Things are looking up for Australians.
Entertainment, restaurants and industries are opening up and vaccines are rolling out. Hope is in the air, but after the emotional rollercoaster of the last 15 months under COVID-19, many of us are feeling drained.
It feels like we have gotten through the worst of it here in Australia. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We dreamed of days like these in lockdown, and we know we're so fortunate to be in this country while other countries, especially India, suffer devastating consequences.
So why do we still feel so… meh? We're not all burnt out, but why are we still having trouble concentrating, lacking energy, zest, and urgency.
The emotion many Australian employees feel lies somewhere in the middle of the continuum between flourishing and depression. This middle-ground is referred to as "languishing".
As psychologist Adam Grant recently pointed out in his viral piece in the New York Times (1), languish is "the neglected middle child of mental health". On the other hand, flourishing is the peak of wellbeing: you have a strong sense of purpose, skill and mattering.
Hmm… we're not there yet are we
Depression is an absence of wellbeing: you anguish in despair, feeling drained and somewhat worthless. You lack confidence and a sense of purpose.
Hmm… fortunately, many are not quite there either
So, where does that leave us?
Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness and is a common emotion infecting us in 2021. Like COVID, these symptoms may go unnoticed until things get worse. A large body of research suggests it is a considerable risk factor for mental illness (2). In the early days of the pandemic, it's likely that the "threat detection" powerhouse in your brain – the amygdala – was in overdrive. It set us into survival mode, skyrocketing the stress hormone cortisol and giving rise to behaviours and habits that temporarily relieve the stress. Languishing triples the odds of cutting back on work (3) because it dulls your sense of motivation, focus and productivity.
Even if you're not languishing, many of your employees likely are. Understanding it better can help you support your team to get back on track.
While hundreds of internet articles offered self-help tips, tricks and hacks, there's more you can do to create a positive impact as a business and leader.
The well-intentioned advice from NY Times’ Adam Grant and then the follow-on article from Dani Blum (4) was soothing. Yet suggesting self-help advice like naming the emotion and practicing "Sunday dinner gratitude" is ultimately palliative. While it may make us feel less compromised, these tips and tricks fail to report on broader policies and occupational factors impacting mental health.
It isn't speaking to the thousands in unstable or unsatisfying work, with inadequate healthcare, inadequate leisure time and a lack of community. Social issues require social solutions. As Mark Fisher wrote, "the social and political causation of distress is neatly sidestepped at the same time as discontent is individualised and interiorised". While self-care is undoubtedly an essential practice for the individual, we must re-imagine how to address the harms on a broader scale.
As a business owner and manager, you have the power to help your employees transcend languishing into a state of wellbeing. As abolitionist Mariame Kaba wrote in her essay "Jailbreak of the Imagination", "While we protect ourselves from their consistent and regular blows, we must also fight for a vision of the world we want to inhabit." A world beyond tips and tricks and hacks to help people cope.
As an experienced business leader, you have the authority and responsibility to restructure your business and lead towards a brighter future. Your people, after all, are your greatest asset.
The good thing is, with the right tools and processes in place, mastering people management for a healthier more productive team can be easier than you think.
- Assess whether your employee has the right "fit" to the role based on their personality, interests and behaviour and place them where they will thrive.
The biggest disaster in business is having competent employees in the wrong role. When we place good quality people into the wrong position, it decreases their engagement, wellbeing and motivation. It's essential to look at personality, strengths and interests, rather than making the age-old mistake of relying solely on experience and IQ.
The reason we use the Profile XT psychometric instrument is because it is the most advanced JobFit tool you can use to match people with their work. It measures the essential factors that predict success in specific roles by identifying and quantifying the critical success attributes of your proven high performers. The data gathered can guide you on placing the right person into the right role, allowing them to tap into their strengths. Fitting employees in the right role is critical to cultivating a sense of "flourishing" in the workplace.
- Help employees set goals by creating an attainable career roadmap.
Hopefully, after a year of hunkering down and hibernation, your business is in the position to take a step forward and create a more secure future for your employees. Once you've got the right people in the right roles, the next step is to set goals and create an attainable career roadmap based on interests and behavioural patterns. Become an enabler, creating the conditions for your team to grow and develop for themselves.
Work with your employee to build development plans in the short and medium term. The key is to consistently review their progress and look for new areas to improve functionally and develop leadership capability. By aligning their current skills with future development and potential increases in role responsibility, they will be more motivated, more productive and deliver increased contributions to their employer.
Implementing monthly one-on-ones are a fantastic way to monitor your teams' wellness and progress. It will help you stay aware of your employee's accomplishments and help them strive for improvement. Peoplogica's Jobfit tool can help here by assessing your employees' Placement, Promotion Fit and Succession Planning based on critical success attributes of high performers. Taking calculated steps while celebrating achievements along the way will help your employees transcend languishing.
- To improve mental health in the workplace, companies and leaders must devote more empathy toward their employees.
Ultimately, the most important aspect to improving workplace mental health is to lead with empathy. As Simon Sinek pointed out recently (5), this involves seeing employees as people, not just functionaries. Understand that they have stressors at home that affect their mood and how they feel. Understand people have both good and bad days. Mental health is incredibly important, impacting how people show up to do their work and show up as a team. Leadership comes with the responsibility to take care of your people. In return, they will reward you with loyalty, better work and a healthier team.
By recognising that so many of us are in a collective state of languishing, you have the opportunity to let employees know they're not alone.
Will you step up as a leader and light the way to a better reality?
Get in touch to find out how Peoplogica can help!