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How to Make Your Company Mentally and Emotionally Healthy? Expert Tips and Practices

How to make your company mentally and emotionally healthy?
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Emotions. Feelings. Healthy mind, body and soul… We don’t usually talk about this “stuff” at work. We are making money, for goodness’ sake! We don’t have time for all these ‘sentiments,’ right?

Well, not really. Our emotional health is precious by itself. But since we are talking business here, let me quote a number.

According to the Deloitte study, the total cost of mental ill health to employers is £1,035 per employee.

Did you get it? Employers could save over £1K per each (!) worker if their companies and workers were mentally healthy. (This is the UK statistics, but I bet it’s similar for many countries).

If we want our businesses to thrive, we should start taking mental health in companies seriously.

In that spirit, Chanty team prepared an exclusive piece of content for you. 

Yurii Kravchenko
Yurii Kravchenko

We talked to Yurii Kravchenko, a top business and organizational consultant about ‘5 psychological threats to businesses.’ 

How do we assess mental and emotional issues in organizations?  What should we do to keep our companies healthy?

We are happy to share some great insights with you.

5 psychological threats to businesses (and how to handle them)

The concept we’ll be talking about has been originally developed by Yurii. He doesn’t claim it to be comprehensive. However, it’s well-designed enough for gaining some profound insights about mental and emotional health in our companies.

I’m going to retell you the whole concept, as explained by its author. Each ‘psychological threat’ is associated with a particular character of the biblical Book of Revelation. These metaphors might help in better understanding the threats. I’ve also included some expert tips on how to eliminate a possible danger and some suggestions on where to learn more about it.  

In truth, I’ve slightly adapted the concept for better understanding. But I did my best to leave the key ideas untouched. So, hopefully, after reading this article you’ll know how to make your company more healthy and happy.

So here are the five threats:  

1. False righteousness  

employee presence in the officeHere’s an example

Once I worked in a company in which presence was the most precious asset. Each morning the boss would enter the open-plan office, look around at his workers, smiled contentedly and retreated to his private office… The company wasn’t thriving, though. The KPIs were fudged. People did their best to be seen at work but actually showed little success. However, everything seemed spic and span from the outside.  

That’s why in theological context this threat relates to the horseman on the white horse. The color white speaks for purity – or false purity – in our case.     

Here’s a description

I bet you’ve already captured the idea of the first threat. ‘False righteousness’ is all about seeming good and fair, while in reality, things might actually be messy. There’s always the other side of the coin and everyone has the shadow when exposed to light. And quite often, we are afraid of it.

GIF source

It’s great to explain this threat by talking about absenteeism and presenteeism. Absenteeism – a regular absence from work – is a bad thing, right? Most managers enjoy their subordinates to be present at the office. But does it actually yield benefits? Our expert Yurii fights a popular believe:

Just because we drove our workers into the office or simply made them obedient, doesn’t mean they will be present at work with their hearts and minds.

He proceeds with talking about presenteeism – a situation when people want their employers to see they are working hard:

Low absenteeism – ‘Everybody’s at the office. All is well’ – can cover a lot of presenteeism. Employees can be physically present at work, but emotionally and energetically absent, not contributing to business processes.

GIF source

The antidote to presenteeism would be the ‘heart-head-hand’ model developed by Nossrat Peseschkian, a famous German psychologist and founder of positive psychotherapy. We need to be present at work not only with our heads but also with our hearts and hands. Then, we are truly working.

What to do?

It could be healthy for every team to discover their own ‘false righteousness.’ Are there any facts, numbers or processes considered as trouble-free but in fact having a nasty effect? Does presenteeism take place in your company? Managers can bring up these topics at meetings with HRs. It’s all about open communication and speaking truth while also being respectful.

Where to learn more?

Yurii recommends Otto Kernberg’s book ‘Ideology, Conflict, and Leadership in Groups and Organizations.’ Some entrepreneurs could recognize themselves in the cases provided in this text, although it’s not bedtime reading. Two other useful books are ‘Alpha Male Syndrome’ by Kate Ludeman and The Leader on the Couch by Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries.

2. Fratricidal war

fratricidal warHere’s an example

A Europe-based company creates products for a Silicon Valley tech giant. As the business of the smaller firm thrives, its owner along with a product manager comes to California to discuss further collaboration. Guys from the tech giant give a very warm welcome to the P.M., who they’ve been interacting with daily. The business owner, however, whom they hardly knew, is given a cold shoulder. He is hurt and once they are back to Europe starts mobbing the P.M. in front of the staff. And there a fratricidal war begins…    

This case shared with me by Yurii describes the second threat. And since we are talking about a war (big conflict) in a company, the horseman rides the red horse in theological context.

Have you ever experienced fratricidal war in an organization? I’m sure we all had….

