The Hidden Source of Workplace (Un)Wellness

Bob Wiesner | March 20, 2018

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Ever see a stat or a fact or a quote that stops you in your tracks?

I did, early in this article from McKinsey on wellness at work:

When Bob Chapman, the CEO of global engineering company Barry-Wehmiller, talks about the impact that organizations have on their people, he gets emotional: “The person you report to at work can be more important to your health than your family doctor. We want to send people home safe, healthy, and fulfilled—all three dimensions.”

With all the attention being paid to wellness, and the terrific advice from multiple sources, this one really hit home. “The person you report to at work can be more important to your health than your family doctor.”

I’m constantly around business, HR, and L&D leaders at organizations of every size and shape.  ew would disagree with the statement. Yet a staggeringly small percentage of their companies are actually doing something about it.

The Source of Wellness: Your Boss

The boss can be directly responsible for managing stress at work for their people. Or directly responsible for reducing stress at work. Or directly (if unintentionally) responsible for increasing stress.

Yet, simply put, how many companies still put a premium on management training, leadership training, or other skills associated with leading an effective, engaged, and (reasonably) stress-free team?  Consider all the areas in which a manager can get it right or get it wrong:

  • Coaching, training, mentoring
  • Collaborating
  • Goal setting
  • Feedback
  • Accountability
  • Support
  • Resource procurement and allocation
  • Role modeling
  • Process improvement
  • Mindset
  • Motivation and inspiration
  • Rewards and recognition
  • Career development

And on and on. Hell, just being a happy boss or a stressed boss or a pissed off boss can make a huge difference in creating an environment of wellness.

You can’t afford to get it wrong

The bottom line to leaders, HR and L&D: Make sure you have reasonable resources available to train your managers and leaders in all, or at least some, of these wellness/stress related areas. And make sure you train your individual contributors in how to see the early warning signs of an unwellness-producing boss. Make sure they know how to deal with it quickly, effectively, and without repercussions.

I’m especially talking to the small or mid-size firm. The one that thinks it’s too small to afford management training. Or has margins that aren’t seen as healthy enough for training. Hey, you think you don’t have enough money for training? Do you have enough money for recruiting to replace people who are compelled to leave? Do you have enough money to fairly compensate those left behind who have to go above and beyond when team members leave or simply aren’t effective?

Ignoring the management and leadership capabilities of your people will undermine the most sophisticated wellness efforts of your company, and flat-out cost you money.




I’m certain that the more you invest in this area, the better your returns. But you don’t need to commit huge dollars to start to see a difference. In fact, with the right initial training, your managers will have the tools and motivation they need to continue to develop themselves.

Managing for High Performance, in its one-day format, is an efficient solution that both informs and inspires. It lays out a crystal clear rationale for upgrading your approach to leading others, and provides specific behaviors that will make a difference.

More importantly, it seems to light a fire under many who attend. About half of the participants in any one workshop will request additional reading. Based on follow-up conversations, we’ve learned that they’ve engaged their own bosses in conversations about better management behavior. And they’ve taken a good hard look at the culture of their organization, and how it’s encouraging – or discouraging – better leadership behaviors.

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