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It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a SuperManager!

by Jocelyn Plakas-Lock ASEBP | November 5 2015 | 4 Comments

An acquaintance recently shared a story about her husband’s—let’s call him “John”—experience at work. John’s manager was upset over an error he (John) had made, and ended up throwing a crate of product at him. The crate missed him, but the incident certainly had an impact and John left the company shortly thereafter.

Having had the good fortune of working for great leaders throughout my career, I was truly shocked by this story. It got me thinking about the impact managers have on the health of employees and organizations, and about how the truly amazing ones—let’s call them SuperManagers—are heroes of health, whether they know it or not.

Let’s take a peek behind the curtain and see some of the ways SuperManagers use their superpowers to boost wellness in their organizations.

  • Physical and psychological health and safety. Managers are key in ensuring employees are trained in and follow the rules outlined by organizational health and safety policies, as well as respectful workplace policies. SuperManagers take the time to create a safety culture based on genuine interest and concern for their employees’ health and wellbeing. They encourage, train, model and reward physical and psychological safety behaviours.
  • Wellness programming. SuperManagers regularly attend wellness activities and actively encourage employee participation. They find creative ways to ensure coverage so that employees can attend wellness activities that overlap with the work day. They support representation from their team on the wellness committee and know that modeling this behaviour through their own participation lets employees know that their involvement is not only allowed, but encouraged.
  • Healthy organizational culture. Is your manager intentionally building a positive, healthy workplace culture? Are they open and encouraging, invite learning and discussion and inspire commitment to the mission of wellness? Do they promote work life balance and create environments of civility and respect? Can they be seen regularly practicing gratitude, recognizing good work and encouraging self and peer accountability? Lucky you—you’ve got yourself a SuperManager! These superheroes also step in when others exhibit behaviour that work against healthy culture in ways that are respectful to all parties involved. They know that, like all good superheroes, they have to fiercely protect and defend their healthy workplace environment.
  • Employee retention. People join organizations because they believe in the mission, vision and values of the workplace; they stay because they report to SuperManagers who walk the talk and make it possible for employees to as well. Not only does this result in an engaged workforce and positive culture, it frees up dollars that might have been spent on recruitment and onboarding for other things—maybe even a budget for your wellness strategy.
  • Productivity and bottom line. Saving on recruitment and onboarding costs are just one way SuperManagers protect their organization’s productivity and bottom line. We know that having engaged and healthy employees reduces costs associated with absenteeism and presenteeism (going to work when you’re sick) and I suspect that there is also a correlation between a manager’s commitment to safeguarding healthy environments and their employees’ engagement levels. And since, unlike John’s manager, the only things SuperManagers are throwing are ideas on how to make their workplaces healthier, their supply/product budgets are more likely to stay intact.

When we think of wellness programs, we often think merely of specific activities and events. It's worth considering how leadership support at all levels contributes to the success of our wellness plan—and the organization as a whole. Consider turning the managers in your organization into SuperManagers as one of your wellness strategies. Resources like those available at Workplace Strategies for Mental Health, or resources on soft skills, such as giving and receiving feedback, are great places to start. Mental Health First Aid is also a great superpower for your SuperManagers to have on hand.

I’d love to hear about the SuperManagers in your district or organization. What are the superpowers that make them stand out? And if you are a SuperManager, what are your tips for those of us aspiring to join the league of SuperManagers making workplaces healthier?

Jocelyn Plakas-Lock

As ASEBP’s chief benefits officer, “JPL” (as she is affectionately known) has a vast wealth of knowledge and experience in health promotion with a focus on mental health issues. While she is a great support in this area, JPL is, sadly, utterly unable to execute a cartwheel—a flaw she more than offsets by being a baker of the finest chocolate cupcakes on the planet.

Gillian W. ASEBP | November 9 2015 4:54 PM

Great blog! I've had so many brilliant managers and they have made a huge, positive impact on my life in so many ways. My favourite SuperManagers were always the ones that were open and honest, fun (so important!) and viewed their mistakes as opportunities. They made each day at work an adventure rather than a test of endurance.

. | November 10 2015 10:55 AM

All great points, Jocelyn! When I think of the SuperManagers I've had the pleasure of working with throughout my career, they really do embody and promote that healthy orgainziational culture you speak of.  In particular, when a leader is an example of gratitude and positivity, even in the face of obstacles and challenges, this stands out to me and motivates me to contribute to the solution instead of focusing on the problems. 

Yatin P. ASEBP | November 13 2015 4:32 PM

In my work history I've had both the supermanager and the not-so-super manager, like John's. When I recall the best places I worked it's usually associated with being in an environment of positivity and encouragement, and not so much about the pay. But, the worse places, oh my... Sitting in the parking lot outside the building a dreadful feeling of lets just get through the day. As a new manager I wanted to create a positive and successful work environment. I think these links are great resources for managers, new and old, to access useful information and ideas. Great Blog JPL.

Leanne K. ASEBP | November 24 2015 1:03 PM

Awesome blog Jocelyn! I feel bad for those who don't realize that a real champion is someone who leads by example and not with a heavy fist! I'm sure most of us have had the unfortunate opportunity to work for someone who wasn't a SuperManager and it's amazing how they can effect our attitude, morale and productivity at work.