Mental Health and Culture

I’ve been thinking a lot today of this article by McKinsey by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Leanne Williams “Mental health in the workplace: The coming revolution.” It is a fascinating read, not just because we are in the midst of this pandemic which has certainly caused a lot of mental health issues, including depression, in many people. I know I’ve certainly been wrestling with it myself. I’m hopeful this issue remains on the agenda as I think it will provide long term benefits to culture.

I’ve written on how we need to build processes to support our employees in issues like burnout. Mental health is definitely a wicked problem, and will require systematic efforts to address. I am glad that the senior leaders I work with are thinking about this, and I look forward to deepening the conversation.

Burnout Needs a Systematic fix

It is more like being involved in a complicated love affair. One minute it’s thrilling, passionate, engaging. The next, it’s exhausting and overwhelming, and I feel like I need a break.
— Read on

Jennifer Moss, When Passion Leads to Burnout. HBR

It is the responsibility of leaders “to keep an eye on the well-being of their staff.”  Organizations whose staff feel unmotivated due to stress and burnout cannot aspire to achieve a culture of excellence. Our systems need to be designed to eliminate the root cause for stress and burnout.

Five mechanisms can be leveraged to improve organizational system design: 1) Eliminate organizational issues related to roles, responsibilities and authorities of employees, 2) establish a policy of transparency and effective “bottom-up” internal communication channel to permit employee contribution and recognition, 3) establish criteria for resource distribution, 4) establish a commitment to identify needed training and provide resources for the purpose and 5) establish a systemic feedback loop for analysis and improvement of employee motivation based on periodic measurement of employee motivational levels.

If employees know exactly what their tasks are, without sustained overload, with necessary resources and competence, and recognition for the task well performed, there will be no major system-induced reason for demotivation.

This gets to the heart of Deming’s use of psychology in his System of Profound Knowledge. Lean calls it Respect-for-People. This is all about ensuring our organizations are healthy places to work and thrive.