The TIE Podcast Spring Semester Preview: Maintaining Humanity at Work, with Univ. of Minnesota’s Dr. Michelle Duffy

Positive workplace practices as discussed in the Spring Semester podcast with Michelle Duffy

TIE is thrilled to present our second Spring Semester podcast, featuring an engaging conversation about positive workplace practices with Dr. Michelle Duffy, Vernon Heath Chair in the department of Work and Organizations at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. 

Listen to the full conversation below:

TIE Podcast · A Conversation with Michelle Duffy
Dr. Michelle Duffy

Dr. Duffy has previously researched the influence of employees’ emotions on organizational outcomes, antisocial behavior at work, and the role of micro-interventions (brief, unique, and accessible exercises) in improving employee well-being (paywalled) and organizational life. Presently, she is investigating resume fraud, employee envy (paywalled), affective balance, and mindfulness (paywalled).

She joins Alexia Hudson-Ward, TIE‘s editor in chief, to discuss how team members at every level can work to ensure healthy workplace practices. Delving into the particular impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employees’ mental health, they consider how staff can maintain healthy and productive relationships in the midst of new working environments, stressful home lives, or even grief. They cover a range of pressing topics, from normalizing stress to acknowledging microaggressions where and when they occur and looking for ways to recognize each other’s humanity and build connections through remote work. They end with a pertinent discussion of compassionate leadership, considering what it looks like when employed successfully and how it can positively impact employees.

This is a thoughtful dialogue that centers humanity and understanding at a time when both are desperately needed in the workplace, while still acknowledging the realities of working life.

We hope you enjoy this insightful interview with Dr. Michelle Duffy

Here’s a quick peek inside the episode:

On the vital role of micro-interventions in improving employee well-being:

It’s such an important issue and I would call [for] things that we should probably stop doing first and then [focus on] things that we can start doing … Thinking of microaggressions and negative micro-engagements, I think a really basic thing that may sound obvious … is to stop minimizing that they’re happening. I do find that … many [people] have had at times the temptation to say, “oh, that’s just an individual problem, oh, that’s just a personal problem” and they’re not, and we need to stop saying that “this is your problem” or “this is a personal problem” or “this is a relationship problem.” So, these kinds of negative engagements are not things we should normalize in the workplace. We shouldn’t allow them to fester by normalizing them. And then, I think if we can get to that point of really taking the impact of these kind of behaviors seriously … I think there are things that managers, leaders, supervisors can do … One thing I like to talk about is starting really simply with asking ourselves, what is the way that we hear people and in what ways are we not hearing people talk … You can’t fix this problem if you’re not willing to hear from the people that are experiencing different aggressions at work.

On how we can incorporate positive micro-engagements into our everyday work existence:

I hear a lot of [higher-up] people … almost in a panic that the workplace is falling apart because [of COVID] just because it’s new and so we have to find new ways of doing things. One thing I’ve been thinking about first [is] let’s just start with some acceptance that this is how it is, it’s probably how it’s going to be for a while, and I think it’s normal to kind of mourn how things “used to be” for some people … but let’s think about … seeing this remote work, if we’re on Zoom, as an opportunity to connect with each other beyond what are we accomplishing, like we would at work, … [by] asking questions, showing empathy, I think that’s one way … I feel like if we can keep opening our hearts and minds … we can still connect, it doesn’t have to be the way it was, we can be creative with technology.

On what compassionate leadership looks like:

I think [a compassionate leader] is a leader who has the ability to have empathy for the people that are working with them … [A compassionate leader] is a leader who is humble in some ways and views their role as supporting the people that work for them. So, that leader, yes they care about production, et cetera, they also recognize that healthy people are one of the best ways to do that, but beyond that they have empathy for … others … Your job as a leader is not simply to tell [your employees] what to do, but it is to be supportive in making sure that they have what they need, they have the resources they need to do their job … When we tend to get stressed out in our work lives, I think we stop really appreciating people and thanking them and really recognizing what people are going through and connecting with them on that.

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