Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility (LEAD 3030)1

Reading #8:

Mental well-being

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Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility (LEAD 3030)1

The reading reviews the presentation by our guest speakers on mental well-being. Responses to the questions at the end of the reading are due at least one hour prior to class on Tuesday, Nov 2.

“Even small improvements in well-being2 can have significant effects.3 For example, on a well-being scale of 1 to 100, if one employee rates herself as a 75, and a second as a 70, the first employee has 15% less risk of depression or anxiety, 19% less risk of having sleep disorders, 15% less risk of diabetes, and 6% less risk of obesity.4 Moreover, well-being in the workplace may be contagious, so that high well-being for one member of a work team results in a 20% increase in likelihood that another team member will be thriving six months later.5”6 (quoted from your GMGT 2060 textbook, page 162)

Session 1: “Leadership and Wellness” (October 26, Guest speaker: Heidi Adamko)

Heidi Adamko’s presentation started with describing a choice facing leaders. Leaders can choose to either: 1) proactively “invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings,” or 2) reactively “squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior.”7 Put differently, leaders can either: 1) attend to the mental well-being of their employees, or 2) address problems that charac-terizes a workforce with poor mental well-being (e.g., in an average week 500,000 Canadians miss work for mental health reasons,8 and 75% of short-term disability claims are for mental health related issues).9

Heidi’s presentation begged the question: 1) should Asper teach leaders how to maximize flourishing (which would often lead to good productivity), or 2) should Asper teach leaders how to maximize productivity (which often leads to the opposite of flourishing, as described above)? When I think of the word “flourishing” I think of Aristotle and virtue ethics, which says that happiness/eudaemonia/flourishing happens when virtues are practiced in community. I think of the idea of the integral common good, and how flourishing is evident when there is a sense of interconnectedness amongst people and with nature.10 Flourishing is not something we can do on our own: it requires healthy relationships with other.

Heidi’s presentation points to five key things Asper might teach if we taught leaders how to maximize flourishing.11 Asper courses would teach leaders how to:

  1. create and maintain a sense psychological safety in the workplace. This would free people’s brains from worrying whether they are safe (survival state). People who feel safe can be vulnerable and thus bring their whole selves to work. In such a workplace people are accepted/celebrated for their differences.
  2. model dependability in the workplace, where people trust each. Listening plays a big role in psychological safety and trust. In particular, such listening is able to hear what others are saying (e.g., what does it mean to them?) and to understand the deeper meaning of what is being said (e.g., what are the implications for flourishing). When people are truly listened to and trust one another they learn to feel appreciated and loved.
  3. develop and provide structures and clarity regarding expectations in the workplace, thereby reducing uncertainty and chaos. At best, these structures and systems should be participatively developed so that they can be truly understood and embraced by everyone. Mental health in the workplace is enhanced when leaders use Asking/Listening/Challenging Thinking interaction styles rather than Telling/Solving Other’s Problems/Advising interaction styles.
  4. enhance meaningfulness in the workplace. Such meaningfulness may reside in the tasks people accomplish (e.g., helping a client solve a problem), as well as in the relationships experienced (treating others and being treated like whole people). From a virtue ethics perspective, meaning comes more from healthy relationships than from materialistic achievements, and from serving others rather than getting ahead of others.12
  5. enable others to have an impact. Everyone wants the satisfaction of contributing to making the world a better place, both by what they do and how they do it.

Heidi concluded her presentation with the 5 Cs model of resilience in the workplace, which can serve as a helpful check list for helping people to address mental health issues. For example, if you are helping someone who is feeling depressed or anxious, begin by truly listening to them (so that they feel safe and loved) and then help them to reconsider/transform/manage some or all of the 5 “C” factors that may be contributing to their distress.

i) Learn to see challenges as opportunities rather than as threats.

Ask: “What is the opportunity here? How can I be my best self in this situation?”

ii) Develop the capacity of having a growth mindset (new view) versus a fixed mindset (rumination).

Ask: “What might I learn from this situation? How might this make me bigger-better-stronger?”

iii) Learn to control what you can control, and to let go of what you cannot control

Ask: “What do I have control over? What can I influence? What do I need to let go of?”

iv) Foster interpersonal connections rather that working in isolation

Ask: “Who could help me? Who else has experienced this?

v) Foster a sense of commitment and purpose among members, rather than a sense of futility

Ask: “What is the larger purpose I might serve? What is my bigger goal?”

