The Three “A’s” to wellbeing in the workforce: authentic relationships, accountability, and admission
I used to be really good at three things; having surface level relationships, making excuses, and running away from my problems.
Consequentially, my mental health took a turn for the worse and I experienced a three-year depression that eventually lead to two suicide attempts. This put me in a residential treatment center during my junior and senior year of high school.
But sometimes the worst times can teach the greatest lessons.
Now you may be thinking, “Okay, but how does this relate to work?”
As many know, mental health is a growing concern worldwide. However, it often gets brushed under the rug in the workplace. It makes sense that mental health takes a back seat when employees are taught to always complete the next task at hand. No matter the industry, that is the simple nature of work; do what you have to do and do it right now.
But what happens when this laser focus makes everything else seem irrelevant? Sure, the work gets done. That should continue to happen for companies to flourish and reap benefits, but not at the sense of sacrificing employee fulfillment. The good news is that employers don’t need to change the “Get It Done” mentality. There just needs to be additional pieces added to the puzzle.
I currently work for a Fortune 100 company in the business to business sales segment. I have been employed by a professional hockey team, and also previously spent time in the marketing division at my university’s athletic department. All three workplaces have been a tremendous experience and have provided growth and learning opportunities.
What I have noticed through my experiences and speaking with other working professionals is that some employees miss the mark on the three “A’s” for well-being in the workforce, while some employers seem unaware of their importance.
Authentic Relationships, Accountability, and Admission
These are the three “A’s’,” not only critical for employees to deploy, but for employers to acknowledge. My worst of worsts happened when I was blind to the significance of these. If we don’t cultivate authentic relationships, establish accountability, and learn to admit our wrongdoings, then well-being in the workforce is going to have a pretty low roof. The unfortunate thing is that a domino effect is well set up to take place if these aren’t taken seriously. Employees may grow discouraged, the level of care diminishes, work output drops, and company revenues suffer. Furthermore, inferior behaviors such as lying, making excuses, and even jealousy can be byproducts if the three “A’s” aren’t incorporated into the workplace.
Let’s take a deeper dive into how these aspects affect well-being in the workforce.
A #1: Authentic Relationships
If you think about it, this should be one of the more obvious and prioritized components by companies. But it seems too often come as an afterthought. Employees spend the majority of their time in the workplace, and it is not just critical, but rather a necessity, to have authentic relationships with co-workers. Sure, you don’t always need to know one another’s life story or greatest struggles. But we need to go deeper than knowing what color dress shirt he has on, what hair style she changed up, or what each other’s sales numbers are. Authentic relationships are key to employee satisfaction and workforce prosperity.
Brené Brown, one of the leading researchers on vulnerability and mental health in the United States, has brought to light that above all else; money, fame, success, prosperity, and even happiness, that human beings aspire for interpersonal connection and belonging. That is our “why.” One of the methods to fulfill connection and belonging is by implementing vulnerability. In fact, Brown goes on to mention that the only way to reach true internal fulfilment is by being vulnerable and true to who you are.
The challenge is that some employees can feel afraid to live and work as their true selves. Whether it’s the fear of being dismissed, ruining existing relationships, or receiving judgment from others, employees are frequently finding it difficult to be who they are, therefore, making it difficult to create authentic working relationships. It’s a fairly simple concept; if you’re struggling to operate as who you truly are, then the relationships you have are going to struggle authentically as well.
I sent out a survey to more than 800 people ranging from ages 18-61 in various demographics and work industries. I asked what the single greatest obstacle is to reaching mental wellness at work. Below are a few quotes that I received:
· “Feeling like my voice or opinion won’t be heard.”
· “Not being as good as my co-workers when it comes to providing a service.”
· “Letting people down and failing to do what is expected.”
· “Completing a job to the best of my ability but the results don’t meet the needs of my team.”
· “Not living up to expectations that others have of me.”
· “Not being good enough.”
· “Not being taken seriously as a woman.”
· “Not being respected or taken seriously for my younger age.”
· “Constantly overthinking my working and wondering whether it’s good enough for others.”
· “Constantly being compared and ranked against others.”
· “Appreciation- success is great but there is always more work to be done.”
The reality is that all of these can happen at some point in a given workplace. But, having authentic relationships with people you can trust, have fun with, laugh with, and work well with, will put a lot of these insecurities to rest. Relationships are essential for renovation.
Let’s take a look at what employees and employers can do to improve.
Employee Responsibility for Authentic Relationships in the Workforce
1. Act with intention about being vulnerable and transparent.
2. Understand the importance of having authentic relationships and how they can often times put workplace fears and insecurities to rest.
