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Signs of Organisational 'Psychological Ill-Health'

Posted by Jason Aitkens on Tuesday, October 14, 2014.

In the first of a two part series, David Burroughs, Managing Director and Principal Psychologist at CommuniCorp discusses the red flags that indicate organisational Psychological Ill-Health'.

A psychologically safe and healthy workplace is one that not only ensures it meets WHS compliance/legal obligations when it comes to psychological health and safety, but one that has the requisite culture, policies, procedures and people capabilities that enable the overall organisation, its teams and its individual staff members to thrive.

While every organisation wants to sit at the upper end of the Psychologically Safe and Healthy Workplace continuum and benefit from all the associated innovation, discretionary effort, robust feedback and overall performance, unfortunately getting to the thriving stage takes a lot more than just a clever values statement, mental health awareness, a lunch and learn happiness session or a quick course of coaching or mindfulness.

In truth, many organisations are still grappling with underlying workplace conditions, systems, capabilities and issues that are limiting their ability to transition to the point of flourishing and thriving. Recent media has been thick with metrics about workplace mental health return on investment, the issues of stigma, mental health disclosure, and the perils and costs of psychological injury, and there is a wealth of information about the types of metrics, tools, diagnostic approaches to quantifying workplace psychological health factors (contact CommuniCorp for more commentary in this area). But for those organisations not wanting to invest time and money in huge organisational psychosocial risk surveys, tools and analyses, what are some of the tell-tale signs that an organisation might be psychologically ‘unhealthy’?

Having consulted across dozens of organisations internationally, David Burroughs from CommuniCorp has provided the following anecdotal signs of workplace psychological ‘ill-health’:

Imposed Values

While it is great when an organisation has well defined and articulated workplace values that people understand, believe in and operate consistently with, the truth is you cannot simply impose a set of values on others and expect unilateral commitment and compliance (or even understanding). Similarly, if there is a disconnect between espoused values and the core beliefs and values that actually exist in work teams and workplaces, or values are not being modelled by the executive and/or people leaders, or aspects of the workplace (such as competitiveness, unaddressed incivility, under resourcing) prohibit workplace values being adhered to, an organisation’s potential to psychologically thrive will be seriously undermined.

Disconnected Executive

To develop a psychologically safe and healthy workplace, executive commitment is crucial, not just in terms of securing funding for program, but more importantly in their authentic and visible support for psychological health based initiatives. Developing a PS&HW takes time, effort and investment, if the Executive is not visibly seen to be involved, or is seen to be disconnected, misaligned, paying lip service to and unless they are not just endorsing but modelling best practice and exemplary behaviour in this area, organisations have a real psychological health problem. It is critical that all executives not just buy in to but understand the business case for workplace psychological health, and not just in terms of the feel good factor, or being a good corporate citizen, or doing the right thing/showing commitment things but just for one landmark day. It needs to consistent and ongoing with visible support and commitment.

Part Two of "Signs of Organisational 'Psychological Ill-Health" will be released in the coming weeks, discussing further indicators of psychological ill-health, including 'Incivility Tolerance' and 'Job Creep'.

FREE "Developing Psychologically Safe & Healthy Workplaces" workshops


CommuniCorp is hosting a series of full day ‘Developing Psychologically Safe and Healthy Workplaces’ Capability Based Training Workshops in October and November 2014 free of charge for eligible senior HR/WHS executives from large (300+ FTE staff) government and commercially focused organisations. To ensure a genuine peer based learning environment, attendance is limited to those directly responsible for developing and implementing practical strategies for workplace psychological health.

This practical evidence-based workshop is designed to help HR/WHS decision makers make sense of the increasingly complex workplace mental health landscape, understand psychosocial hazards, determine psychological health and safety priorities, and undertake a gap analysis to determine the current baseline early intervention and prevention knowledge and capabilities across various job roles. It is led by one of CommuniCorp’s Principal Consulting Psychologists and is a unique opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and skills from a recognised subject matter expert in workplace psychological health.

These sessions are hosted free of charge for eligible registrations, and expressions of interest to attend are now open. Full details of these session, and registration, is available here.

To learn more about CommuniCorp Group, and our programs, contact us on:

Email | Phone 1300 855 140 | Web

Work-Related Suicide in FIFO Workplaces

Posted by Jason Aitkens on Thursday, September 18, 2014.

The Work Health & Safety and Human Resources communities, as well as FIFO families and workplaces, are urgently asking “How do we prevent FIFO suicide, what can we do and how do we do it?”

With the recent spate of suicides in the mining industry, questions are being asked about the psychological health and wellbeing of FIFO workplaces.

At least nine FIFO workers have completed suicide in the past year, pointing to the urgent need to review the psychosocial hazards and early intervention and prevention capabilities within the workplace policies and practices of the mining and resources sector.(1)

In response to this spike in suicide within the mining industry, particularly within Western Australia, and in response to concerns raised by the families of mining personnel, a parliamentary inquiry will look at whether or not mining and resource companies are doing enough to prevent suicides.

