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Building a Healthy Workplace

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The most important aspect of a healthy workplace is reflected in the relationships we develop. Promoting self-evaluation automatically sets up the potential for both personal and social responsibility, encouraging respect, which over time is a means of fostering trust.

If you have ever worked in an environment that was emotionally toxic, you know staff often experience consistent dread of going to the workplace, the awareness of anger, depression or hurt, a feeling of demoralization at the end of each workday. This is as true for administrators as for front line staff. Periodically it is us as individuals who create toxicity by our thinking. If I am the only one experiencing the symptoms listed above, it is likely, “my stuff” vs. a toxic workplace.

When supervisors or managers invite input, we share power. It is what current leadership is about. Working together to develop shared beliefs, expectations and a vision for the workplace would ideally include agreed upon examples of expectations for dealing with conflict. These provide the base needed to begin behaving in ways to test out trustworthiness in the workplace from a new perspective. Once done, participants feel a greater investment in their work, the common vision and are more willing to work together toward setting and enacting defined goals and outcomes.

Making mistakes is a human quality. It is how we learn. If we accept this, and have an agreed upon expectation that members of the team will “own” their mistakes, take credit for only their achievements, give credit where due, attempt to work out differences and conflicts with others, people begin feeling safer to be themselves. This provides the honesty, trust and creativity needed for personal and systems productivity.

Edward Deming, the American who directed Japans’ workforce toward the economic force it became following World War ll, said 90% of problems in the workplace are systems problems and only 10 % are the responsibility of the individual. If the system is faulty, the employee can not be successful, no matter how efficient the worker. Systems problems are reflected by high turnover. Examples of systems problems: communications, timing processes for orders, movement of equipment or paper. Who or how decisions are made are frequently at the core of systems issues. Systems thinking means we reflect on the implications for the whole. Efficient systems are productive and need satisfying, providing a means of accountability and the by-product of high moral, a necessity for a healthy workplace.