Globe & Mail article: What can a manager do to help an unhappy employee?
Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s Your Life at Work Survey, done in conjunction with Howatt HR Consulting. Click here to take our survey, measure your stress levels, find out your Quality of Work Life (QWL) score and determine whether you’re able to cope.
The scenario below, the second column in the series, continues to explain why we launched this survey. Read the first column here. The employer’s version of the survey is here. Check out a company’s Cost of Doing Nothing Worksheet here.
On her way home from work, Kristine was thinking about her last conversation with Jack and Jill. She was pondering the question: Why does Jack see the world differently than Jill?
When she got home, she read online about The Globe and Mail’s national study on employees’ life at work, the Your Life at Work Survey. The study’s purpose is to create a conversation about what employers and employees can do to improve employees’ work life. A lot of research suggests that many employees are struggling with workplace issues. Health risks are mounting for employees, and employers are experiencing lost productivity that hurts their bottom line.
Kristine knows that employers can take some of the responsibility for making employees like Jack happy. But some employees also need to develop better coping skills.
The next morning, Kristine asked Jack whether she could speak with him. She decided that honesty was the best approach.
“Jack, I care about you as an employee and I want to see you as happy and engaged as possible in your current role,” she said.
“I have noticed that at the end of the shift, another employee, who works in the same area as you, typically is much happier than you. This employee doesn’t appear stressed, but you seem down and tense. I’ve been asking myself why this is and what can we do to help.”
Jack paused, staring at his feet. “You’re talking about Jill, aren’t you? I wish I knew. She really is a nice person and a joy to work with. She’s always happy. I often hope her happiness would rub off on me. I can’t imagine how badly I’d feel if she were not around. I’m having a hard time coping with my work, and all the people and politics of this place.”
Kristine could see that Jack was becoming emotional, so she redirected the conversation.
“Jack, I read something interesting online last night. It’s The Globe’s Your Life at Work Survey. They have an online tool, called the Employee QWL Risk Index. You can get your own quality of work life score. Kind of like your blood pressure, the higher it is, the greater your health risk. They also have some coaching tools, along with articles for helping employees and employers think about what they can do differently.
“Would you be open to discovering what your quality of work life risk score is? Would you print it off and bring it in? This will have nothing to do with your performance results or with your job. It’s just a way for us to talk about what you can do to improve your quality of work life and what I can do as your manager to support you. Your results will be kept confidential, I don’t want a copy. I just want to talk. What do you think, Jack?” she asked.
Jack sat still for a moment so Kirstine continued.
“Here’s why I believe this. The more I’m reading about employees’ life at work, what results in employee happiness is becoming clearer to me. For example, employees like Jill have developed a set of coping skills that work for them. Those who don’t have those skills often feel chronic stress that can mean they feel less engaged in their work and, more importantly, are more likely to suffer from psychological or physical health risks.
“The body can only handle so much stress before it risks breaking. When a person is unhappy they often look for a way to get away from the perceived pain – by drinking or eating too much, for example. But if we work together we can create a plan. I can only support you with the workplace issues. But if there are issues in your personal life that you need help with, we have a great employee assistance program. Experts can help you learn new skills, if that’s what’s needed.
“As your manager, I would so much enjoy seeing you happier at the end of the day. The fact is, you are a productive employee whom we value. However, if you were happier I can’t help but believe that this would benefit you as a person, both here and at home. Jack, people are our most valuable resource, and we care about our employees.”
Jack lifted his head and looked Kristine in the eyes. “Thank you. You’re right. I have been going to the pub after work and staying there a bit longer. It’s not making things better; it’s costing me more money and creating stress with my wife. I’ll go online and do the survey. And I’ll talk to my wife about this.”
Kristine knew she had some momentum. “Okay, Jack. Bring your survey in first thing tomorrow and we’ll make a plan. Okay?”
Jack left the office with more steam than when he came in. Kristine had made a key discovery. Most people would like to be happy if they knew or believed they could. Jack was leaving with this possibility in mind. The next step was to help him get the skills he needed to maintain this positive thinking.