The West Australian Government, through The Education and Health Standing Committee, will review and report on the mental health of fly-in, fly-out workers; in particular the Committee will inquire into elements including “the contributing factors that may lead to mental illness and suicide amongst FIFO workers”.

WA Mental Health Commissioner Tim Marney said that proven suicide risk factors were prevalent in the FIFO lifestyle.

“Social isolation, family or financial stress and high risk taking behaviour, these are three proven risk factors predominant in an age and gender cohort already predisposed to suicide. Add to that shift work, and it is clinically proven that messes with mental health” said Marney. (1)

In addition to the research being conducted by the WA Government, the NSW Mineral Industry in March released their blueprint outlining the actions that members, mines and health partners may take to improve the mental health and wellbeing of employees within the mining and resource sector.

There is no single solution to address mental health and well-being and mental health issues. It requires a strategic and comprehensive approach to the issue with a range of integrated system, workplace and individually focused strategies.” (2)

With the unique psychosocial hazards and stressors prevalent across the mining and resource sectors it is easy to see why FIFO related mental health concerns warrant further investigation and a systematic workplace specific approach.

David Burroughs, Managing Director of CommuniCorp comments “all too often, and not just in FIFO workplaces, but across corporate Australia, we are seeing the tragic impact of work-related suicide and the ripple effect this has across workplaces, families and communities. While raising awareness is important, equipping people with the requisite skills to intervene in workplace mental health issues and building psychologically safe and healthy workplaces is critical if we are to have a real impact on this issue.”



In response to the urgent need to address the psychosocial hazards and critical issues around FIFO suicide within the mining and resource sector, CommuniCorp are hosting a Senior Executive Business forum exploring “Work-Related Suicide, Early Intervention and Prevention Strategies for FIFO Workplaces” in Perth and Brisbane during October.

The purpose of these sessions is to explore some of the more unique factors that play a role in the mental health and wellbeing of FIFO workers and to investigate ways to offer best practice within suicide prevention.

These sessions are hosted free of charge for eligible registrations, and expressions of interest to attend are now open. Full details of these session, and registration, is available here.

To learn more about CommuniCorp Group, and our programs, contact us on:

Email | Phone 1300 855 140 | Web

Workplace Mental Health Now Squarely On The Agenda!

Posted by Jason Aitkens on Wednesday, July 16, 2014.

Echoing the expertise and commitment CommuniCorp Group has shown over the past ten years to build psychologically safe and healthy workplaces, beyondblue has launched their Heads Up campaign, in conjunction with the Mentally Healthy Workplaces Alliance, to encourage Australia’s business leaders to take action on mental health.

“Funded by the Department of Health, it has been launched as a growing body of evidence points to the urgent need for Australian businesses to start treating the mental health of their employees as seriously as they treat physical health and safety” beyondblue said in their media release on 20th May 2014

CommuniCorp Groups groundbreaking work over the past ten years has encouraged a move beyond simple awareness raising of the issues surrounding workplace mental health, toward a more proactive approach of early intervention and prevention of mental health issues and developing individual, team and organisational psychological health.

In a recent interview with Human Capital Online CommuniCorp Group’s Managing Director & Principal Psychologist David Burroughs commented” Most People can recognise when others are experiencing some degree of psychological distress, people can see when others are emotionally suffering, but are often reluctant to intervene and have a conversation. By giving general staff the confidence and capability to recognise distress in an individual, initiate a conversation and know where to refer to internally for additional support – that’s a big thing all on its own. It’s one of what we call a psychological safety foundation skill, something that we think all organisations should have."

With the rising rate and cost of workplace psychological injury, the importance has never been greater to not only identify and address psychosocial hazards in the workplace, but more importantly build individual and organisational capability to develop early intervention and prevention systems, strategies and people capabilities. With Mental Health related issues at work emerging as a critical safety and financial risk for Australian business, costing over $14.8 billion a year, Australian businesses need to ensure they have strategies in place to develop psychologically safe and health workplaces.

 "The time for raising awareness is over, it is now time for organisations to proactively and sustainably address workplace psychological health and safety." Burroughs says.

To learn more about CommuniCorp Group, and our programs, contact us on:

Email | Phone 1300 855 140 | Web

†To view the full interview on Human Capital Online, follow the link here.

†To learn more about Heads Up, visit


Posted by Chris Stevens on Monday, July 07, 2014.

Professional Resilience Program: Psychological Health & High Performance

The workplace and life in a broader sense is becoming increasingly complex and challenging. A recent Lifeline Stress Poll reported startling figures - 93% of Australians are stressed while 48% reported extreme stress. The Poll went further to identify work paired with poor emotional resilience as a leading stressor. In addition, stress-related claims have doubled in recent years – costing the Australian economy over $10.11 billion annually.

With stress and psychological injury in the workplace firmly established as a critical issue facing Australian business, there is now a solid business case indicating that the effectiveness of individual responses to constant challenges and flux is a predictor of individual and organisational performance and success.

The key challenge, however, is not so much stress reduction, but rather, how to develop key resilience skills to respond to these challenges with a health-enhancing and sustainable high performance.  

