Beyond Stress: How Leadership Style and Decision Making Authority Influence Health

Featured

When we talk about employment and health, the conversation usually focuses on how your health impacts your ability to find and maintain meaningful employment, or how being healthy impacts your performance at work. However, while the above is absolutely true, the opposite is true as well – employment is in fact one of the most influential determinants of health.

Some of the ways employment can impact your physical, mental, and social health include:

  • Positively influencing self-esteem
  • Providing a vital link between the individual and society
  • Enabling personal fulfilment
  • Social contact and satisfaction arising from involvement in a collective effort (Institute of Public Health in Ireland, 2005).

Not only does employment influence health directly, it also shapes many other aspects of life important for health and wellbeing, including the ability to pay rent, bills, and afford healthy food. For more info on how all of the various determinants of health influence each other, check out this great short video from the Wellesley Institute.

While employment in and of itself has been linked to health, specific aspects of your work also influence health – in addition to such obvious factors as physical hazards in the workplace or stress, the social organization of your workplace, management styles, degree of control you have, and social relationships have also all been found to influence health. Some examples of this include:

  • Little opportunity to use your skills and low decision-making authority can negatively impact health (WHO, 2003)
  • Little control over one’s work is strongly related to an increased risk of low back pain, sickness absence and cardiovascular disease (WHO, 2003). For example, a study of civil servants in the U.K. showed that individuals with low job control were nearly twice as likely to report coronary heart disease than other workers (Institute of Public Health in Ireland, 2005)
  • Receiving inadequate rewards (e.g. money, status, or self-esteem) for the effort put into work has been linked with increased cardiovascular risk (WHO, 2003).

In addition to impacting health, these factors also play a role in job satisfaction, performance, and success in your chosen field. Whatever your role at work may be, having control, being rewarded, and using your skills could positively impact all aspects of your life.

World Health Organization (2003). Social Determinants of Health: The Solid Facts. http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/98438/e81384.pdf

Institute of Public Health in Ireland (2005). Health Impacts of Employment: A Review. http://www.publichealth.ie/sites/default/files/documents/files/IPH_Employment_Health_24pp.pdf

Community Work Search Resources

[Editor's note: thanks to Robin Anderson for the photos and information below. Where we work and what we work at is one of the most important aspects of community].

On Monday April 2, 2012 all provincial employment programs changed. Job seekers will be able to use a new set of services to help them find a job. All the employment services currently being funded by the Ministry of Social Development will end and will be replaced by the new Employment Program of B.C. Under the new Program, Metro Vancouver has been divided into various catchment areas and different organizations are responsible for providing services in each area. MOSAIC and its Partner Service Providers will be offering services in the Northeast part of Vancouver. There is a Centre for all job seekers at Commercial and Broadway and locations for specific groups of job seekers, such as youth and people of aboriginal descent.

[Editor's note: there has been a bit of controversy around the re-distribution of resources - from in-person to online - with Service Canada's Hire a Student program, at which I used to work in the lat '90s and early 2000s].

Says Anderson about the changes:

In terms of the context, CSJ is a federal program delivered by Service Canada, and our employment resource centre is a provincially funded project under the Ministry of Social Development. We think our WorkBC employment services would fit well with the re-vamped CSJ.

Students have access to self service services at all Work BC employment centres across the province. This includes access to computer terminals to print work related documents, search job postings including employment opportunities for students such as those available through the Canada Summer Jobs Program (CSJ) and attend workshops. They can also ask staff for some feedback on their resume and for information about where they can find job search leads.

In the MOSAIC locations, job seekers can find out what jobs are in demand, how to write the best resumes and cover letters and how to give successful job interviews. “We can also help select and fund training for eligible participants,” says Drive Youth Employment Services employee, Robin Anderson. “All the services, including access to computers and the internet are free.” For more information, email NortheastESC@mosaicbc.com, check out the Work BC interactive, phone 604-708-9300, www.workbc.ca/workbccentres/welcome.htm.

XYBOOM Conference Discusses Workplace Community

[Editor's note: whether you're an un-or-under-employed Millennial, Gen Xer, or Baby Boomer, you should be paying attention to an upcoming awesometastic collaboration between Service Canada, My Loudspeaker, the post-secondary community, and many change-making businesses from Metro Vancouver and beyond. It's called the XYBOOM Conference and it will be community-building at its finest!]