Session 2: “Mental Health & Resilience” (October 28, Guest speaker: Arlana Vadnais)

Arlana Vadnais started her presentation by defining mental health as “The capacities of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being.”13

Evidence suggests that mental health has decreased during the pandemic.14 But this downward trend was true even before the pandemic. For example, according to a 2019 pre-pandemic survey, 50% of UM students had felt so depressed in the previous 12 months that it was difficult for them to function (compared to 41% in 2016). Similarly, the number of UM students who in the past 12 months felt: very lonely was 68% (vs 61% 3 years earlier), overwhelming anxiety was 66% (vs 62%), and that things were hopeless was 64% (vs 55%).15

It is helpful to think about Arlana’s presentation as examining three inter-related aspects of stress: 1) the stressor itself (e.g., being chased by a lion; Covid-19); 2) the strategies we use to deal with the stress (e.g., run from the lion; get vaccinated); and 3) the strategies we use to build resilience/restore ourselves after a stressful event in order to better cope with future stressors (e.g., learn to avoid lions; strengthen your immune system). These three can be seen as inter-related, but sometimes we forget the to develop the third one (i.e., resilience).

Managing these three dimensions well is associated with a host of benefits: Experiencing feelings of well-being, staying healthy, being productive, solving problems, bouncing back from challenges, being creative, and effectively relating to others. However, if we are not able to manage them well, we may experience one or more of three signs of burn-out: 1) emotional exhaustion (e.g., running out of empathy); 2) depersonalization (not being “yourself”), and 3) a decreased sense of accomplishment (e.g., having sense of futility).

Resilience strategies: How do you add to your resilience bank account during COVD-19

With your input Arlana will create a LEAD 3030 “class poster” that shares strategies that you have used to manage stress and increase the balance in your resilience bank accounts. Arlana has set up a padlet link that invites you to share your strategies in each of the five broad categories described below, which she talked about in her presentations. Note that there is considerable overlap among some of the different categories, and that some of your strategies could be placed in more than one category (e.g., many of the strategies could be seen as habits). The point isn’t for you to place your strategy in the “best” or “correct” category; rather, you are invited to place strategies in each category. Here are the five general categories of strategies:

1. Managing your mindset. This includes strategies like: accepting that life is different right now, and identifying what parts of it are outside of your control; temporarily lowering expectations for yourself and others (“it’s okay to be less productive”); experimenting with “both-and” thinking (“I can both be upset by Covid, and appreciate the slower pace of things”).

2. Managing boundaries. This includes setting boundaries—building “mental moats”—to protect you from stressors (e.g., building a fence to protect you from lions). Covid-related strategies might include limiting time you spend in indoor public places, limiting the amount of COVID-related news you listen to, and more generally limiting your screen time first thing in the morning and/or last thing in the evening (and instead usig this time to practice gratitude).

3. Self-Care/Self-Compassion. This includes things we do for ourselves, such as making sure we eat well, get enough sleep (and rest), and treat ourselves to breaks. It can also include taking time to recognize and attend to different aspects of grief (not only for death, but also for other things you’re missing due to covid), allowing yourself to cry (our tears literally expel cortisol), and making time for activities that fulfill and energize you (note that these some of these strategies could also fit withing the categories below).

4. Managing how we connect with other. Here the focus is on strategies you use to maintain and strengthen social interaction and connection with others, especially for important relationships in your life. For example, hugs are therapeutic (even with a puppy), laughter has positive impacts on the biochemistry related to stress in our bodies, and there are positive aspects of finding new ways of reaching out to others.

5. Managing our habits. Covid-19 has prompted many people to develop new habits, in part because existing habits were no longer permissible. What sorts of habits have you started that help to build and maintain your resilience bank account? For example, Arlana pointed to the benefits of regularly practicing gratitude, physical activity (e.g., running, stretching, walking, home workouts), deep breathing (e.g., this can be part of physical activity, singing, or mindfulness that counteracts mind-fullness [see the “Take 5” slide]), creative expressions (e.g., music, dancing, writing, and playing guitar).

Here are the padlet links for you to enter your strategies. Please choose the one for your section in the course, and enter your strategies before midnight, Sunday, Oct 31.

For the class that meets 10:00-11:15 https://padlet.com/arlanavadnais/LEAD3030_10am

For the class that meets 1:00-2:15 https://padlet.com/arlanavadnais/LEAD3030_1pm

For the class that meets 3:30-4:55 https://padlet.com/arlanavadnais/LEAD3030_230pm

Questions. Please answer one or two of the following four questions

1. What were your most important lessons/take-aways from Heidi Adamko’s and/or Arlana Vadnais’ presentations (note that these may be things that they presented that were not covered in the summaries above). Be specific and elaborate on the lesson(s) and why you think they are particularly valuable.

