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It was Tom Peters who said,

“When a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade.”

Gallup’s latest State of the Global Workforce Report 2023 shared their latest findings from polls taken from over 122,000 people in 160 countries.

I must confess, the arrival of the annual report usually results in my thoughts going to “Here we go again, more doom and gloom, but no real thought given to what could be different.”

So, I was surprised and delighted to see that better questions were being asked.

Let’s start with the good news.

Employee engagement is slowly rising, up two points globally and Australia and New Zealand are leading here at 23%. This is more exciting than the Eurovision Song Contest results being announced. “Australie – deux points!” Sadly, Europe is languishing at a low 13%.

I love Europe and everything it has to offer. But clearly, it’s not a great place to be working in right now.

“Room for improvement” goes onto the Eu scorecard.

The other good news for the Aussies and New Zealanders is the high level of optimism (81%) around job prospects.

Hurray! But only 40% are actively looking. Does that mean the rest have signed off already and moved on, or that people are biding their time before taking that leap of faith?

 

The not-so-great news.

OK, the less-than-brilliant news is the high level of stress and anger being experienced in many workplaces.

If you are experiencing high levels of stress daily in your place of work, you are not alone. Sorry if you were expecting a more profound statement at this point.

Many more people are experiencing high levels of stress, meaning that if your whole team, department, or organisation is feeling stressed out for much of the working day you won’t be surprised to realise that:

  1. You feel awful. You’re tired (if not exhausted) for much of the time. You’re grumpy and irritable at yourself and with others. You’re finding it harder to stay focused on your work. You’re frustrated by your slow progress and other people’s mistakes and tardiness. You no longer enjoy your job like you used to.
  2. You’re not yourself when the slow smouldering fire of anger and resentment is being stoked every day. You overreact to minor irritations. You are behaving as though everything is a potential threat. You can’t see the good or the well-meaning intentions of others. Anger is slowly destroying the relationships you have nurtured over time.
  3. You’re getting sick more often. You’ve spent three years trying to avoid Covid and now it seems as if Covid, the ‘flu and RSV are hanging out at every street corner waiting to make you sick, despite being fully vaccinated. Yep, stress has the effect of weakening your immune system making you more susceptible to every germ or virus making its rounds of the office or your child’s daycare centre. Did you know too, that being super stressed at the time of vaccination reduces your body’s potential antibody response? Your level of protection is lower.
  4. You feel you’re burning out. Yes, prolonged exposure to high levels of stress grinds us down. This is where unless you can take steps to reduce your workplace stress aided by your supervisor/manager/organisation you are at higher risk of burnout and at higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Having made you now feel totally miserable, let’s look at possible solutions.

Because there are plenty!

Asking the better questions.

Gallup has shared that the global cost of all this low engagement runs at $8.8 trillion a year. Equivalent to 9% of the global GDP.

Good grief.

The first better question to be asked (and Gallup, bless their cotton socks, did this) is:

“If so many people are miserable or stressed out at work (In the UK I read that 1 in 8 employees are miserable) what is being left on the table as lost opportunity and untapped potential?”

 

And then to ask the quiet quitters,

“What would you change about your workplace to make things better?”

 

Eureka!

It turns out that of all the factors considered, three stood out:

  1. Workplace culture – how am I being treated?
  2. Pay and benefits – feeling that you are being paid fairly for what you provide.
  3. Workplace wellbeing – knowing the organisation or business takes your health and wellbeing seriously.

Which do you think was the top factor?

Podium position receiving the yellow jersey, was workplace culture at 41%.

The silver medal was for pay and benefits at 28% We are living in the time of the rising cost of everything. Having enough to put food on the table and a roof over your head matters, a lot.

Bronze went to workplace wellbeing, at 16%.

While I confess to being a little disappointed in wellbeing coming in third, what these factors reveal is that being treated as a human being with respect and fairness is critical to the future success of any workplace. And feeling better about your work experience has a positive impact on your level of discretionary effort, and how you feel, mentally, physically, emotionally, and cognitively.

Naturally, it’s not JUST workplace stress at play here. If you lead a busy and full life juggling all the complexities, adversities, and the general messiness of everything, these all play a role too.

The one person who will make the biggest difference to how you feel about your work.

This isn’t necessarily the boss.

It’s the manager.

Thoughtful management where credence is given to your workplace experience.

Research in the psychological safety arena has revealed that managers account for 70% of variance in workplace engagement. This was highlighted in Jim Clifton and Jim Harter in their book, “It’s the Manager”.

If you enjoy a mutually trusting and respectful relationship with the person you report to, you’ll know they know enough about you to recognise if you are struggling, and not just ask you about it, but actively work with you to resolve the issue.

 

Do you enjoy a good working relationship with your manager?

If not, what could help in this situation?

Does the manager themselves – who are under the pump, highly stressed, lacking the resources they need to do their job well – also need a bit of love and support?

Were they put in a managerial position without the necessary training to ensure their success?

It’s easy to blame managers for appearing to be disinterested, not listening, or not taking action.

Managers do it tough. They are caught between keeping their superiors happy and their teams happy, effective, and functioning well.

Being piggy in the middle, where no one on either side is satisfied explains why many middle managers are super stressed, burned out and quitting.

This is where supporting your local “Save your Manager” drive can make a positive difference to all.

Thriving at work is about asking the better questions, staying curious about what could make work, work better and being willing to implement the changes required that sometimes are quite small but can have a significant positive impact.

This is what will make work sustainable because now it feels worthwhile.

 

Dr Jenny Brockis is a board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker, trainer and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is available for purchase.

If psychological safety, burnout prevention and mental wellbeing is something you’d like to find out more about, please contact me to set up a time for a chat.

Dr Jenny Brockis

Jenny is a Board-Certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician, author, coach, and workplace health and wellbeing specialist. Her latest book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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