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Two perception scores predict employees’ mental health: Howatt

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July 1, 2024
By Bill Howatt

Credit: Getty Images/Khaled Ladjimi

Resiliency is an evidence-based protective factor for employees. The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress.” 

An interesting piece of research about resiliency is that it may not be the same in different areas of one’s life, such as home and work. It is also beneficial to note through a psychological health and safety lens that an employees resiliency is influenced by their environment (i.e., employee experience).  

Notice the above definition focuses on defining the outcome of resiliency without mentioning how a person becomes resilient. I have researched and published hundreds of articles on the micro-skills that help people mature their resiliency.  

I believe that becoming more resilient can be useful because resiliency is a trainable skill, not an innate one. However, until information leads to habits, there are few short- or long-term benefits. 

Employees often are unaware that many health habits are inconvenient to engage in regularly and may even be painful, which is the tax on their health benefits. For example, my 35-year-old trainer is comfortable seeing me endure pain from reps nine through 12 when I suggest that eight feels like enough. He wants me to push through pain to finish the last four reps. I keep paying for this experience because I have discovered the benefits to my functional health and strength. 

Parenting, marriage, work, friends, and learning are other examples of discomfort and challenges to navigate or tolerate to obtain the full benefits. Good mental health depends on the habits a person creates. Their home, work, and community environments can also offer positive, meaningful interactions with people.  

Employers should help employees develop mental fitness to increase their resiliency by using two perception scorecards to cognitively and emotionally evaluate how well they are living their lives. Adler referred to the Five Life Tasks, suggesting that mastering each task matures people’s resiliency to better cope with stressful moments, setbacks, and failures.  

The following two perception scorecards can increase employees’ self-awareness and accountability to promote and support living their best lives. Becoming resilient requires more than taking care of physical health. It demands defining and evaluating whether daily beliefs and actions promote mental health. 

The two perception scorecards 

While listening to Corey Keyes’ newest book, Languishing: How to feel alive again in a world that wears us down, during a recent morning walk, the author reminded me that two perception scorecards influence human motivation and behaviour and can predict if a person is languishing (e.g., surviving versus thriving) or flourishing (e.g., has the energy and charge to thrive).  

When creating a personalized mental fitness plan, it’s beneficial to consider how one ranks on these scorecards and what habits, support, learning, and skills may improve scores, especially on the first scale.  

The first is referred to as the internal scorecard. This deals with what a person feels – it is personal and cannot be defined by anyone else. The five factors listed below can be rated on a scale from zero (not in place) to five (fulfilled). The rating is subjective and ranges from providing no mental charge or energy to being a daily charger. Each factor has a descriptive statement. Score yourself and add up your answers. The closer you are to 25, the more likely you are to feel as though you’re flourishing more than languishing.  

  1. Purpose – I am clear on why I get up each morning.  
  2. Accomplishment – I am proud of my life accomplishments. 
  3. Acceptance – I accept who I am and my life circumstances.  
  4. Autonomy – I am confident and feel safe making decisions about my life. 
  5. Connections – I have meaningful and personal authentic connections at work and home. 

The second is the external scorecard. This scorecard is driven by how much people believe their self-acceptance depends on what others think about them. A person who puts much of their self-worth on the external scorecard may focus more on what others think than on defining what is good for them. This scorecard uses the same scale and logic as above. One notable difference is that a high score may not always predict a person feeling fulfilled or happy. Why? Because the stress of creating an image for onlookers can be draining, stressful, and challenging. However, defining what their external score needs to be can help a person feel secure and support their perceptions of their quality of life. 

  1. Money – I have the wealth I have aspired to obtain.  
  2. Career – I am proud of my career.  
  3. Status – I have achieved the recognition and status I want in my community and profession. 
  4. Neighbourhood – I live in a neighbourhood aligned with my expectations. 
  5. Image – I have achieved the image (e.g., car, social circle, clothes, etc.) I want to project to the world.  

Employers and employees should consider psychological safety initiatives that promote the resiliency protective factor and adopt occupational health and safety standards like a Plan-Do-Check-Act approach to ensure the initiatives obtain the desired outcomes, habits, and results.  

Dr. Bill Howatt is the Ottawa-based president of Howatt HR Consulting.




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