Organizational Well-being and Performance
P Cotton and P Hart, Australia
The organisational health framework provides a rich perspective for understanding how various individual and organisational factors interact and influence particular employee and organisational outcomes.
It is a strong evidence-based model that is also consistent with previous quality of life research (e.g., Heady & Wearing, 1989, 1992) and cognitive-relational stress research (e.g., De Longis et al., 1988). It has been applied in a wide variety of occupational settings, and has been demonstrated to be very robust in predicting employee wellbeing and performance related outcomes.
Hence, based on the organisational health research conducted to date, there are a number of key practical implications that can be summarised as follows:
- Individual levels of distress and morale are independent of one another; knowing an individual's level of distress does not provide any information about their level of morale and vice versa.
- Individual levels of distress and morale each have distinct sets of determinants.
- Because the determinants of distress and morale are not the same, different interventions may be required to address reported low morale or high distress problems in the workplace.
- Personality is the strongest determinant of individual distress.
- Organisational climate is the strongest determinant of individual morale.
- Organisational climate is the strongest determinant of individual distress, once personality has been taken into account, which is something that managers have considerable control over.
- Organisational experiences (e.g., leadership behaviours, appraisal and recognition processes, the clarity of roles, decision-making styles, goal alignment etc.) that are common to all workplaces are typically more "stressful" for employees than specific operational experiences (e.g., "stressors").
- Employee withdrawal behaviours, including submitting stress-related workers compensation claims and taking uncertified sick leave, are more strongly influenced by low levels of morale (e.g.. lack of energy, enthusiasm and pride) rather than the presence of distress.
- Interventions to reduce employee withdrawal behaviours that focus on increasing levels of morale will typically be more effective than approaches that focus on reducing levels of employee distress.
- Interventions to reduce employee withdrawal behaviours that target the reduction of workplace stressors, are likely to be much less effective than organisation level interventions that focus on improving the quality of leadership and people management practices (i.e., organisational climate). Thus, it is more important to develop a supportive organisational climate that helps employees to manage their work more effectively, rather than attempting to change employee's operational work demands.
- Traditional stress management interventions that focus on teaching employees coping skills are likely to be of negligible value from a whole of organisation point of view, in terms of demonstrating any enduring benefits on levels of employee wellbeing and in reducing withdrawal behaviours.
- There is no justification for organisations utilising selection and recruitment processes to screen out individuals who have higher levels of emotionality. However, this applies to the normative employee population rather than a clinical population (i.e. individuals with more extreme elevations on emotionality or emotional reactivity). Thus, in specific contexts where employees are exposed to ongoing high level pressures, screening for the latter may be warranted.
- For individual employees exhibiting more extreme counter-productive personality styles (i.e., beyond the normative population of employees), a more clinical approach is required. In this respect, the use of targeted and structured clinical psychological interventions is likely to be more effective than supportive counselling and generic employee assistance services.
- Some employee support functions (e.g., employee assistance counselling and debriefing programs) may actually be more effective as morale support interventions rather than as clinical interventions. That is to say they may have limited value in terms of improving clinical outcomes, but are nevertheless useful because they constitute a gesture of employer support that contributes towards maintaining morale.
- Organisational development programs that focus on improving the quality of leadership practices and organisational climate are likely to have a greater impact on reducing workers compensation premiums than traditional occupational health and safety risk management approaches.