14 March 2016

Workplaces in Crisis: What are the Warning Signs?

Occupational Psychologists specialise in human behaviour in the workplace and are increasingly sort after by Australian employers to help to improve the efficiency of the organisations by developing a specific set of skills and behaviours among employees.

The US Bureau of Labour Statistics recently ranked industrial Occupational Psychologists as the fastest growing occupation in the US. The BLS is expecting a growth rate of 53 per cent in companies engaging organisational psychologists in the US between now and 2022 to help with the increasing demands placed on employees in the workforce today.

Macquarie University senior lecturer and organisational psychologist Ben Searle says organisational psychologists typically work in planning, policy and HR departments and are often valued members of senior management teams. Listing the top workplace stresses, he says “the issues that cause the most stress include juggling demands with inadequate resources, heavy workloads and time pressures, having to tackle multiple tasks, bureaucracy and red tape, no clear guidelines and ambiguity about a person’s role, conflict between work and home, office interpersonal issues, and physical danger.

“All workers handle stress differently and a good organisational psychologist will look not just at how a company is functioning but how each individual reacts to different situations.”

Unlike other consultants, organisational psychologists can show causality between their contribution in an organisation and the improvement among employees. Their effects are tangible, immediate and long term which benefits both the organisation and the worker and helps build competence and proficiency among the team as a whole as well as on an individual level.

Performance Strategies director and performance psychologist Rupert Bryce says the key is for employers and workplaces to recognise when outside expertise is needed and act on it in a timely manner.

“Increasingly, I work with clients who approach me at the crisis stage of the issue in their organisation, when the stakes are high and so are the emotions among employees. Leaders and managers are lacking the skills that enable them to recognise early warning signs, those key indicators that tell us that stress, change, communication barriers and wellbeing is reaching a point where outside help is needed to get things back on track”.

So what are the early warning signs?

  • Changes to communication style or behaviours such as withdrawing or declining invitations or requests.
  • Shifting patterns, for example a person who is usually early or on time for work is now showing up late.
  • Disproportionate emotions, for example significant negativity around small events or changes.
  • Perspective and judgement, for example a person regularly loses perspective of a situation or is making the wrong decisions.

ACTION: What warning signs have you recently observed in your workplace or amongst your employees? How long have these warning signs been happening?


30 November 2015

Traits to Triumph: A Psychological Perspective of Entrepreneurial Success

Recently I was asked what entrepreneurial traits I believed contribute to business success, particularly for those starting up small businesses. In my 15+ years in this industry, I have worked with thousands of executives, business owners and entrepreneurs on their journeys of starting, building and running their own businesses, assisting them to understand the behaviours and thinking that contribute to both their personal and business success. From confidence, resilience and self-belief, to managing self-defeating behaviours and self-limiting thought patterns, my work has involved all facets of emotions, behaviours and thinking relating to optimal performance. Each person’s journey has been different and unique, however in my experience (and in accordance with a plethora of research) there are a few specific, measureable traits exhibited by those people who excel in the business world. So much so, that business literature has published hundreds of articles on these people detailing the attributes that have contributed to their success.

Obsessed for Success

A common theme across many of these articles is that individuals with a “passion” for their business and an intense, almost obsessional desire to make a difference in the world though their unique enterprises, are those who are the most successful. This type of obsession or “never say die” attitude stems from deep within the human psyche and is not something you can teach. These individuals motivate themselves through dedication and determination, and persist repeatedly even in the face of failure, all in the hope of making something different, better or new.

Excessive obsession as a trait is dysfunctional, however when managed appropriately and aligned to purpose and vision, it is a huge asset for commercial success. In my work, I coach many of these highly driven individuals to assist them to harness this strong gift.  A large part of coaching them is about focussing their obsession in a productive way so it becomes a powerful force for performance. This includes;

  • Conducting personality assessments targeted at measuring the “obsessive” trait and offering ways to manage it (e.g. Hogan’s Development Survey & the Leadership Circle);
  • Questioning the beliefs that drive their behaviours and ensuring they are aligned with their business goals and community values;
  • Assisting them to create a frame of reference and new ways of thinking, to ensure their obsessive energy is channelled into productive outcomes.

Through coaching, highly driven people are able to build their own self-awareness to focus their obsession and achieve sustainable business success.

Next time…

Workplaces in Crisis: What are the Warning Signs?