Workplace wellness was the topic discussed during two recent Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheons. Presenter Brittany Pope discussed what is needed to promote wellness in the workplace, and how employers need to lead by example.

Brittany Pope is a licensed professional counselor in Ketchikan. Throughout her presentations, she repeated her favorite mantra.

“I love ‘Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!’ So in order to have wellness in the workplace you have to have these three things – values and boundaries and self-care, oh my!  Right?  We have to have those three things.”

She says values are beliefs that are important to us and guide us in our daily lives.

“My values at my work may be different from my values at home, but work I do on myself at home or at work can boil over into the other.”

She says boundaries are what is okay and what is not okay, what makes a person feel safe. When boundaries are violated, people can feel different emotions, such as fear, anger or annoyance.

Pope says self-care is what people do to give back to themselves.  

“I always use the example of the cup. You should never give from your cup, you should always give from your overflow. Wait. That’s opposite of what I was taught growing up. You should always give, give, give, give, give, right?  If your cup is not full, you have to give to yourself first to fill your cup, and then anything running over you can give out.”

She says self-care needs to be practiced inside and outside of work. Pope says employers can’t make their employees practice self-care. They need to lead by example, starting with values.

“I am steadfast in determination, trust and honesty, and those are things I try to have in my business. And those values guide how I do business. If you’re steadfast in your values and you know what those are, then your employees are going to see you modeling that. (That’s the) same with boundaries and same with self-care.”

Pope says the number one reason an employee leaves a job is because of their boss. She says when they quit, employees are often asked why they are leaving, but it’s also important to understand why employees are staying.

“We don’t typically ask, ‘Why are you still here? How have we maintained you for 30 years? What are we doing that you like?’ And if employers are doing that, I’m clapping for you because that is huge. Asking people why they’re staying will then empower them to tell you what they’re feeling about the agency. It’ll invite feedback.”

She says people will stay in high-stress jobs if they have a supportive workplace.

Pope says if there is a problem with an employee’s performance, an employer needs to be specific in their feedback, be positive, and strength based.

“You’re probably sitting here thinking, ‘Well what if an employee is doing something wrong? It’s going to be really hard to be strength-based and positive.’ That’s when you need to be direct, but supportive too. So there are two sides to the coin here, that if you are doing a corrective action you can’t always be sunshine and roses, but you can still be supportive.”

She suggested acknowledging the problem and asking the employee why it is occurring. There may be a health problem, a problem at home, or an issue in the workplace. Pope says active listening is important.

Pope also spoke about shame and guilt.  She says shaming an employee will not get the desired results.

“So I want you to have this done by Friday, but I’m going to shame you the entire time. ‘You don’t have it done?’ ‘This is not how I would do it.’ Sometimes that has to do with control. So we have to let go. If we’re going to empower someone, we need to let go of control over that.”

Pope says shaming an employee publicly affects them and will often cause them to shut down.  She says you shouldn’t correct or give negative feedback in front of others, but address a problem privately within 24 to 48 hours.  Pope says it’s important to recognize your own shame and what triggers it.

“And you have to do your own work to expect your staff to do the work. So if you’re saying, ‘We need to make all these changes!’ but you’re not making the changes, then they’re not going to make the changes. Or they may, but it may not be on your time table, or it may not be the way that you’re seeing it, so then that’s going to create some more culture issues, maybe some shame (issues) in your company.” 

She reiterated the importance of values, boundaries and self-care in the workplace, and the need for employers to set a positive tone.