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20 Year of Insights - Penny Myerscough

22nd February 2019

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Centre for Corporate Health, that’s 20 years of insights into creating mentally healthy workplace, responding to critical incidents, strengthening resilience and improving wellbeing. So in honour of the last 20 years, we have asked our founders, senior leaders and senior psychologists to share their insights and most impactful stories from the work they have done with the Centre for Corporate Health.

Penny Myerscough, Senior Consultant Psychologist
1.  What is the most interesting insight you have gained from the work we do in mental health and wellbeing at work?

The importance of leadership in team wellbeing. That is, where leaders are supportive and invest in establishing trust with their team, it makes an enormous difference in how those team members manage and recover from mental health issues. For many managers, engaging in their people is not high on their agenda and they may have been promoted based on technical skills or profits made. It’s amazing to see the impact in those instances where managers recognise the importance of their words and behaviour and take steps to build a strong team culture.

2.  What is the most impactful story you have heard over the last 20 years that has made you think “this is why we do what we do”?

There have been many but one that came to mind was in the last 12 months we were doing some resilience training for a group of blue collar government workers. This group had been notified more than 12 months ago that many of their jobs will be made redundant. There was a bonus amount for them if they stayed on until the end of the their employment date if it was deemed that their roles were not ongoing. The groups were all very angry at the way the process had been drawn out, their morale was very low, the group were angry and had a higher sense of learned helplessness than any group I have ever worked with. The training that was provided to them was 3 lots of 2 hour sessions. In the first hour of the initial training session, we spent quite a lot of time debriefing on the purpose of this training, that it seemed like a band aid solution for what they were dealing with. There was a lot of venting and frustration. During this session, I presented them with the Circle of Concern and Influence which challenges participants on how they are investing their time and energy, and the choices that they have about this. We had a robust discussion about what aspects of their situation they were able to control and what they were unable to control.

The following fortnight when I arrived for the second session, the most aggressive of the participants came into the training room early. He announced that he had put the model of Concern and Influence into place and “it had turned my life around”. He related that he was no longer spending all his time being angry and frustrated. He described that he had decided to engage in a job search and if he was offered an alternative role, then make a decision about whether he wanted to stay in his current employment for the sake of the bonus or not. He had gone from someone who felt they had no control over their future to someone who could see there might be options and felt empowered.

3.  What is one strategy from our resilience and wellbeing training that you actually practice and that has had the biggest positive impact on your wellbeing?

For me, it’s about getting good at recognising when I’m getting overwhelmed with life. I am fortunate to enough to have both a job that I love as well as being primary care giver at home in a busy household of teens. I have worked hard on noticing my unhelpful thinking as a clear and reliable early warning sign that I need to take action to look after myself. I have gotten much better at noticing when my thinking is dominated by “I can’t cope” and “this is all too much” and challenging myself if there is a more helpful way to think about the situation. Mostly there is, and when I take the time to rethink things I am much more patient and present. And I can cope and it’s not too much!  


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