Professional Resilience is a strategic self-management capability necessitated by the demands of modern life and work. In the workplace it is a strong predictor of performance, with resilient individuals shown to have heightened skills in strategic thinking, problem solving capability, emotional intelligence, improved work engagement, higher morale and a healthy competitiveness in the face of obstacles.

It is realistic to expect we will experience times of mental distress, in the same way we experience periods of physical ill health. However, resilient individuals respond well to stress and maintain a highly productive and healthy state during these periods. Professional Resilience is not a skill that is developed by accident, but requires dedicated effort and knowledge to build capability and - much like a muscle, the capability is strengthened through use. Resilience is the product of a skilled response to stress.

All workplaces sit somewhere on the Psychologically Safe and Healthy Workplaces Continuum. (Refer Graphic 1). The Professional Resilience program has been developed specifically for those teams and organisations who have developed the foundational capabilities to protect the psychological safety of their people (Refer Graphic 2 for a summary of CommuniCorp's Necessary and Sufficient Knowledge and Capabilities guide) and now want to take their people and their organisations toward the flourishing end of the continuum.

The case for building Professional Resilience

Research has shown clearly that there is a link between organisational psychological health and organisational performance. 

Those organisations which have a focus on improving the emotional well-being of their employees typically return a stronger financial performance; 2.2 times the average.  This improvement is demonstrated in increased performance, productivity, organisational cohesiveness and organisational and individual responsiveness to challenge and change. Those organisations that invest in the mental health and welling of their employees consistently show increases in performance scores and productivity.

Building on our nationally respected  Workplace Mental Health Essentials and Practical Resilience programs, we have developed a new program dealing with the specific opportunities available to organisations for enhancing psychological health.

What do participants get as part of the program?

Professional resilience is structured as a program because we recognise that building resilience is not something that simply results from attendance at a training session; it is something that you build over time with practice and discipline. Before the full day training we provide resilience resources – including a knowledge, skills and confidence assessment (which will enable the facilitator to modify the delivery of the workshop to meet the specific needs of attendees) and which ‘primes’ the attendee to start considering personally-relevant aspects of resilience to bring to the workshop.

The workshop itself provides participants with a contextual understanding of the considerations surrounding workplace mental health and resilience before providing practical exercises in developing the resilience resources needed to sustain high performance. The program also enables people to proactively identify compromised resilience and/or mental health in self or others and, where required, instigate “helping conversations”.

Participants finish the workshop with an action plan to embed and reinforce what they have learned and ensure post-workshop ‘traction’.

At the conclusion of the workshop participants also complete the same knowledge and skills audit to give an objective measure of learning. We also provide follow-up resources – including the Personal Resiliency Builder (PRB) a confidential online self-assessment on the resilience factors taught in the program. This provides further practical insights into their own resilience and action guidelines for developing professional resilience.

Professional Resilience is a workshop suitable for all levels of experience and for anyone wanting to respond to the demands of modern work with sustainable high performance

For further details on Professional Resilience, contact CommuniCorp Group on or 1300 855 140

Graphic 1: CommuniCorp Group Psychological Safe and Healthy Workplaces Continuum

© CommuniCorp Group 2014 - Psychologically Safe and Healthy Workplaces Continuum

Graphic 2: Necessary & Sufficient Knowledge/Capabilities for a Psychologically Safe & Healthy Workplace

© CommuniCorp Group 2014 - Necessary & Sufficient Knowledge/Capabilities for a Psychologically Safe & Healthy Workplace

Happy Birthday CommuniCorp - 10 years of helping develop psychologically safe & healthy workplaces

Posted by Jason Aitkens on Wednesday, July 02, 2014.

A message from David Burroughs, Managing Director & Principal Psychologist, CommuniCorp Group - celebrating 10 years of achievement in leading Australia to build psychologically safe & healthy workplaces.

With unprecedented awareness and media around mentally healthy workplaces and workplace mental health, it is very rewarding to be involved in a company that, for over a decade, has been turning awareness into action and helping organisations develop and implement initiatives that increase individual, team and organisational psychological health. 

To have a team of over 70 senior psychologists across Australia, workplace advisors that include some of the world’s foremost thought leaders in workplace psychological health and safety, and so many national clients with a genuine focus on workplace psychological health and early intervention and prevention of workplace mental health issues is a great achievement. It is exciting (although a little frustrating at times) to see the workplace mental health message finally receiving the attention it deserves and so many of CommuniCorp’s ideas, messages, models, frameworks and approaches being picked up, adapted, replicated and utilised by different organisations and groups across Australia. 

As the attention around workplace mental health continues to increase, I take pride in being part of a business that helped build the momentum for this area, that maintains its independence in an increasingly crowded and complex marketplace, and continues to innovate and deliver exceptional outcomes exclusively through its dedicated team of senior psychologists. 

I am looking forward to the next 10 years with CommuniCorp, turning awareness into action, tackling the tough issues, and focusing on practical, sustainable business-specific initiatives that positively influence so many individuals and organisations.

These are exciting times: happy birthday to the CommuniCorp team! 

David Burroughs

Managing Director & Principal Psychologist


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