Magazine article Talent Development

How to Be OK

Magazine article Talent Development

How to Be OK

Article excerpt

Please pardon the delay, due to publishing schedules and my two-part customer service series, in reporting how readers responded to the September column "Are We OK?" I received some great ideas on how companies can help workers deal with anxiety due to terrorist attacks, military deployments, the sluggish U.S. economy, and so forth, and improve productivity and emotional ROI. Here's a sampling. (For the column, (GO TO) Intelligence, T+D September.)

Provide a time and place to discuss concerns.

During the United States's first Gulf War, Ken Camel, then a captain with the U.S. Air Force, found that offering a designated time and place for his staff to talk about their concerns enabled them to focus on work the rest of the day. The members of his team, "warfighters" taken out of combat to conduct training, would watch and discuss the daily television briefings from the U.S. Central Command. Those 30-minute sessions, Camel says, were lively, informative, and therapeutic. According to Camel, distraction at work will only get worse "unless we find a way to allow people to discuss true everyday events in a personal way."

Assign advisors. Bill Dixon, Ernst & Young's director of knowledge and communications, shares the company's idea of advisors, who are matched with every worker below associate director level. Employees can talk about whatever they want to and get a listening ear, and all conversations with advisors are confidential. If the personality mix isn't right, workers can ask to be reassigned. Dixon says this program "has been a great benefit in reducing worker anxiety over life and professional events."

Develop a constructive culture. Janet Szumal at Human Synergistics/Center for Applied Research, suggests that companies can reduce worker anxiety and increase productivity by ensuring that internal structures, systems, technologies, and required skills are consistent with the organization's stated values, philosophy, and mission. Companies can do that, she says, by developing the skills and qualities in employees required to achieve the values and mission and by reinforcing those skills and qualities with the structures, systems, and technology daily.

Emphasize education. Leo McIntyre, training assessor and instructional designer at a large international company, says that his CEO emphasizes education--for employees' personal as well as professional growth. If employees are learning, he says, they'll want to stay at the company and perform to their highest potential. "Employees feel valued," says, "and have less stress, less distracted, and are more focused on the job."

NEDS: "Carpel Tunnel of the Mind"

Do you have New Economy Depression Syndrome? Do your company's workers? Even without the stress of current events, modern life wouldn't be great for our mental health.

NEDS, discovered by Tim Sanders (author of Love Is the Killer App), is defined as "a form of self-reinforcing depression, which is caused by information overload, constant interruption, and a reduction in relationship quality. The victim feels a sense of being overwhelmed, helpless, and ultimately alone. The process from stress to breakdown to self-medication is a downward spiral of increased expropriation of expertise and social in action to technology. This is best understood in a workplace scenario as carpel tunnel of the mind

Sanders saw the trend later deemed NEDS while researching his book and examined it with the help of psychologists and treatment providers. It's estimated that 4 to 6 million people may be suffering from NEDS and may be at risk for heart disease, stroke, unemployment, divorce, and drug and alcohol abuse. …

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