Getting to Square One

In our research projects, we are committed to going beyond surveys and interview. We prefer taking action to test ways of improving the quality of worklife. We offer programs designed to address challenges in worklife, and ask people to volunteer. We can then assess the impact of these programs on these employees in contrast to their peers who have not participated.

In our projects we have noted an odd thing about who was participating: people who participate in programs tend to be the more resilient individuals. That is, the people who volunteered for programs tend to be people who were already doing pretty well. They were apparently motivated to do even better. Being a great employee or a great boss is tough even when for the most talented people, so we were happy to help a group of capable participants to become even better at that job.

However, we would also like to support those who were not doing so well. So, why are people not rushing to participate in a program designed to help them become better at what they do?

It could be that the less resilient employees think they are doing fine. They may not agree with our initial surveys that suggest they are experiencing distress and facing tough challenges in their jobs. They may think that they are doing fine. They may believe that whatever distress they are feeling is just an inevitable part of the job, and not something that calls for action. They may believe they have made a sensible decision about their time management when declining to participate.

Alternatively, it could be that the format of our session discourages people in distress. Our program formats use a group process. A facilitator guides conversations through a series of topics that concern the challenges inherent in the social context of their workgroups. We focus on strategies for improving the quality of working relationships and ways of moving from burnout to engagement with work.

For people who are feeling confident in their jobs, this format may be ideal. They have opportunities to share their experiences and to learn from the experience of their colleagues. It makes the most of the knowledge in the room. But for those with less confidence in their jobs, the format may feel quite intimidating. They may not want to share their experiences with their peers, especially with those who appear to have so much more confidence.

So, we are developing alternative routes. We plan to ask those who did not choose to participate for their suggestions: what format would work for you?

It will be interesting to hear what they suggest.

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