Academic journal article College and University

Creating a Healthy Workplace

Academic journal article College and University

Creating a Healthy Workplace

Article excerpt

Welcome to the fourth in a series of articles in which we focus on workplace efficiencies and the use of good man- agement and project management techniques and tools to foster a productive and healthy workplace. This article lays the foundation for creating the work environment needed to realize good management practices. Without a healthy team (or at least a team tending toward health), it can be difficult to organize, motivate, cultivate loyalty, and set priorities. In addition, we discuss why you need to know your organization, your service and/or product, and your culture. If we do not know who and where we are today, then how can we move forward tomorrow ?

We introduced work plans early in the series so our readers could begin to address some tangible issues. But it is just as important to assess the "level of health" of the unit or organization early in the project management (pm) process. It is much easier to introduce or improve efficien- cies when the environment fosters such improvements. Although many terms and phrases can be used to describe a good work environment, we prefer the word "healthy." We often hear about building teams, creating community, fostering trust, and providing a safe place where people can work to their full potential without being bombarded by the kinds of issues that typify low-morale environments. Creating a pleasant place to work requires considerable leadership if only because health-promoting rules and workplace practices need to be enforced and underlying tensions and departmental practices that drag everyone down need to be corrected.

People must be shown the way and given an oppor- tunity to change. (Just a couple of flies in the soup make the whole pot undesirable.) That said, change is a two- pronged process: The boss must lead and manage well, and the team must want to participate. The leader/manager cannot expect much success without a team that wants to contribute, that has purpose, that is eager for change, and that has the fortitude to follow through. It is not all the boss's responsibility; however, too often, failure becomes an exercise in blaming the boss.

In the latter half of this article, we describe how the manager and team can build a foundation to help the unit move in a healthier and more efficient direction. In subsequent articles, we will discuss de-motivation and motivation and will address the specifics of team build- ing and reducing stress. Finally, we will present a series of case studies detailing how to put it all into practice-i.e., implementation. If we only plan and do not execute, we will not find a new or better way. Thought experiments and planning exercises are all now "Internet free," meaning that we have more than enough templates for planning. Those who learn these skills and then are able to execute the plan will remain competitive.

A healthy workplace requires a strong and confident boss with good management and leadership skills. Health in an organization needs to be enforced. Problems abound in units where the manager does not affect the change needed to keep the environment safe and successful. The tools and techniques described in Part I of this article can be rewarding, but they are not for the faint of heart. Strong, confident, careful management and leadership are required in today's highly competitive environment.

Many of the topics we address can be found in man- agement books and on websites such as BNET.com and TechRepublic.com. You are likely to recognize much of what you read. We hope to get you to think differently about some of these time-tested ideas; to describe an implementation plan; and, perhaps most important, to convince you that good management and project manage- ment works and that the challenge is worth it. We hope to motivate and convince you to take at least some the steps necessary to improve your organization and to not be sat- isfied with the status quo-particularly if your workplace is unprioritized, overwhelmed, and unhealthy. …

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