Vancouver, BC – January 10, 2012 – When a business loses an employee, it loses more than a staff member: employee turnover is estimated to cost more than double the cost of retainment. Loss of productivity, resources and time spent re-hiring and training are some of the burdens of employee replacement. The BC Business Council urges businesses to be more competitive in their retention strategies, suggesting investing in succession planning and staff development as solutions. The XYBOOM Conference seeks to address these issues with a dynamic, intergenerational approach.

Sustainable hiring systems and employee development and retention are key topics to be addressed at the conference on January 20th. This unique initiative, funded primarily by Service Canada brings togther business professionals and youth with experts from three generations – X,Y and Baby Boomer – to collaborate on finding strategies and solutions on mitigating the growing labour shortage.

The conference offers more than ten industry panelists who have diverse career backgrounds – including expertise in human resources, intercultural understanding, workplace organization and strategic marketing – as well as engaging, participatory workshops sessions, guaranteeing attendees will leave with strategies and insights on the issues at hand.

“The conference plays an important role in mitigating the pending labour shortage as baby boomers exit the workforce” says Alden Habacon, UBC Director of Intercultural Understanding Strategy Development and XYBOOM panelist. With baby boomers beginning to retire and a looming labour shortage, employee replacement is becoming a growing financial burden for unprepared businesses. Higher retention rates give businesses a competitive edge during labour shortages.

Business applications for XYBOOM will be accepted at www.xyboom.ca.

Hosted by My Loud Speaker, the XYBOOM Conference will be held on January 20th from 9-5pm at the Yaletown Roundhouse. This not-for-profit event will also include a live streaming feature for off-site youth participants across the Lower Mainland, XYBOOM awards for businesses, case study reports and an interactive art installation created by Gen Why Media Project at the W2 atrium from Jan 19-21st.

Please visit www.xyboom.ca for more information on the conference, issues at hand, and a complete guest panelist list.

Devon Wong – Media Relations
604 250 4662 | www.xyboom.ca
XYBOOM: January 20, 2012

Masthead photo (The Train at the Roundhouse Theatre in Yaletown) courtesy of goldberg

Wasted Talent

“Don’t let’s waste waste” – that’s the rather awkward title of an article from the The Economist that just flashed across my Facebook news feed. I skimmed it (Barack Obama is setting up an e-waste task force), but it got me thinking of a waste-oriented conversation in which I participated about a week ago.

It happened in the Railway Club … but that’s neither here nor there.

Moving on…

There I sat with my good friend Bu – who is a Senior Research Manager for the Department of Community and Government Services in Nunavut – and we, along with some other fine folks, were discussing Canada’s North. As a resident of one of Canada’s most Northern communities, Iqaluit, Bu had some inside knowledge and thoughtful opinions about the territory, which suffers from, among other things, an 11.6% unemployment rate.

And this is when – amidst several delicious jugs – I had a semi-eloquent moment: “People talk a lot about how much our world wastes,” I said. “I don’t think that there’s an example of waste more disappointing than the way we waste human talent.”

You see, human beings are the only species on this planet without full employment. All the other ones – from worms to whales to walruses to wallabies – have jobs (or, more accurately, they all have work to be done). This is not a new concept – undoubtedly, the delicious jugs made me seem very wise at the time – but it should be noted that, according to the International Labour Organization, nearly one billion people on this planet are unemployed and countless others find themselves underemployed because of barriers like technology, mental illness, poverty, the price of education, apathy, addiction, fear, and laziness to name a few.

Says co-author of Natural Capitalism, Paul Hawken, “In a world where a billion workers cannot find a decent job or any employment at all, it bears stating the obvious: we cannot by any means – monetarily, governmentally, or charitably – create a sense of value and dignity in people’s lives when we are simultaneously creating a a society that clearly has no need for them.”

Says Godfrey von Bismarck, co-author of The History of Work Series on the Daily Gumboot, “Wow, this gives whole new meaning to getting wasted.”

Jokes and tangents aside, while Canada should be proud of it’s 7.6% unemployment rate in this fragile global market, we still have a long way to go before being a truly inclusive, efficient and productive society. Especially when it comes to the value that we place on work and employment.

