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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 11/04/2009 | 1 Comment

Over six months ago I wrote a blog explaining that the Centre wanted to broaden its agenda out beyond Positive Psychology. It is not that we think this is an unhelpful approach. We still think this research has a contribution to make but we do not think that on its own it is enough. It is only one part of the picture. We have now created a new section on the website called Flourishing Lives. This is an ambitious project which we’ll be working on over the next couple of years. One of its great attractions is that it allows us to show graphically that lots of different aspects of life contribute to flourishing and well-being. 
One of the important pieces, which we’ll add sometime in the future, is management style and organisational structure. I’ve been at various events in England in the past few months and one of the things that has really struck me is how angry many professionals are. They really resent being deprofessionalised and ‘micro managed’. Of course, some of this might be down to self-interest but as far as I can see it is much more about how soul destroying it is to be told what to do and to feel that, as an employee, there is no room for manoeuvre. This is an issue right across the public sector in the UK but it seems to be particularly acute in England.
This centralising, command and control management  style may, at first glance, seem to be of little relevance to the Centre but this isn’t the case. We are interested in confidence and  well-being: how can employees feel confident and emotionally well if they are not treated as thinking, creative and responsible people? Indeed research carried out by Professor Marmot and colleagues on Whitehall civil servants showed that employees’ health depended on their position in the hierarchy – those at the bottom of the hierarchy had the poorest  health. Even those in the second tier did not have as good health as those in the rung above them. The researchers concluded in part that feelings of powerlessness and lack of autonomy have a negative impact on people’s health.
As a Centre we believe that individuals have some control over their lives as a result of how they see the world. I’ve personally worked with some teams where unsubstantiated rumour, and the resultant pessimism of employees, was fuelling an unhelpful downward spiral which paradoxically was likely to result in the loss of jobs – ironically the very thing which employees wanted to avoid. But as a Centre we also believe that the structure of an organisation, and its values, also impinges greatly on employees’ attitudes and their well-being. It is very difficult for people, no matter how optimistic and cheerful, to resist being ground down by an organisational structure which continually fails to give them the space to make their own decisions and requires them to comply with decisions which often make little sense. So if the Government is serious about increasing well-being at work it must look at ways in which it can move away from the centralised targets, command and control approach, towards a style of managing which is based more on genuine decentralisation and empowerment.
It is because we see morale, motivation and well-being of staff as inextricably linked to the structure and management style of organisations that we are holding the event on May 12th with Professor John Seddon and another on 16th June with Professor Barry Schwartz who will talk about the importance of Practical Wisdom. Barry’s compelling argument is that we’ve too much choice when it comes to consumer goods and not enough in the areas of our life where it really matters.
If we weren’t to broaden out in this way then we would be in danger of telling employees that being happy at work was simply down to them. Here’s a spoof circulating on the internet on this very theme …
IMPORTANT NOTICE TO ALL EMPLOYEES! All personnel will now be required to look happy while working. Company approved supplies will be provided to each employee at little or no cost.
Workloads getting to you?
Feeling stressed?
Too many priorities and assignments?
Here is the new low cost, company approved solution to cope with multiple priorities and assignments!
Each employee will be supplied 2 paper clips and rubber bands.(Fig. 1)
FIG. 1

Assemble items as shown in Fig. 2
FIG 2.

Apply as shown in Fig 3.
Fig 3.

Enjoy your day. This new office equipment will help you to reach the end of a productive work day with a  smile on your face!
 

Comment By Comment
Alex Smith

Comment Posted: 20/04/2009 14:11
I agree with your point about people needing some control over their work. I remember many years ago being interviewed for an important job in what was at that time a local authority-controlled college. I had done my homework and said that one of the things I believed in was that staff should not have to leave their minds at the door when they arrived for work. The Principal took offence and accused me of patronising his staff. I did not get the job. The person who did survived less than a year, dismayed by how little control she had over her day-to-day work and how restricted her decision-making powers were. I was lucky.

The other point I should like to make is that this does not only apply in the public sector. Most of my work these days is with private companies and many of them suffer from the same problems.
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