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How Critical Is an Emotionally Healthy Workplace?
Strategies to help solve one of the greatest problems facing most organizations today.

Do the people at work drive you crazy? Why are some people so hard to manage and work with? Are human resources the weakest link in the corporate supply chain?

These are the questions every owner, manager and employee faces each working day. Humans can be the greatest strength or biggest liability of any organization. Great people can rescue a struggling business and dysfunctional staff can bring a great company to its knees. Productivity and profitability are determined by people, not technology. Ask any manager, the most difficult situations they face are not balancing income and expenses but people problems.

Traditionally, we have thought that success at work depended on technical ability to get the job done, on time and under budget. In reality though, the most successful people are the ones who have the 'soft' skills. They are the ones who know how to get along with and motivate others while getting the job done.

Promotions usually go to those with good people skills while staff with only technical ability rarely progress. Unfortunately, the career training process focuses almost entirely on technical skills. Where can employees learn the soft or people skills?

We have a problem. Companies are not reaching their full potential when staff is unhappy, in conflict or being poorly managed. There are enormous financial rewards for any corporation that makes even a small improvement in this area. The good news is that solutions are available that can transform people and organizations.

In my 26 years of medical practice I have learned a great deal about human behaviour. My most significant discovery though, will not likely win the Nobel Prize for medicine. It's actually very simple but has profound and significant consequences. What I have discovered is that the personal problems people struggle with at home, they bring to work.

That's it.  A person's success and productivity at work is determined by their emotional health. A happy, relaxed, confident person will inspire others and get more done than an unhappy, struggling, irritable person. So it's obvious that any effort a company invests in the emotional well being of their staff will pay back many times over with increased productivity and profitability. It will also make the workplace a pleasant and fun place to be. Recruitment will never be a problem since the best people will always want to work there.

How can a company improve the emotional health of their employees? How can you create an emotionally healthy workplace? I've created a simple model that explains the source of the problems and the solutions.

Our feelings and emotions are influenced by the three parts of humans: physical, spiritual and personality. There are physical or medical disorders that affect the way we think and feel. There are spiritual sources of attitudes and behaviours And the nature of our personality determines how we react to people and situations. Let's look at each of these parts and see how corporations can actually make a difference in the lives and productivity of their employees.

Mental health disorders are physical conditions that interfere with thought control. If you can't control your thoughts, then you can't control your mood, concentration or behaviour. These conditions are the primary or secondary diagnosis in 60 percent of disability insurance claims. Six percent of all employees have a mood disorder like depression, anxiety or mood swings. Health Canada reports that mental disorders in the workplace cost nearly 14 percent of the net annual profits of Canadian corporations with a cost of $16 billion per year.

The World Health Organization estimates that by 2020, depression will be second only to heart disease as a cause of disability in the developed world. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, up to one in five (20 percent) of Canadians will have a medically treatable chemical imbalance mental illness in their lifetimes. We know that 80 percent of these people will never be diagnosed or treated. They will just continue working with their gradually worsening concentration and productivity.

This is a huge problem in every organization. The good news is that 75 percent of those who are properly treated will return to their usual job. The earlier the disorder is detected and treated, the faster is the recovery. It follows then, that a corporation can increase the productivity of at least 6 percent of its staff by encouraging early diagnosis and treatment of mood disorders. This is actually easy to do.

If employees are given the tools for self diagnosis and are encouraged to seek treatment early, the problem of mood disorders in the workplace can be greatly reduced. There are many resources available that can easily be used for self diagnosis. If a staff member recognizes themselves in the symptom list for mood disorders they should then be encouraged to start medical treatment and counselling. This simple method of self identification can reduce disability days and staff turnover, increase creativity, productivity and improve working relationships.

Our personality is the second part of humans that affects our feelings, emotions and behaviour. It is the part that determines the quality of our relationships. The health of our personality determines our ability to work with or manage people. Superb technical skills can never overcome the career limiting consequences of a bad personality. A healthy personality leads to good relationships that when combined with technical skills always lead to career advancement.

I suggest that an annual visit to a counsellor should be mandatory for all staff.

Our personality is shaped by childhood experiences and the self image that resulted. If we had affirming parents we would develop a positive self image with an optimistic outlook. If we had dysfunctional, critical parents we would have a negative self image and a pessimistic outlook. Our self image determines our career success. Productivity, creativity and working relationships are greatly handicapped by negative, critical staff members. So what can an employer do about a condition that was shaped in childhood?

Once again, awareness and information are the keys to positive results. Most people are unaware of their self image, personality characteristics and how they affect others. Through seminars and resource materials, staff members can become more aware of their own inner dialogue, attitudes and how they affect others. Employees should be encouraged to take advantage of counselling services and employee assistance programs.

I suggest that an annual visit to a counsellor should be mandatory for all staff. We maintain our cars regularly, why shouldn't we take the same care of our personality and relationships? There is no doubt that as the emotional health of an organization improves, so will their productivity, creativity and profitability. These small changes will reap great corporate rewards.

The third and deepest part of humans is our spirit. It's hard to define but it's the part of you that indicates if there is any reason to get up in the morning. Your spirit is your moral rudder, ethical compass and internal standard that you measure yourself against. It's your source of motivation, hope and peace. Your spirit gives you the awareness that your life is part of a bigger picture and your actions have significance to society. It is the well of inner strength you draw on every day. An unhealthy neglected spirit is a dry well, without meaning or motivation, just going through the motions of life.

An employee with a healthy spirit will be happier, more resilient, creative, productive and a positive influence on others. It is in a company's financial interest to encourage healthy spirituality in their staff. So how do you do that? Spirituality is deeply personal. The good news is that discussing spirituality is socially acceptable even while religion and Christianity are not.

Corporations can demonstrate through seminars and by example that healthy spirituality is a core value of the organization. While not specifically promoting any religion, spiritual values and priorities like honesty and integrity can be taught. Some companies have hired chaplains to care for the spiritual needs of the employees while not promoting any religion. This service can effectively indicate the commitment of management to the spiritual health of each staff member. Employees can be regularly encouraged to grow and develop their spiritual lives.

So you can see that an emotionally healthy workplace is an achievable goal. All it takes is motivation and the will to make it happen. And a spiritually and emotionally healthy workforce will always be a competitive advantage and a wise investment.

Dr. Grant Mullen is a mental health physician and author who lectures internationally on the keys to emotional recovery and healthy relationships. He has a special interest in the integration of medical treatment with spiritual and emotional healing models to see people and organizations transformed. Dr. Mullen is the author of Emotionally Free and The Breakthrough Solution, and is the producer of 14 DVD’s. For more information on emotional transformation, and to subscribe to our free video e-newsletter visit Subscribe to Dr. Mullen’s free monthly video podcasts on iTunes or by visiting

Emotionally Free
This forthright and compassionate study helps readers identify symptoms of depression and understand three types of treatment: medical, spiritual, and inner healing. Grant Mullen discusses causes of depression, exposes Satan's deceptions, and helps the reader ''reconnect'' head and heart, and learn to trust God in a new way.

The Breakthrough Solution
This book takes you on a fascinating, unpredictable, humorous journey of corporate investigation to find out why a cutting-edge technology company is failing. This light-hearted story shows how paying attention to people’s mental and emotional health is one of the best ways to unleash their power and potential.

Originally published on Dr. Grant Mullen’s website, April 2008 and in Business Life, Spring 2008.

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