After all, a society that wastes so many electronics logically wastes so many people, too. And the price for both kinds of waste is higher than we can afford to pay.

Introducing the History of Work Series

While so many people – especially the staff of the Daily Gumboot – are on vacation, Godfrey von Bismarck and I thought we’d talk about work. Specifically, the History of it.

Work is perhaps the most central thing to the concept of community – in fact, the measurement of our lives as “successful” or not typically have work in the equation somewhere. According to Philosopher and Friend-of-the-’Boot, Alain de Botton, “Pick up any newspaper or magazine, open the TV, and you’ll be bombarded with suggestions of how to have a successful life. Some of these suggestions are deeply unhelpful to our own projects and priorities – and we should take care.” This series is not one of those unhelpful things. It’s amazing. Just ask Alain de Botton!

Further, the Fraser Institute’s Patrick Basham and Jason Clemens point out that “Labour is a dynamic process through which individuals add value to raw materials, generate wealth for society, and give form to previously only imagined ideas. At the heart of the labour process is the opportunity for individuals to provide for themselves (and their families) a standard of living based on their own hard work, ingenuity, creativity, and skills.”  The Fraser Institute’s mortal enemy, The New Economic Foundation, argues that work represents a necessary component of a flourishing society: “High-quality work can profoundly affect our well-being by providing us with purpose, challenge, and opportunities for social relationships. It can constitute a meaningful part of our identity.” No matter what conceptual spectrum you approach it from, work is quite clearly the fabric of communities from Vancouver to Nairobi to Melbourne to Downtown Germania.

For the record, health is important, too. And the environment. Education has value as well, unless, of course, you are a Feudal Lord who needs to ensure that your Serfs do not gain access to movable type and, consequently, overthrow you.

Moving on…

Since human beings killed dinosaurs around 5,000 BC, work has been a central part of every human community. From the Discover Channel to the Harvard Business Review to the recently celebrated One Week Job Program to Philosophers, Teachers, Consultants, Coaches, Writers, Academics, and countless other professionals, holistic examinations of work – and what it means to humans – have threaded their way through textbooks, conferences, professional development seminars, and pop-culture. Some people say this series will add to the narrative of humans and work. Others say that this series will replace the entire thing because it’s so amazing.

Godfrey and I leave the final decision to you.

Below, as identified by the American Management Association, are five skills that have always made great workers masters of their craft. In order to put them in context, we will use the job of Circus Clown (pictured) to show their timeless application. Here they are:

  1. Effective Communication - delivers comprehensive water-spraying instructions to five-person team with no verbal cues, just first-class miming techniques.
  2. Critical Thinking and Analysisbased on research and analysis of previous five (unsuccessful) attempts by colleagues, removed head from lion’s mouth in timely fashion.
  3. Teamwork and Collaborationcollaborated with 89-person team to seamlessly enter and exit a three-cubic-meter car in under seven minutes.
  4. Innovation and Creativitycontinually include fire and roller skates into components of show, such as engaging with young audience members during the “trampolines and shark tank” performance.
  5. John’s bonus skills: Adaptability (new). Leadership (experienced) - demonstrated flexibility by securing myself in a cannon, resulting in a post-explosion-travel of approximately 96 meters (new) or demonstrated comprehensive knowledge of safety procedures – such as location of 13 different fire extinguishers, medical personal and digital camera – during the rookie-clown-cannon-experience component of Circus’s closing ceremonies.

The relationship of these skills to certain jobs guided our selection process (for example, how frequently – or infrequently – does a churl demonstrate effective critical thinking and analysis when compared to a Product Manager at Google?), but there are other elements that informed our decision-making, too. During our evaluations, we really liked it when jobs spanned time and place. Here are some other factors that helped us nominate and rank  the five best and worst jobs in history:

  • Level of Hardship – “how much does this job make my life suck?
  • Opportunity for Advancement – “how many paths are there from this job to cooler ones?
  • Meaningful Nature of Work – “how much do I absolutely love doing this job?”

Each category has a five-point scale. In the case of a tie, “Grossness” and “Satisfaction“  will be used as the deciding factors.

