Over many years of counseling individuals, couples and families I've encountered many examples of complaints about work. That is, work conditions—the culture of a company or agency—have often created pain and anxiety in my clients.
Because of this linkage between organizational culture and employee mental health I began working with organizations. Organizations of course "use people to get work done." That's fair. And it's also fair to expect the reverse: "to use work to get people done." That is, to use the workplace to help employees grow, develop and achieve mental health and happiness.
In 1986 I taught an undergraduate class at a university, when a student in my class who was getting his undergraduate degree asked me to come into his steel company—National Steel Service Centers. He wanted me to help him improve communication, morale and decision-making.
I pursued that work with him and his company for several years. That work, in turn, led to other work with other corporations.
I began formulating a way to help the members of organizations to transform their workplaces towards health and happiness of its members.
Being an Organizational Change Agent
I just returned from working with one of my clients, a fire department I've worked with for over 11 years. Two weeks ago, in January 2013, for a day and a half, I worked with their nine newest employees to assess their experiences with the organization and their processes of fulfilling their values.
Then, during the last half day, the chiefs and battalion chiefs came in a joined our group of 10. They listened to their concerns and issues, problems and goals. Then they developed plans to address their concerns, plans that will unfold over the next few months.
These employees have found that the values of the organization, values such as trust, respect and open communication, are much more than platitudes on a coffee mug and their website. They are living, breathing ideals they live by. No, the implementation of their values is not perfect. But through correcting their values mistakes with a skillful implementation of meetings, discussions, and conflict resolution sessions, I expect that they will continue to pursue the fulfillment of their values under the guidance of their chiefs, and their very support board of commissioners.
What I've noticed after working with them for over 11 years, is that the more time they spend on it, the better they get at being a place where the fulfillment of organizational values brings about the mental health and happiness of their employees.
And how does that affect the effectiveness of the organization? Not only do happier, healthier employees pass on their feelings through service to customers and members of the community. They also feel safe enough in their jobs, and dedicated enough to their organization to be motivated to innovate in how they do their work.
Spreading the Process to Other Organizations
I continue to expand this work to help other organizations practice the values they’ve decided they live by.
You can find out more about this work and how I and my clients do it by reading these articles I’ve written:
Search for Values with Chief Richard Carrizzo