Here’s a description

Put simply, when a fratricidal war begins, resources go to wrong places. People come to work, having some strength and stamina. But they address their efforts to mobbing the colleagues and making them miserable. They act out their ‘life scenarios,’ start unnecessary conflicts, depreciate each other’s efforts, etc.

GIF source

When explaining this threat, Yurii uses the term ‘psychodynamics.’ It describes ‘mental and emotional forces that developed earlier and affect our present behavior.’ Put simply, it redirects our precious resources from the future to the past. People are basically looking back all the time instead of looking forward.

GIF source

That’s a curious GIF to illustrate the threat. Because, you know, wrestling is a make-believe fight. While ‘fratricidal war’ is violent in nature, it can be seen as a game, which is quite dangerous. Here’s Yurii’s explanation:  

When it comes to the fratricidal war in a company, there is an illusion that we are not bored, that life goes on and we are busy doing something. But this energy is spent neither on achieving goals, nor on creating a product. It’s directed to the past – not the future.

‘The most dangerous mobbing, he adds, is the one justified by the power of the leader,’ like in the example listed a few paragraphs above.

What to do?

As mentioned, top managers and HRs can usually handle the first threat on their own. But starting with the second threat, it might be healthier to seek for the other experts’ help. When the ‘fratricidal war’ is going, this help should come from OUTSIDE of a company. Because those who work in it, can hardly stay calm and unbiased. An organization could invite an external business coach. Despite having little power, he or she can reflect the system to those who work in it. This might help a company to get the root of the problem and resolve a conflict.

Where to learn more?

Some works of Wilfred Bion’s and his followers can shed light on how to build an emotionally intelligent team. The British psychoanalyst wrote a lot about group processes and dynamics, discovering the basic assumptions of groups, such as dependency, fight-flight, and pairing.

3. Disbalance, exhaustion and burnout

disbalance, exhaustion and burnoutHere’s an example

A few years back, I worked at one of the best newsrooms in the country. My colleague clearly had a burnout. She was a journalist specializing in medicine, doing very difficult news pieces about children who need urgent treatment. She even fought authorities to make some law amends that help kids get medical help and survive. I remember her coming to the office absolutely exhausted. Later, she took almost a 2-month vacation. Luckily it helped and she got back to work.

In theological context, the third horseman has not a weapon, but a ‘tool’ in his hand. It’s a pair of scales, which in our case may symbolize the life balance.

Here’s a description

The threat shows up when a lot of energy has gone to the wrong places. There’s probably no  single word for describing it. It’s a triad: disbalance-exhaustion-burnout. Physical and emotional powers are drained, people lose the meaning of what they do. Teams are extremely tired.

GIF source

The concept of burnout has been actively developed since the 1970s. The approach presented by Christina Maslach and Susan E. Jackson highlighted the scientific view on the issue. There are four stages of burnout. First, people are just tired. Second, not only do they lose energy but also joy and pleasure are gone. At the third stage, a job loses its meaning and value. The fourth stage is a breakdown.

Clearly, achieving ‘work-life balance’ is a solution. At the same time, our expert comes up with another term:  

The term ‘work-life balance’ might seem misleading. I’m against using it because it assumes that ‘work’ is not ‘life’. Staying healthy means we live our life fully – not only after but also AT work. That’s why I’d say it’s a question of ‘life balance’ – not ‘work-life’ balance.

To recognize the threat, HRs can assess the emotional capital of employees. Can workers take up their additional resources in challenging situations? If they tend to burnout facing the slightest challenge, the threat is dangerously close.

What to do?

As mentioned, facing the second threat, we could invite a business coach who is au fait with group processes. But when it comes to the third threat, this skill might not be enough. In this case, companies need an expert with the profound knowledge of human nature and personal psychology. Therefore, life coaches and corporate therapists might help. Also, companies can run regular health checkups to assess burnout, as it inevitably affects our bodies.

What to read?

The Austrian psychotherapist Alfred Langle and his colleagues working in the field of existential therapy can share some profound insights on how to deal with the burnout. The book ‘Living Your Own Life’ by Sylvia Laengle available in English might help. And, of course, there’s a special treat from Chanty team – an “From Exhausted Founder to Successful Entrepreneur” which is a compilation of the best tactics, hacks, and insights from entrepreneurs and executives on how to avoid burnout.

4. Subtle chronic daily stress

The Fourth HorsemanHere’s an example

This is going to be serious and alarming. A few years back one of my colleagues actually died at work. Cardiac arrest – as doctors say – probably because the girl worried too much. She was a scenarist for a very successful TV project. Despite working hard, she was always full of energy and nobody saw the tragedy coming.  

This terrible story describes the fourth threat. The horseman is ‘pale’ and has neither a weapon, nor a tool. In our context, it means we might not assume he poses a danger.

Here’s a description

This threat sounds similar to the previous one, but Yurii distinguishes them clearly. The possible danger this ‘horseman’ carries is hard to notice. Certain people having chronic stress just grin and bear it, assuming things should be like this at work.   