Here are the shortlists for the best and worst jobs in the history of the world:

Candidates for the Best Job Ever.

  • Creative Leader at Google
  • Doctor
  • Carrier Fleet Admiral
  • King, Queen, Emperor, or Sultan
  • Landed 19th C Aristocrat
  • Explorer
  • Pirate (all the different kinds, ie. sea pirate, hacker, corporate raider)
  • Sponsored Surfer
  • Professional Athlete
  • Cult Leader
  • Food Critic
  • Superhero
  • Singer
  • Firefighters
  • University Professor
  • Educational and Vocational Counsellor
  • Hand model
  • Philosopher
  • Editor-in-Chief of a Major Newspaper
  • Johnny Depp

Candidates for the Worst Job Ever.

  • Slave
  • Serf
  • First World War Message Runner
  • Stand up Comedian
  • Entrepreneur
  • Pardoner
  • Politician
  • French Revolution Guillotine Operator
  • Collector of Plague Dead
  • Anarchist
  • Gladiator
  • The Coin Stamper
  • Leech Collector
  • Castrato
  • Adviser to Kim Jong Il
  • Telemarketer
  • Mine sweeper
  • Fact-checker at Fox News
  • Worker on Oil Rig
  • Ship Breaker

Over the next five days, Godfrey and I will count down the five best and five worst jobs in human history.

We hope that you enjoy the experience as much as we do and that it makes you really excited about returning to work or, alternatively, deciding that you never want to go back to work again!

Have fun with it!

- Godfrey and John

Leaving a Job & Building Connections – Part 2

Previously on Lost in this series:

  • We avoided self-righteous indignation
  • We said nice things to people
  • Locke totally isn’t Locke, he’s the smoke thing OMG AMIRITE!!1!ONE1!

Ahem… Focus

Part Two

Put on your blinders and blinkers boys and girls.

One Track Mind

Maintaining focus during the wrap-up period is one of the most difficult, and most important, parts of successfully leaving a job.

As much as it’s tempting to start taking it easy and wind down to the last day, actually cranking it up is by far the better option.

The reason for this is twofold:

  1. You won’t look back with any guilt over your last few weeks or days.
  2. You’ll leave with a much stronger foundation for your reputation.

You won’t be able to complete everything, and what you can’t complete will need to be handed off.

With that in mind get a notepad and pen, and keep it with you 24/7. A notepad is simple, reliable, and perhaps because of it’s lack of wifi, one of the best ways to keep yourself focused.

Out of Focus

FOCUS!

Starting at the front make lists of projects and how you’ll finish them off or at least prepare them for the next person. Starting at the back, write down a tips list for your replacement.

A good list of tips and lessons learned will be invaluable to your replacement, or replacements if your work is being spread across several positions.

On your second to last day go through that notepad. Transcribe the tips, and make a special note providing brief details for projects you just couldn’t complete or prepare for handing-off.

You’ll have kept yourself focused, and left a solid foundation for both the person(s) taking over your position, and your reputation. Much like the tips from the first post in this series, it’s all about building your professional network the right way. You’ll probably meet your colleagues again, do it as friends and mutual admirers.

Leaving a Job & Building Connections – Part 1

Over the next few weeks I’m transitioning from one workplace, where I’ve been for the last five years, to a new job. This move means I will have left, on good terms, ten jobs.

Not that it’s a major accomplishment that I’ve had that many “serious” jobs since high school, that’s increasingly common among my generation. Unfortunately, what’s also quite common among my peers is an astonishing lack of tact and class when leaving a position.

This post, and those to follow in this series explore how we leave, and what we leave behind.

GTO Judge
Unless you are actually a judge, or this car, which is a judge keep it to yourself

Part One

Grab not the gory-gavel of post-position pontification.

Employment advice abounds on the ‘net. From LinkedIn to Monster, from blogs on building your personal brand to career coaching services. In general, the focus of career-sites is on “reaching the next step.”

That’s great, but gracefully leaving an organization is nearly as important – and growing more important every day – as tactfully joining another.

Why?

If facebook, LinkedIn, twitter, bebo, orkut, google buzz, and this blog right here have anything to teach us at all it’s that we’re all connected. Our connections and relationships are public record and offer a reflection of our character for all to see.

