Leadership and Healthy Workplaces
Author(s): Sara Canzona
Work makes up the majority of all of our lives and takes up a huge place in our society. From around the ages of twenty-five to sixty-five, the environment in which we work will be where most of us will be spending the majority of our time. There are several factors that can affect the quality of our work environment especially now with constantly changing times due to globalization, advances in technology and a more diverse workforce than ever before. Because of this, leaders need to be able to adapt to these changes in order to be successful. Old ways of leading will not cut it anymore and a healthy workplace is essential if an organization wants to stay alive. In fact, many studies have shown the positive effects that effective leadership can have on creating a healthy workplace. People make up businesses and if the people are not ok, the business is not ok. It is up to the leaders of the organization to foster a healthy workplace that accommodates the health, safety, and wellness of their employees, while still making sure the work that gets done is up to quality.
According to McGill, a healthy workplace is a workplace in which everyone works together to continuously better the mental and physical health and safety of all employees (What is a "healthy workplace"? 2019). A healthy workplace is an environment with characteristics such as team cohesion, respect, creativity, collaboration, health, safety, care, growth, etc. It is a continuous process that always needs effort from both the leaders and employees to constantly be improving (What is a "healthy workplace"? 2019).
There are several benefits that effective leadership can have in creating a healthy workplace. For instance, one major benefit of effective leadership is that it will increase inclusion in the workplace (Adams et al., 2019). Feeling included is so important in a work environment because it not only leads to positive mental health due to feelings such as positive self-worth, and appreciation, but it can also help with productivity (Adams et al., 2019). This is due to the fact that an inclusive workforce allows employees to develop stronger and more cohesive relationships with their colleagues which leads to better teamwork and therefore performance (Adams et al., 2019). Another benefit that effective leadership can have in creating a healthy workplace is that it can help employees feel empowered in the work that they do (Lee et al., 2018). This is beneficial in creating a healthy workplace because it fosters creativity and helps improve employee behavior. (Lee et al., 2018). Empowerment helps make employees feel like their unique ideas are accepted, which makes employees feel free to be in touch with their creative sides (Lee et al., 2018). Overall, a workplace that has effective leadership creates an environment with trust, better work performance, job satisfaction, work engagement, team unity, and team performance (Bandura et al., 2019)
However, if a workplace is not healthy due to abusive and unethical leadership, there are several damaging effects that this can have on an employee and therefore, the overall company (Hetrick et al., 2022). Unethical leadership includes acts such as theft, fraud, stealing ideas from employees, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, etc. (Hetrick et al., 2022). For instance, abusive leadership can create really damaging effects on employee well-being such as diminished mental and physical health, burnout, and a dangerous amount of stress (Hetrick et al., 2022). This then can cause businesses to lose billions of dollars not only due to legal costs but due to productivity loss as well (Hetrick et al., 2022). Additionally, a self-fulfilling prophecy can start to occur. This is because there have been studies that have shown that bad work performance can lead to abusive leadership (Fan et al., 2020).
However, due to the fact that abusive leadership can negatively affect job performance, a cycle can get created. Poor performance leads to abusive leadership because it can affect the mental health of the leader by making them feel that their time and energy are being wasted causing them to get stressed and exhausted (Fan et al., 2020). This also negatively affects the leaders' self-image and self-worth which further contributes to abusive behaviors (Fan et al., 2020). Lastly, another major consequence of poor leadership is discrimination. Poor leadership can cause discrimination to increase and become more present in the work environment (Adams et al., 2019). When employees feel they have faced discrimination and are omitted, it can lead to increased stress and other workplace problems such as burnout and exhaustion (Adams et al., 2019). This is because feelings of discrimination are a social stressor that can greatly affect a person's mental health and therefore work performance (Adams et al., 2019).
So how do you be an effective leader?
An effective leader has many attributes. One important attribute that an effective leader should have is authenticity. An authentic leader is a leader that is open, transparent and has good self-awareness (Bandura et al., 2019). This is a leader who understands their strengths and weaknesses and how their actions might affect others. It is a leader who is true to themselves, and whose actions align with their words (Bandura et al., 2019). Another important characteristic of being an effective leader is inclusivity. This is a leader that can include everyone, shows interest in what employees have to say, and makes them feel heard and belonged. It also includes being accessible if they have questions (Adams et al., 2019). Being respectful is also a very important quality. This includes acts such as treating everyone with respect by showing that you are grateful for the work your employees do to make them feel appreciated (Adams et al., 2019). Lastly, an effective leader is a leader that is able to empower their employees (Lee et al., 2018). One way a leader can make their employees feel empowered is by giving their employees more control over decision-making (Lee et al., 2018).
In conclusion, a healthy workplace is one in which everyone's health and wellness are met. It is a creative, engaging and inclusive environment and is an important factor that a business should have in order to be successful, especially in such changing and challenging times. However, to achieve this, organizations need leaders that are effective in creating these environments and where employees can count on them to make this happen.
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