GIF source

Here’s how Yurii puts it:

Some people don’t respond with burnout under the stress. They get used to the small chronic pressure that builds up with time. They talk about experiencing ‘difficulties’ or even ‘challenges.’ This can result in a sharp transition to burnout, which, of course, should be prevented.

Yurii proceeds with explaining that the modern immunology considers stress as our number one enemy. Casual chronic worries are the most harmful, toxic and may cause oncology or autoimmune diseases, or trigger a heart attack.

To diagnose the threat, HRs could assess stress level, defining micro- and macro stressors and their impact. It may turn out that some seemingly smaller challenges like everyday meetings cause much more stress than actual work.

What to do?

The recommendations are similar to the ones listed for the previous (third) threat. Coaches and therapists might work one-to-one with company workers including top managers. The key goals would be finding life balance, identifying stressors and dealing with them in a constructive way. Again, medical tests might show our true exposure to stresses, because we can actually deceive ourselves considering ‘all is fine’. Only if your physician says your immune system is great, then you might not be really affected by chronic stress.

Where to learn more?

Nossrat Pezeshkian, the world-wide famous author and psychologist, mentioned earlier, has some profound tips on how to handle everyday stress and its consequences. His ‘Positive Psychosomatics’ and other books could be a nice read for those interested in body-mind psychology and restoring life balance.

5. Pathological organizational system

pathological organizational systemHere’s an example

Recently, my close friend was hired by a respective higher learning facility. It’s quite popular by the way, many are thrilled to get there – either to work or to study. However, each time she entered that revolving door, she started feeling bad. When out of the office, she would sigh a sweet breath of relief. A lot of closed-door meetings, colleagues muttering to each other and multiple double talks drove her crazy. Luckily, she quit in a month or two. As she discovered later, the facility was extremely corrupted.

The theological metaphor describing this threat is actually spooky – it’s a creature with heads and horns. Yikes!

Here’s a description

‘Well, this is an ugly system,’ Yurii explains. Very often, when we face this threat, it’s too late for troubleshooting – a company hangs by a thread. We should renew quite a lot starting with the organizational structure.

Here’s the expert’s take on recognizing the threat:  

We should look at the people who enter and leave a company. If a person is usually well, but at the office they feel bad and toxic, this might be a tale-tell sign that the organizational system is in trouble.

To assess a threat, we should look closely at how people feel in the first month or two in the job. In most cases, within half-year it becomes clear whether a system is seriously troubled.

Many destructive processes take place in a pathological system. Gaslighting could be one of them, meaning workers or even bosses attempt to make a colleague believe that he or she is going insane.

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What to do?

As mentioned, when it comes to the last threat it’s hard to do anything. But if you’re up for a challenge, the expert help is crucial. This is where consultants specializing in organizational design step into the game. They identify dysfunctional aspects of work flow, realign them to fit your business goals and develop plans to implement the new changes. Be ready for a long and meticulous work.

Where to learn more?

Exploring the ideas of holacracy and sociocracy might help, as well as expert materials on how modern organizations are redesigning their structure.

Wrapping up

So far, we’ve discussed 5 psychological threats to businesses

  1. ‘False righteousness’ that can be eased up by putting some seemingly good practices under question and leaders having frank conversations with HR specialists.
  2. ‘Fratricidal war’ which is easier to be recognized and stopped with the help of experts from outside a company.
  3. ‘Disbalance, exhaustion and burnout’. In this case, life coaches and therapists can help in restoring life balance.
  4. ‘Subtle chronic daily stress’ which can be diagnosed not only using psychological tests but also via medical screening.
  5. ‘Pathological organizational system’ which means the structure of a company needs to be redesigned.  

emotionally healthy company

Is health in organizations a real thing?

After hearing about all these threats, I became a little stressed myself. So I asked Yurii if emotional and mental well-being is possible at all? Here’s his take on the issue:

Health is not just the absence of disease – it’s a continuously changing state. So the dynamic well-being is possible – the intention towards well-being where values and results matter.

Talking to Yurii KravchenkoTalking to Yurii on Skype

In other words, the more unhealthy a company is, the less alive its employees feel. In this case, people don’t fully live after work – because they are tired and messed up. If a company is healthy, people do live at work – not only at the weekends.

That’s nearly all! Hope you enjoyed our take on psychological threats to businesses. Feel free to post your feedback, comments and questions below.

And if you ever need a great team chat tool, Chanty is within reach! Subscribe and enjoy our smart and easy-to-use Slack alternative.

 

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Aleksey Chepalov

Aleksey Chepalov is a part of the marketing team at Chanty - a simple AI-powered team chat. This powerful and free Slack alternative is aimed to increase team productivity and improve communication at work.
Aleksey is keen on such topics as marketing, SaaS challenges and personal growth.

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