Published on May 22, 2020
Mental Health Week is always a key date in our calendar at Laws of Attraction, and this week with the theme of kindness I was reflecting on the reasons I set up the business and what drives myself and my team to support employee mental health and well-being every day with our clients.
20 years ago, I completed a psychology & management degree in Leeds. The course covered organisational change, mental health and relationships. The module that most interested me (and subsequently inspired me to start my business) was the science of interpersonal relationships - how they form, maintain, breakdown and how this can be applied to our mental health and wellbeing at work.
There are arguably four main types of relationship we have at work – the one you have with yourself, your manager, your team and the wider organisation. Ensuring these are all in harmony is essential for managing workplace stress and anxiety effectively.
Steve Duck, a psychologist who studies the science of interpersonal relationships, developed a topographical model of relationship disengagement and dissolution, in which he outlined four models of dissolution: pre-existing doom, mechanical failure, process loss and sudden death.
Couples who are badly matched from the start, no matter what the initiation action involved, it could not overcome personal differences
(Why it is important to have a clearly defined EVP so both employer and employee are aligned on the values, beliefs and purpose).
When things break, where communication may be poor or interactions go badly. Without communication, a relationship will never survive.
(Why clear, consistent communication, two-way feedback and treating everybody fairly is vital)
Relationships that die because they do not reach their potential, albeit a slow death, because of poor productivity or communication on one or both of the members of the dyad.
(Importance of empowerment and passion to drive engagement).
New information on a partner can produce sudden death of the new relationship with a trust violation. Davis (1973) described three conditions that produce "sudden death" in a relationship: two-sided subsidence, in which both members of the couple maintain a formal relationship with no intimacy; one-sided subsidence, where one partner is dependent and hangs on, while the other actively seeks to end the relationship; and zero-sided subsidence which is an abrupt ending primarily brought on by outside factors that makes retreat or repair impossible.
(If trust violation is one of the main reasons why relationships fail, it follows that prevalence of trust should be a primary reason for them to succeed).
However, trust is a multi-complex construct and can, therefore, be hard to understand.
To make it easy, I like to use the interpersonal example of a functional family unit. The parent(s) want to educate, motivate and inspire their siblings to be the best they can be. Empowering them to have the autonomy and mastery so they can prosper independently but still in line with the family values.
Clearly, this is an idealistic example and hard to achieve because you have to do many things to make this happen, including candid feedback that helps the siblings to become more self-aware. That’s the education piece in relationships that is so hard to do. It’s easy to give praise but conflict can arise when candid feedback is given.
Some of the best advice I have received over the years was the hardest to take but some (not all) of that feedback was probably the most valuable in the same way mistakes can teach you more than success.
With the theme for this year’s mental health awareness week is kindness, it’s important to remember that you need to be candid to be kind.
As an employer or leader, we can greatly affect the stress, mental health and wellbeing of our colleagues in our teams with our communication styles and behaviours.
I have created five questions (based on Steve Duck’s research) to help you understand if all your relationships at work are healthy and productive.
- I listen effectively and encourage 2-way feedback (good and bad)?
- I always communicate clearly, effectively and frequently?
- I treat everybody fairly and inclusively?
- I ensure my team/colleagues feel safe (physical and mentally) at work?
- I never treat my team/colleagues with contempt?
If you use a scale (strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree and strongly disagree) and you have answered strongly agree and agree to all of these then well done, there is a good chance you are managing colleague well-being effectively. If you have not, then you have some work to do, which will be rewarding because not only is it the right thing to do but also because all relationships involved will function more effectively.
If you get lost please reach out and we can discuss how our Vibe relationship diagnostic platform and advice can support, you and your organisation with happier and more productive workplace relationships.
Happy bank holiday everyone!