Regardless of how tightly you control your privacy settings.

Which brings us to the permier point:

Zip it.

Seriously, unless you’ve got something positive to say keep your lips sealed.

Sure, a new opportunity is empowering. But regardless of how strong the temptation to pass judgment out loud might be, remember that you yourself will be judged and remembered based on your actions during your time of transition.

Stay positive, and stay quiet. Outside of actually having done a great job for your about-to-be-former employer, it’s your best chance at being remembered in a kind light.

Monster Planning Session
Imagine your rep is Japan, an unprofessional exit from employment helps build a community not unlike that pictured above…

Your colleagues are far more likely to reconnect with you throughout your working life than your manager, director, or boss.

Harm done to these relationships will bring no good.
Wrap up everything with as much positive energy as possible and you will build a very real network of valuable connections.

I’ve witnessed every kind of negative departure, from the office-wide up-yours-email, to rants at meetings, to hushed cc’d and bcc’d emails pointing out flaws, to drunken blabber at goodbye bashes. Without fail, these actions cast a shadow over any positive accomplishments made during one’s tenure.

Without fail.

If absolutely must say something to someone about their performance during your last few weeks, make it positive. Let someone know they were great to work with, or let someone’s boss know.

Be cool, be classy, and be quiet.

Your goal should be to create a community of micro-mentors, and your reputation as a cool and classy lass or lad can only help, especially when it comes time to poach the best and brightest from former employers for your amazing new venture.

Sure, you might have built a few friendships. That’s great, but greater than that is a wide network of professionals whose last experience working with you was positive.

In just seven days I’ll be back with another segment. If you have tips or advice drop it in the comments section or email me at mvboronowski at gmail.com. And really, I have nothing but great things to say about my current-for-the-next-two-weeks employer. If you ever want to hear about how fantastic the people at BCIT are just ask. Also, if you’re interested in leaving jobs, or jobs in general, check out this post by the  fantastic Theo Lamb.

The Professional Break-Up

~breaking up is hard to do~

Of all the different communities you will encounter in your life, the one you’ll end up spending the most time with, funnily enough, is your professional community. So it should come as no surprise that stepping away from one work community to embrace another is harder than it looks — it’s a lot like breaking up.

The other day, I resigned from a radio station I’d been with for two years — not that long in the scheme of things but long enough to have developed roots and real connections with my co-workers. I’ve come to a point in my life where I need to shut one door so another one can open. That’s pretty much how I see the universe operating.

The company I’m leaving is small and operates like a close-knit family. Looking back, I might have done a few things differently when I told them I was leaving, but there were a few points I think I got right and here they are:

“This hurt be pain’in me”

TALK TO SOMEONE YOU TRUST AND SOMEONE WHO KNOWS YOUR BOSS BEFORE HAND

One of the best things I did before dropping the news was talk with a co-worker I trust about what I planned to do. My co-worker was able to help me choose the right words and body language. It’s a small company and everyone is affected when management is under pressure to replace someone quickly so it was in her interest that the news goes down as smoothly as possible. That said, I wouldn’t share your plans with more than one, perhaps two people, tops. Imagine your boss getting wind of your departure before you mention anything – brutal!

“Breaking up’s hard to do”

DON’T GO IN THERE WITH ANY ILLUSION – IT’S GOING TO BE HARD

Chances are, the news is going to come as a surprise to your boss and everyone handles surprises differently (unless you’re a cog in a massive company – it might not matter so much, then.) Your employer may be emotional or even confrontational. Be prepared and stick to a script. Acknowledge what they say to you. If you need an out because the heat is coming on too strong, suggest they take some time to absorb the news and arrange to meet again the next day, or even next week.

“We’re all friends ‘round these parts”

LEAVE A GOOD IMPRESSION AND MAKE SURE YOUR WORDS COME FROM AN HONEST PLACE

Share with your boss the positive impact they’ve had on your career (for some people this might be a stretch – do your best to search out a few key points.) Your boss is human and chances are, they’ll need a little stroking before bouncing back and putting on that “HR hat”, at least, that’s how my boss described it.

I’m happy to report that it’s been almost a week and things have settled down here at work. I have the full support of my station and I feel as though I’m leaving on a high note — it doesn’t get much better than that, does it?