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Is your leadership detrimental to the mental health of your employees?

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Recent research shows that business leaders have a much greater influence on those they lead than previously thought. The results-based management approach, which promotes productivity at the expense of worker mental health and safety, extends far beyond the workplace. Indeed, leadership styles can influence the lives and futures of working children.

Two recent and separate studies highlight this fact. First, a study by UKG’s Workforce Institute surveyed 3,400 people in ten countries to shed light on the critical role of jobs and leadership in mental health at work and beyond. This study found that “managers influence the mental health of employees (69%) more than doctors (51%) or therapists (41%) — and even a spouse or partner (69%).” In addition, 80% of employees would prefer good mental health to a better-paying job; 67% of employees and 70% of managers would accept a pay cut to improve their mental state.

the book Work matters: How parental jobs shape child well-being (Princeton, 2023) Explores the impact of parents’ professional experience on their children’s lives. This study followed more than 370 low-wage working-class families for more than ten years, from pregnancy through the early years of parenthood, and found that workers with more independence and more understanding supervisors are more caring and more involved when interacting with their young. children. Consider the impact of this finding in the context of studies conducted by the Harvard Center for Child Development, which show that “warm and responsive parenting during a child’s first year of life enhances their level of attachment to their parents, as well as their emotional regulation, social skills, and academic performance.”

“This data suggests that the behavior of leaders has an impact on society, not only in terms of business outcomes, but also in the daily lives of workers and their children. It is fair to conclude that the way we lead today will fundamentally affect the workforce,” said Chris Shipley recently. For generations to come.” Given the magnitude of this impact, we need to think differently about leadership. To be clear, business leaders should never replace trained mental health care providers, especially for people experiencing a mental health crisis. More empathetic leadership better serves companies, communities, businesses, and training for the next generation of the workforce.To be clear, an empathetic leadership style does not mean that employees are expected to be less.Instead, leaders are required to help employees perform at their best and encourage them On maintaining their sanity – the key to human flourishing and unleashing their fullest potential.

To become more empathetic and effective leaders need to make four key changes:

state of mind Leaders no longer manage people, they promote their success. Organizational psychologists at SAP SuccessFactors surveyed academic journals and business publications to better understand the changing role of people managers and concluded that the most effective managers have moved away from focusing on process, supervision, and performance appraisal to become “performance coaches who advocate feedback, develop safety psychology, and provide one-to-one interpersonal support.” “. According to the report, a manager’s role is to “ensure the success of their team, foster meaningful and engaging experiences for team members, and enable them to seize career opportunities that may arise outside the team. In other words, your employees no longer work for you, you work for them. Your success depends on their success.”

the culture. In the age of the know-it-all and unchallenged manager, workers competed for attention, direction, encouragement, and praise. In this sense, workers acted as competitors, an idea reinforced by destructive management policies such as coercive categorization that pitted people against each other in their quest for first place. Performance has always favored cooperation rather than competition, as evolutionary biologist William Muir has proven over forty years of research, concluding that “competition between domesticated plants or animals can negatively affect the productivity of a stand or farm.” Today, and especially as companies strive to engage their employees and promote collaborative explorations, teams need to operate with collective intelligence, because no one person has all the knowledge needed to succeed. Workers are collaborators, not competitors. The primary goal of this change is to build trust. Gallup recently reported that we are seeing a decline in trust, with only 21% of respondents saying they trust their organization’s leadership. This number is lower than it was during the pandemic crisis. Confidence and psychological safety are essential to successful collaborative explorations. When team members see each other as collaborators, they free up their leaders to become mentors rather than rulers.

the approach. Abandon static job descriptions and highly structured organizational charts. Companies cannot push their employees to learn and adapt at the speed, scale, and scope required to meet extraordinary change by threatening them with penalties or dangling rewards. This outside approach simply won’t work. Instead, leaders should help employees identify their own motivations and shape their work based on their values, curiosities, and interests. According to a 2019 Gallup study, 59% of people surveyed said their best personal driver at work is the belief that their work has purpose and meaning. Motivated employees are better able to learn and adapt to respond better to market opportunities.

behavior. In the not too distant past, leaders were expected to lead, make decisions with confidence, and drive productivity, often through dominance and sometimes even through fear. Today’s leaders must slip into the role of lead coach and motivator. They guide effective behaviors, balance wellness, prevent group burnout, and inspire people to perform at their best. Leaders must create optimal conditions for their team to thrive. Burnout isn’t just a problem for workers, it’s also a challenge for leaders. A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that leaders who achieve a better work-life balance, including detachment from work, are more effective leaders. “The simple message from this study is that if you want to be an effective leader, leave work to work,” said Claudiana Lanage, a professor at UF’s Warrington School of Business who led the research.

Labor issues will remain a threat to all organizations. Employee empowerment has reversed the employer-employee dynamic, giving new psychological strength to workers who now know better what they want, how they want to work, and what they will accept as compensation for that work. Consider the leadership of AirBnB CEO Brian Chesky as he faced the inevitable layoffs pandemic. The sympathetic, genuine and vulnerable message he sent to his employees on May 5, 2020, in the face of deep uncertainty, proved to be a fulcrum for the company’s employees. As companies in and outside the tech sector lay off workers, fear that technologies like ChatGPT will replace jobs, and worry about continued economic uncertainty, we must take the mental health and well-being of our employees as our guiding principle. This applies to those who remain and whose office has been abolished, often without having anything to do with it.

Over the past eight years, Heather E. McGowan, author of this article, has spoken with hundreds of business leaders about the importance of empathic leadership for identifying and validating these leadership transitions. These leaders assert that these four changes are exactly what is needed to usher in a new economic era—one where people are at the center, where they are empowered to fully participate in the organization. In fact, these four changes unleash human potential, which is the greatest source of value in any organization. Empowered and mentally healthy employees are the greatest source of human potential and business performance.

Translated article from Forbes US – Author: Heather E. McGowan

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