Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Implementing Health-Promoting Leadership in Municipal Organizations: Managers' Experiences with a Leadership Program

Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Implementing Health-Promoting Leadership in Municipal Organizations: Managers' Experiences with a Leadership Program

Article excerpt

Introduction

In recent years, there has been an increasing focus on the importance of organizational factors in occupational health research (Härenstam et al., 2006). In line with this, other approaches, complementary to traditional occupational health and safety (OHS) initiatives, have been developed. One such complementary approach is workplace health promotion (WHP). Given the amount of time employees spend at work, the workplace is seen as an important setting for health promotion (Chu et al., 2000). The setting-based approach to WHP considers the influence that the workplace itself has on employee health. Although WHP lacks an agreed-upon definition, in Europe it has been broadly defined as 'the combined effort of employees, employers and the community to improve the health and wellbeing of people at work' (European Network for Workplace Health Promotion, 2007, p. 2).

Traditionally, many employers promote employee health by providing employees with various health behavioral interventions while other organizations have developed allembracing strategies to improve employee health. The WHP approach, however, emphasizes a comprehensive approach combining individual- and organizational-directed interventions (e.g., Shain and Kramer, 2004). This broader view is also underlined in contemporary conceptualizations of WHP, addressing both the design of the work organization and the work environment, although not abandoning the promotion of personal development and health practices (European Network for Workplace Health Promotion, 2007). Thus, WHP adheres to a holistic understanding of health, emphasizing the interplay of individual, organizational, and environmental factors as health determinants (Stokols et al., 1996). Health promotion also views health as a resource in people's everyday life, usually defined as the 'process of enabling people to increase control over and to improve their health' (World Health Organization, 1986, p. 1). Consequently, this comprehensive approach to WHP also implies a broader empirical scope.

Following the shift in occupational health research toward organizational factors and their influence on employee health, a renewed interest in organizational-level interventions aiming to improve psychosocial working conditions and employee health has been noted (Nielsen et al., 2010). Similarly, leadership research, which has developed as a specific line of research, has in recent years been linked more closely to organizational health interventions. There is also some support for the effectiveness of leadership interventions on employee health (Kelloway and Barling, 2010). In this context, the concept of health-promoting leadership has been launched, gaining the most attention in the Nordic countries. Although the concept lacks a clear definition, it has been described as reflecting a Scandinavian leadership tradition, including a process-oriented and participatory view on leadership (Eriksson, 2011). However, empirically, it has been described as organizational actors (e.g., managers) tending to give different meanings to health-promoting leadership, varying from the organizing of healthy lifestyle activities to the managerial responsibilities involved in developing a healthy work environment (Eriksson et al., 2010).

In general, it is not a given that leadership programs should be viewed as organizational health interventions (Kelloway and Barling, 2010). However, when leadership programs involve a participatory approach and focus on social exchange processes between managers and employees, and not only the individual leader, then they can be viewed as organizational-level interventions with the potential to enhance employee health. Furthermore, it has been argued that this type of organizational health intervention can be compared with the implementation of other planned organizational changes, albeit often with a less pronounced economic perspective (e.g., KaranikaMurray and Biron, 2013). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.