vPsychology for Business


We are dedicated to bringing out the best in you and your employees

Volume 5, Number 8                                                            April 9, 2004


Psychology for Business is an e-mail newsletter written by  Dr. John Weaver, business psychologist and independent consultant, provided to you at no charge. It is published bi-weekly. You’ve received this newsletter because you’ve subscribed to it or it was forwarded to you by a friend or colleague. To subscribe sign up at our website, http://www.psychologyforbusiness.com/. If you wish to cancel your subscription, please see the end of this e-mail for easy instructions

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By Dr. John Weaver, Business Psychologist and Executive Coach

Three extraordinary Wisconsin companies were recipients of the 1st Annual Wisconsin Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards, presented last Friday, April 2nd, at the Wisconsin Psychological Association Conference. I was privileged to serve on the award committee and to learn, first hand about the practices that make these organizations deserving of this honor.

In the large employer category, Mercy Hospital Systems of Janesville, WI received an award.  In the small business category, two companies, Versant of Milwaukee, WI and Lakeland Supply of Waukesha, WI were given the award.

Each of these companies are using unique and creative ways to improve the organization while establishing a psychologically healthy environment for those who work there. I would like to take the opportunity to share a small sample of these creative ideas in today’s newsletter.

Altruistic Behavior

One of the actions that Mercy Hospital takes to create a healthy environment for its employees is a special program for recognition of “altruistic behavior.” When an employee does a little extra to help someone, the management team at Mercy tries to notice it. It might be an action that is as simple as holding an elevator for someone who has their hands full with lab test results, or taking the extra time with a worried family waiting for news from surgery.

Each employee is given a stack of "business cards." On these cards the words "You make a difference!" is printed along with a place to put the name of the person doing the altruistic action, the person giving the card and the date. When five cards are collected, they can be traded for a pin that employees wear at work. This has been greeted with enthusiasm by the staff. Many of the Mercy Hospital employees take time to copy the cards as a remembrance before they exchange them for the pin. While it is not expensive to take an action like this, it reinforces a value that makes the organization thrive.

Health Care has become an intensely competitive environment (a circumstance that is true in many business environments today). Yet most people do not enter the health care field simply to make a lot of money. Work in health care is often seen as a “vocation” rather than just a job. Helping others is a primary motivation for entering one of the health care professions. By taking the extra time to recognize the altruistic behavior of the employees, Mercy is making it easy for their workers to do the job they truly want to do, even in a difficult and often pressure filled environment.

Why do people choose to work for your organization? What can you do to make it easier for them to participate in the activities of their job that is most satisfying for them?

Honest Communication

If health care is intensely competitive, the business of consumer branding and marketing communication brings its own intense demands. Versant, with offices in Milwaukee and New York are meeting this challenge by trying to be honest about themselves and with each other.

Honest communication is at the heart of the company. This small company engages the services of a board of professionals from disciplines like psychology, public accounting, law, and business development to help them look at the company from the perspective of many disciplines. The CEO and principle partner believes this is the foundation of their success. He establishes an atmosphere where there are opportunities for everyone to give input without fear of reprisal. He listens to his board, but he also wants to hear from the rest of the company.

To facilitate that open communication, each employee has a special triangle which they can place on their desk. When it is on the desk, it is a signal to their boss to set up a one on one meeting. This meeting can be to discuss any issue and management is strictly informed that this meeting cannot be held against the employee in any way. While most employees admit that they have never used it, the opportunity to discuss any issue without fear of backlash has clearly kept communication flowing. Problems can get solved before they become a catastrophe in this environment.

How does your organization foster open and honest communication? How do you receive the information that is difficult to hear?

New Ideas

A small company faces difficult challenges in an era when there are so many large businesses that depend on the economy of scale to drive price downward. Lakeland Supply competes with national distributors by involving everyone in the company in a process that truly leads to continual improvement.

The management at Lakeland Supply holds quarterly meetings and everyone in this small company is invited. But the admission is not free. In order to gain admission to the meeting it is necessary to submit one idea that will make the company work better. When all of the ideas are compiled, a copy is given to the employees who are asked to rank the five best ideas. The top ideas are given time at every management meeting to find ways to implement improvements for the organization.

Management and employees seem equally excited about this process. The managing team told me they often learn about problems that are unique to different jobs within the company. The solutions make it easier to be responsive to their customers in a marketplace where they often compete with national suppliers. The employees are excited that their ideas are taken seriously and, as a result, they think deeply about how to improve the company. They also hold themselves accountable for making the ideas work. This company not only embraces change but eagerly push for positive continuous improvement.

How do you find the ideas that will improve the quality of your company at every level? Are you willing not only to listen but to dedicate time and energy to turn creative ideas into creative actions?


Each of these practices are not mere programs that are started as a gimmick to keep up with the most recent business fads. They are actions that are the practical implementation of a set of values these organizations are attempting to live.

The exercise of recognizing the psychologically healthy companies in Wisconsin is valuable to any business that is willing to learn from the innovative practices of the best. If you would like to nominate a Wisconsin company for next year’s award, please visit the Wisconsin Psychological Association website at http://www.wipsychology.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=5. If you know of a great company outside Wisconsin you can email me at jweaver@psychologyforbusiness.com and I will help you find out if there is an award program in your state and put you in touch with the right people.

Did you know that executive coaching is not geographically limited?  Coaching by telephone is effective.  It is also an efficient use of time and resources.  You never need to leave your office to travel, nor do you need to pay travel expenses for your coach. We offer coaching either onsite or by telephone. To find out if coaching is right for you, contact us to schedule a 1/2 hour consultation at no charge.  Or request a price sheet to determine the best value for your organization.  Call us at: (262) 789-2728 or email us at mailto:jweaver@psychologyforbusiness.com.

About the Author

John Weaver, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist with 25 years’ professional experience working with organizations, groups, and individuals. He has experience leading groups and creating teamwork in organizations. His areas of expertise include executive coaching, conflict resolution, coaching teams and individuals to improve performance under stress, assessing employees and potential employees to ensure the right person for the right job, and training in stress management and "The Vitamin C’s for an Emotionally Healthy Workplace."  He is an experienced professional speaker and published author.

Based in Waukesha, WI, Dr. John Weaver is available for consultation or executive coaching by phone, e-mail or in person. He may be reached at (262) 789-2728 (office) or (414) 491-8719 (cell), by e-mail: mailto:jweaver@psychologyforbusiness.com or: 

John Weaver, Psy.D. 
Psychology for Business
2717 North Grandview Boulevard, Suite 303
Waukesha, Wisconsin, 53188

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Psychology for Business
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Waukesha, WI 53188

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