2. Imagine that the Dean of Asper has asked you to sit on a committee to promote and develop a new course called “Leadership and Mental Health.” First, explain why such a course should be offered at Asper when some people might argue that students would be better off taking a more conventional business course (e.g., “Managing for Performance” or “Managing for Productivity”). Second, identify and describe what you think are five key topics that should be covered in the course, and why there are important.

3. Imagine that a close friend or relative contacts you and tells you that they would like to talk to you about their mental health which has been declining due to anxiety or depression. You arrange to go for a walk together with that person on a trail in a nearby park. Think about what you have learned in the presentations about the kind of listening you should do, about the kind of questions you should ask, and about the kinds of strategies that might be helpful. Then describe how this will affect what you do on your walk: what steps will you follow as you talk with your friend/relative.

4. A “Doing” and “Being” Option: Although mental health is often thought of as something that is personal and individual, it is clear that mental health is also influenced by the relationships we have with others. Thus, strengthening relationships with others may improve your (and their) mental health. Research has shown that answering the following list of 36 questions (see link below) with someone can improve the quality of your relationship. Read the instructions online in the link below, and if this exercise interests you then do it with someone of your choosing (note you can feel free to replace some of the questions if you like). In your preparedness report response, reflect on your experience of going through these questions with another person. Did it increase your connectedness to the other person? Did it improve your mental well-being? Elaborate.

https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/practice_as_pdf/36_questions_for_increasing_closeness

1 This reading was prepared by Bruno Dyck for students in LEAD 3030, fall 2021.

2 As used in the Gallup research presented here, we use the term “overall well-being” to encompass career well-being (liking what you do), social well-being (strong relationships and love), financial wellbeing, physical well-being and community well-being (engagement where you live). Robinson, J. (2013). Small shifts in wellbeing have a big impact on performance. Gallup Business Journal. http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/160511/small-shifts-wellbeing-big-impact-performance.aspx

3 Investing in well-being is worthwhile because it: enhances economic well-being, people are more creative, more productive motivates people, improves health and longevity, reduce on-the-job conflict, improve work quality and efficiency, reduces employee turnover and absenteeism. Howell, K.H., Coffey, J.K., Fosco, G.M., Kracke, K., Nelson, S.K., Rothman, E.F., & Grych, J.H. (2016). Seven reasons to invest in well-being. Psychology of Violence, 6(1): 8-14.

4 Robinson (2013).

5 Robinson (2013). Howell et al. (2016) state: “We have learned from longitudinal studies that people with greater well-being and more positive affect go on to have greater success in marriage, friendships, and work, earn higher incomes, experience better physical health, and are less likely to abuse substances”.

6 Page 162 in Dyck, B., Caza, A., & Starke, F. (2018). Management: Financial, social and ecological well-being. Wpg: Sapajo.

7 Page 267 in Brown, B. 2018. Dare to lead: Brave work. Tough conversations. Whole hearts. Random House. She goes on to say: “What this means is that we must find the courage to get curious and possibly surface emotions and emotional experiences that people can’t articulate or that might be happening outside their awareness.”

8 Calculated based on Dewa, C. S., Chau, N., & Dermer, S. (2010). Examining the comparative incidence and costs of physical and mental health-related disabilities in an employed population. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine52(7), 758-62.

9 Watson, T. (2009). North American Staying at Work Report: The Health and Productivity Advantage.

10 For more on the integral common good, see Dyck, B. (2020). The integral common good: Implications for Mele’s seven key practices of humanistic management. Humanistic Management Journal, 5(1): 7-23. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41463-020-00083-w

11 This list is based on a combination of various slides in her presentation, most notable findings from the Google Aristotle study that found that talent and technological tools are less important to effective teams than the five characteristics above (Work Guide: Understanding Team Effectiveness rework.withgoogle.com).

12 See Chapter 5 and page 184 in Dyck et al (2018): “Meaningful work can be seen to have three hallmarks: 1) the worker perceives that it to have an identifiable purpose in the organization; 2) it is consistent with and adds to the meaning of worker’s broader personal life; and 3) it is beneficial for others and/or some greater good. Steger, M.F. (2017). Creating meaning and purpose at work. In L.G. Oades, M.F. Steger, A.D. Fave, & J. Passmore (eds.), The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Positivity and Strengths-Based Approaches at Work (pp. 60-81). Oxford, UK: John Wiley & Sons.”

13 Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008

14 Nath, I. (2021, April 20). How mental health services for students pivoted during COVID-19. University Affairs. https://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/how-mental-health-services-for-students-pivoted-during-covid-19/

15 These figures are taken from a presentation Arlana Vadnais had done in a previous year.

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