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 The subject of my book In Harm’s Way is the psychological health of professional helpers’ workplaces. The material used for this blog is partly from the manuscript completed in 2013 for my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. My purpose is to bring more awareness to workers and their supervisors in hopes of preventing psychological injuries at work.

Recent initiatives by progressive thinking agencies, government, and health and safety organizations establishing guidelines for psychologically healthy workplaces are the topic of conferences and workshops. Discussion is beginning to happen in workplaces and with health care providers. One of the main reasons for this initiative is the recognition that psychologically unhealthy workplaces cost money in terms of absenteeism, high turnover, lost productivity, health care, and insurance costs. I remember a mentor saying to me that in his corporate training sessions he states that it is your employees that make you money. Happy workers produce.

This initiative is largely in its infancy similarly with physically unsafe workplaces years ago. In British Columbia WorkSafe BC and the provincial government developed Bill14 in this regard. This piece of legislation also encompasses bullying and harassment in the workplace. The legislation came about because of the potential for losses to employers if employees filed suits in court over mental stress. In essence, this came about because it was going to cost $$, not necessarily because it is the best thing for workplaces.

Tackling the subject of workplace health is a complicated one in the current economic and political climate. The pandemic we have been through and the restructuring of the economy has left many people changing jobs. Many are now not afraid to risk their jobs by speaking up or leaving for better working conditions. When people have options they choose to leave unhealthy situations. Many are on long term disability Employee assistance programs also are the service providers dealing with stressed workers.

David Posen MD (2013) author of Is Work Killing You? maintains that there is a “conspiracy of silence” in many workplaces that is extremely damaging to the health of individuals and the organization as a whole. He believes there is a level of denial akin to an “elephant in the room”. There is what he calls a “willful blindness”. “It’s time to open our eyes to the obvious. It’s well past time that we should admit there is a serious problem in the workplace that’s been going on for years and we’ve chosen to ignore it. Pretending it’s not there has only allowed it to get worse.”

For decades the issue of workplace stress has been portrayed as an individual one with standard responses such as “ it sounds like you are not happy here and you need to look for another job”, particularly if one speaks up about workplace conditions. Few responses to workplace stress have examined organizational factors. Individual efforts to deal with stress can be helpful. Lowe (2004) outlines the characteristics of healthy workplaces however; his opinion is that getting healthy is not sustainable when a person has to work within an unhealthy dysfunctional or traumatized organization. When employers’ do take responsibility they develop wellness programs to provide workers with skills to manage their stress. As Lowe has pointed out this only goes so far and addressing the organization’s health becomes the next step.

Martin Shain (2000) suggests that making changes at the organizational level in the area of “demand and control” would improve conditions. Also excessive stress is created when basic human needs are ignored in work tasks that are structured for the benefit of the employer and where little attention is paid to the employee’s emotional and physical wellbeing in the process. The term he uses to describe employers’ responsibilities is “due diligence”. Employers must do their due diligence to prevent placing their employees in “harms way”. Shain suggests that if they put their employees in harm’s way they are wholly responsible.

Unfortunately, many employers ignore the “elephant in the room” and end up paying for it in long-term disability costs, absenteeism, and high staff turnover. They forget that it is the people they hire that are the core of the organization and they are the most important resource they have.

In my work with injured workers I heard many accounts of dysfunctional workplaces. A common example is workplaces that do not provide the needed staffing that in turn contributes to an injury that the worker has to bear for the rest of their life. Overworked staff are at risk for accidents. Preventable accidents cost money and needless suffering.

These examples illustrate that it is well past time that we address the psychological health of workers. Bill 14 has helped in the regard and I understand that employers now have to demonstrate that they have a plan to prevent injuries to the psychological health of their workers. I am looking forward to the changes that will emerge from the initiative.

If you think that individual counselling or consulting services will help improve the psychological health of your workplace contact me at Mobile 604-562-9130










About the Author:

Dr.Hall's background includes a Communications degree at SFU and a MA in Counselling Psychology from the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Vancouver and Chicago. The author completed a Doctorate program in Clinical Psychology from California Southern University. In 2015 as a result of Dr. Hall’s doctorate research on organizational health she published in Harm’s Way: Health Care Workers at Risk an argument for organizational change. Dr. Hall took poetry writing at UBC (Lorna Crozier) and Creative Writing courses from Langara College including Free Lance Magazine writing and Write the Wild Horse. The author has published articles through the Rehab Review and Rehab Matters magazine of the Vocational Rehabilitation Association of Canada (Compassion Fatigue, Dual Relationships, and Pain Disorders) and was on their Editorial review board. Dr. Hall has published articles in Cognica (Compassion Fatigue) the magazine of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association and the International Network in Personal Meaning (Forgiveness). Both her websites have articles: Http:// focuses on work related and career issues and Http:// focus on personal growth issues, such as stress, depression, analyzing dreams, fear and anger. The author has a newsletter on Substack

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