3. Be open to discuss struggles, not just things that are going well.
Employer Responsibility for Authentic Relationships in the Workforce
1. Provide a comfortable workplace environment for employees to leverage building authentic relationships.
2. Conduct team building opportunities outside of the day to day work tasks.
3. Make it a focus. The more the team is aligned and trusting of one another, the better the work output and potential for success is.
A #2: Accountability
When I was in college, I pondered about the idea of writing a book. I wanted to write something that could be a tool to help people that struggled with similar instances of adversity that I experienced. I had ideas, stories, and even the outline written out. But I was too afraid to take the next step of actually writing the book. I was hesitant that the amount of time put in would not be worth it in the end. I doubted my abilities of making it good enough for a publisher to accept. Most notably, I feared judgment from peers and even losing friends, due to the subject matter being rather deep and revealing.
All this caused me to wait on writing the book for seven months. I knew exactly what I was going to write, but felt burdened to start because of these fears. What changed this trajectory is what I like to call self-imposed accountability.
I knew I wanted to write this book, but I just didn’t have it in me to do it on my own. So, I sought a mentor, we linked up, built a relationship, and I asked him to hold me accountable during my writing process. This changed the entire outcome of the process. Fast forward to three months prior to my college graduation, “The Battle Against Yourself,” was published and put out on the market.
Whether it’s writing a book, teaching a kindergarten class, performing a surgery, or making a sales call, we all need some sort of accountability during certain moments. And sometimes, our only choice is to self-impose it.
The other type is what I like to call external accountability, which is essentially set up or arranged in advance. Workplace aspects like mentorship programs, trainings, seminars, and one on one meetings are potential opportunities.
Accountability is a vital part of well-being in the workforce because it forces us not to go at it alone. It plays a role in contributing to the trophy we long for most, human connection and belonging. Take a look at what Brené Brown says here:
“One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on "doing it alone." Somehow, we've come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we're very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It's as if we've divided the world into "those who offer help" and "those who need help." The truth is that we are both.”
Employee Responsibility for Building Accountability
1. Remove shame from the equation when asking for help. Questions are key to progress.
2. Accountability requires a relationship. Go to those you know, trust and can grow from.
3. Use self-imposed accountability when you want or have to do something important. Accept externally placed accountability, even if you didn’t choose it.
Employer Responsibility for Building Accountability
1. Implement mentorship programs for employees.
2. Create a culture shift to break the stigma that a manager offering help to an employee is a bad thing for the employee.
3. Understand the power of team alignment and accountability to the well-being of the workforce.
A #3: Admission
Out of the three “A’s,” this is probably the one I’m most passionate about. It’s also the one that I suffered the most at years ago. When I was sent out of state to a residential treatment center, I was faced with an eye-opening experience. I knew that my trajectory would keep heading south if I allowed it to, or it could change courses if I chose to. One of the discoveries I learned there was that I was the root problem. Sure, some things in life weren’t going my way and caused a lot of stress. But I learned that despite the challenges, I was in control of my decision making. I had to admit my wrongdoings; my selfishness, irrational behavior, and focus on the wrong priorities. It was painful to admit, but growth wasn’t possible otherwise.
Sure enough, this can very easily translate into the workforce in either a positive or negative manner. Maybe not to the same level of severity, but it can certainly alter mental health at work. One of the best things an employee can do is to learn to admit shortcomings and wrongdoings, and take ownership of mistakes.
There are three areas where admission takes place; in the way we feel, act, and think. The treatment center and high school scenarios were admitting my actions were wrong. But sometimes it may not be in our acting or thinking. It may be in how we’re feeling, something we just can’t shake off at work. Instead of hiding and disregarding it, which only masks the problem, transparency with necessary team members is important.
Nine days prior to starting my first professional internship in the workforce, I lost one of my best friends in a car accident. I had so much anticipation and excitement prior to starting work, but my world unexpectedly turned upside down. As much as I tried to be myself, I just wasn’t. So, during the first couple days on the job, I told a couple of co-workers and managers what had happened, so they were aware of the circumstances, possibly affecting work performance and emotional capacity during that time.
Employee Responsibility for Building Admission
1. Put down your pride, admit what you’re responsible for and what you need to improve.
2. Understand that admission is painful in the short term but beneficial long term.
3. Take ownership in the areas of how you think, feel, and act.
Employer Responsibility for Building a Culture of Admission
1. Remove the stigma that an employee will be consequenced when they tell the truth.
2. Encourage employees to speak openly about suggestions and observations they have.
3. Promote the good of taking ownership instead of weighing on the bad of the mistake.
The reality is that every employer and employee have an abundant amount of priorities on their plate at work. Pressure, stress, and anxiety are more common than ever in the workforce. When employers take ownership of adhering to their employees, that is where change happens. Authentic relationships, accountability, and admission are necessities for employer prosperity and mental wellness among employees.
The cool thing is that both sides win…so let’s start tripling down on those three “A’s!”
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