We ran a marketing campaign called “Homecomings” with the help of creative agency Shannon’s Way – it was all about the need for workers to come home safe from work every day to their family, friends and loved ones. The taglines for the campaign included:
“Your reason for workplace safety is not at work at all.”
“Work safe. Home safe.”
These taglines really struck a chord with our market research test audiences as well as our staff before we even launched the campaign. What really hit home for me how much we entrust the lives of our loved ones into the hands of their employers every day they go to work. The campaign footage showed a young boy waiting for his father to come home, two teenagers who barely acknowledge their dad but their dog getting excited to see him and other various 'coming home' scenes.
My powerful epiphany was how every worker in every workplace is someone’s son or daughter, someone’s mother or father, brother, sister, husband or wife, partner or best friend. Here in Western society we all believe that it’s our fundamental right to work in a safe and healthy workplace and that each day we should be able to go home from work as healthy – both physically and psychologically - as we did when we left in the morning.
Which means the leaders of every company and team are trusted to act like a pseudo parent in their employees extended work family. I believe it is imperative that leaders come from a place of love and genuine care about the wellbeing of the precious lives under their care and supervision, and not just because of some legislation. Those who take up this duty and choose to serve their workers as an extended family, not hired labour or resources to be used, will create stable innovative, high performing, loyal teams over the long term. Sadly few managers and leaders take it this seriously, or have really considered the entrusted role they hold.
What we need therefore, is to build more organisations that prioritise the physical, social, emotional and psychological wellbeing of their workers so we can build happy and healthy families and communities.
As leaders, it is our responsibility to become Expander Leaders, advancing our organisations to create more leaders who in turn grow, flourish and are more likely to serve and become Expander Leaders themselves.
Sadly, during the past few years of downturn and financial crisis and economic instability, a container management style has become more prevalent and it has brought cultures of fear, isolation, blame, threats and stress. As people contract, retract and retreat, they also resort to bullying, harassment, backstabbing and competition, rather than collaboration and cooperation.
Figures from WorkCover NSW between 2000 and 2014 show a marked increase in the number of bullying and harassment workers compensation cases. In 2012/13 the majority of occupational disease claims in NSW alone were mental health diseases accounting for 2235 claims. These mental diseases included such things as clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Although “stress” itself is not a compensable condition, it is one of the many possible factors that may contribute to the contraction or aggravation o a compensable psychological condition. These mental health claims account for 34 per cent of al occupational disease claims and the total gross incurred cost was $49 million with an average cost of around $22,000 per claim. Plus the total time lost as a result of mental disease claims was 39,609 weeks with an average of 18 weeks per claim.
Anxiety/ stress disorder and anxiety/depression claims accounted for 59% of all claims. Industries where mental disease claims accounted for more than 50% of their occupational disease claims were education and training, public administration and safety, accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance – all industries that should be focused on care, love and service! Occupations which accounted for these claims included protective service workers, education professionals, carers and aides, human resources and marketing professionals, health professionals and health and welfare support workers.
This data is from just one state in Australia over the period of one year only! Our workplaces are indeed making us sick and our leaders must take their responsibility to create a positive, healthy culture seriously.
What are we doing wrong?
The raw truth is that an organisations’ success is based on leadership excellence not management acumen. Many organisations give lip service to the concept of their people being their most important resource. What is needed are more Expander Leaders who truly see their people for the unique individuals they are and truly care about those entrusted to their care.
When we become the architects of our company cultures rather than passive participants, we can create workplaces where people are grateful for the opportunity to volunteer their best work every day. To create this takes a series of small, incremental changes and conscious moves, not a single pill.
I believe that when we consciously, deliberately and intentionally choose to design our workplace cultures using the principles of Expander Leadership, love and recognising the UQ (unique strengths) in every individual we unleash human potential. I invite you to join the movement and #startwithU.
If you're ready to #startwithU and want more information on how to lead during a downturn, watch my videohttp://www.uqpower.com.au/_blog/uqtv/post/four-steps-to-leading-during-a-downturn/