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Psychological Responsibility


With the explosion of psychological presenteeism (psychopresenteeism) there is a real danger that more and more of the workforce will lose the energy and determination to enable their employing organisations achieve peak performance and success. Psychopresenteeism is costing the UK around £60 billion a year. Sadly, many organisations tackle this problem from the wrong end; they provide services for people already experiencing stress. Waiting for people to need services is where the main costs of psychopresenteeism lie.

Organisations would be better served if they adopted Psychological Responsibility for the psychological wellbeing of their workforce. This is a similar idea to social responsibility when organisations limit the harm to communities and to the environment. Psychological Responsibility is going further; it is about being active in promoting a positive psychological experience for people in general, but, in this context, for people at work. The organbisation has a Psychological Responsibility for its workforce; the workforce has a Psychological Responsibility for themselves and others, within a kinship framework where individuals support each other for the benefit of the organisation as well as themselves.

Organisations need to have Champions for Change, people with the talent, the skills, knowledge and experience to facilitate organisation development, and management develop change. Champions may be managers, OD, MD, HR specialists, and Occupational Health specialists who know that managing people with stress is not the answer to the elimination of psychopresenteeism nor the achievement of peak performance.

A Psychological Responsibility strategic framework has five strategies - prevention of the events and behaviours that trigger stress in others, combined with the measures needed to achieve psychological wellbeing and peak performance; prevent deterioration - preventing people with the signs and symptoms of stress from deteriorating; restoration - helping people back to work after an episode of stress; and palliation - helping people with chronic stress to achieve as high a level of psychological wellbeing as possible.

The prevention strategy is translated into action by using The WellBeing and Performance Agenda. This is a systemic approach to change, and involves five elements -

Discovery - finding out the impediments to psychological wellbeing and performance.

The Culture - the creation and maintenance of a Psychological Responsibility Culture

The Management - the adoption of Adaptive Leadership principles and manager behaviours

The Working Environment - the eliminations of impediments to peak performance

The Resilient Person - the strengthening of attitudes towards adverse events and poor behaviour in others.

For more on Psychological Responsibility and The WellBeing and Performance Agenda go to

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