wellbeing. Instead the burden is on the individual employee to manage their stress quietly. To spend time on self-care... and perhaps rush to get help when they reach a breaking point. Can we imagine a hospital saying to its new employees that they should go online and purchase their own protective masks?
Neuroscience shows that unresolved and overwhelming stress distorts brain function and behavior. Physical health and emotional resilience decline; personal and professional relationships are damaged; engagement and productivity plummet; and feelings of fear and anxiety dominate. There isn’t a single organization in any industry that can afford these stress consequences.
We do not accept the idea that people should either persist in the midst of toxic stress or pick a new career.
To make things worse, people who aspire to do something meaningful about workforce stress have to navigate internal obstacles. They are told to suck it up. Or “this is just the way it is.” They face insurmountable awkwardness in dealing with emotional subjects. Stigma prevails.
Greenleaf believes that organizations aspire for something better. But all too often, decision-makers are trapped in a system where they feel defeated and patterns of unhealthy behavior are repeated. When a problematic case emerges, the organization over-focuses on the individual and blames the victim rather than examining the work context as a major contributing factor. Organizational dysfunction continues and everyone loses.
We now know better—and we do not have to accept this status quo. We now have scientific knowledge and resilience-building strategies that lead people to thrive in our demanding environments. And with the democratization of knowledge online, more and more people are discovering that their workplace is capable of doing more for the prevailing runaway stress.
It’s time to cultivate workplaces where stress and fear are not simply managed, but examined with eyes wide open and reduced at their root causes. Where people are protected from unnecessary suffering and preventable breakdowns. And where everyone in the enterprise feels safe in acknowledging the personal toll of getting the job done.
It’s time to create a culture of solidarity and compassion that naturally inspires elevated performance, positive outcomes and widespread wellbeing.
It’s time for WELLBEING THAT WORKS.