How We Thrive at Work: Understanding the Needs of Minoritized Employees

Students and staff working at the METRICS lab and the Berger Institute over the summer were able to take part in a thrilling panel that discussed “How We Thrive at Work: Understanding the Needs of Minoritized Employees” led by four distinguished panelists: Dr. Alicia Grandey, Dr. Mikki Hebl, Dr. Enrica Ruggs, and Dr. Daan Van Knippenberg. 

Dr. Alicia Grandey joined the industrial-organizational psychology program at Penn State University in 1999. Her 65+ publications and book focus on performing emotional labor in customer service and workplace mistreatment in the diverse workplace, and her award-winning research is frequently cited by both scholars and media. Dr. Grandey highlighted how social movements over the past few years, such as the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movement have brought in emotions often unseen into the workplace. Dr. Grandey also discussed how women and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) face more consequences for showcasing anger than their fellow co-workers. To combat this, she suggested that leaders do both self-work and reflection to understand these issues themselves, and that they create a time and space for these emotionally laboring conversations to occur. 

Dr. Mikki Hebl is a professor of psychology and management at Rice University. Her research specifically focuses on workplace discrimination and the barriers stigmatized individuals (such as women and ethnic minorities) face in social interactions, the hiring process, business settings, and the medical community. Dr. Hebl, in response to the question of how new employees can make change in the workplace, reminded the students that they are the future as the incoming workforce, and that despite not having organizational power as new employees, they should still act upon their eagerness to help minoritized employees. 

Dr. Enrica Ruggs is an Assistant Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion (CWDI) in the Fogelman College of Business and Economics at the University of Memphis. In her research she examines individual, organizational, and societal factors that influence inequality in the workplace. Dr. Ruggs reminded students that both managers and employees can use empathy to diminish discrimination in the workplace. Dr. Ruggs highlighted how empathy is a powerful, research-backed tool for creating work environments where employees feel valued and are able to succeed.

Dr. Daan van Knippenberg is Joseph F. Rocereto Chair in Leadership at Drexel University. He was Editor in Chief of Academy of Management Annals, Founding Editor of Organizational Psychology Review, and Associate Editor of Academy of Management Journal, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and Journal of Organizational Behavior. Dr. Knippenberg reminded students that an organizational structure where employees have to hide their identities will make it difficult for those employees to thrive, as what we do is intertwined with who we are. While the work employees accomplish is important, the success of employees also depends on their levels of belonging and comfort in the workplace. 

Attendees were inspired by the panelists’ encouraging words and advice, and were thankful for this opportunity. Follow @bergerinstitute on Facebook and Instagram for future updates on events!

How the Science of Well-Being Can Help Fight Stress

5C students, staff, and parents attended a talk on the science of well-being on Feb 13th, Family Weekend. The talk was led by Berger Institute Director Dr. Stacey Doan. Attendees listened to Dr. Doan discuss the impacts of stress in modern life, as well as evidence-based methods for reducing stress and increasing positive emotions. Dr. Doan explained how our stress responses–fight, flight, or freeze–may have served us in the evolutionary past, but in today’s modern world, our bodies can’t tell the difference between a tiger and a test. “Your body will still react the same way – your muscles will tense, your system will be flooded with adrenaline, and your mind will still feel like you are under a threat, despite being safe in bed,” she stated. Chronic, repeated stress responses can cause internal wear and tear and lead to a host of health problems.

To provide a counter against the negative effects of stress, Dr. Doan also described some actions we can take to reduce our stress, or at least temper the potential for long-term physical harm. She explained that exercise can help relieve stress by releasing the physical tension that gets stored in the body as it prepares to fight or flee. Mindfulness exercises, such as yoga or breathing, can help train the mind to focus on the present moment and let go of distractions or stressful thoughts. Even displaying kindness, a way to bring about positive emotion in yourself and others, can undo some of the physical effects of negative emotions.

Keep track of future events.

Meet Dr. Jessamyn Schaller, Our New Berger Institute Affiliate

Dr. Schaller brings a unique perspective to the Berger Institute. With a background in labor and public economics, her interest in the economic determinants of health and well-being align well with the Institute’s mission of looking at the individual and social factors that influence personal development and thriving families. “I believe that the best way to gain insight into these is with cross-disciplinary interaction and collaboration. . . I can bring knowledge about how each family’s economic environment and individual economic status contributes to those same outcomes, in particular, how economic circumstances interact with psychology and social environments in influencing health and well-being,” states Schaller. Having worked and studied at such institutions as the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, University of California-Davis, and University of Arizona, Dr. Schaller brings an expertise and skillset that is sure to foster creative collaboration.

Currently, Dr. Schaller is studying how adverse health and wealth events in older households affect different generations within families, the complexities of family eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and how media information/misinformation influences parents’ choices about their children’s health. “I look forward to getting to know both faculty and students across campus whose research areas overlap with my own. I also look forward to getting to know CMC students and incorporating them into my research agenda as collaborators,” shares Schaller.

Learn more about Dr. Schaller here. To read more about the Berger Institute mission, click here or visit us at the lab at Bauer North, Suite 224.

Resilience Isn’t Always Good, and We Want to Know Why

Resilience, or being able to successfully adapt and succeed despite adversity, is generally seen as positive. However, recent research suggests that there may be physical health costs with resilience due to chronic stress associated with trying to strive in the context of high risk. Recently, Dr. Stacey Doan and Dr. Tuppett Yates (UC Riverside) were awarded a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to examine the health costs of resilience.

The multi-year funded study will focus on: 1) links between academic achievement, poverty-related risks, and adolescent health in diverse ethnic groups (particularly Latinx youth), 2) factors that may help to reduce health costs of academic resilience in the face of poverty, and 3) testing whether poor sleep is part of the link between resilience and health problems.

Dr. Doan and Dr. Yates are tackling this problem with multiple methods (surveys, school data, interviews, hard biological data, etc.) and multiple informants (parents, teachers, etc.) over a long period of time to more fully understand information that is crucial for helping adolescents during a vulnerable time in their lives. “The grant allows us to follow-up on children who have been followed since 4 years of age. We hope to understand how their early experiences may shape their adolescent years. In particular, we want to know in what ways does resilience exert an influence. By understanding mechanisms, we can lay the foundation for future intervention and prevention efforts,” said Dr. Doan.

Learn more about other research from the Berger Institute.

Finally, the Poets: Art(ists) as the Pulse of Collective Healing and Justice

“The poets (by which I mean all artists) are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only poets” (James Baldwin). Terisa Siagatonu (poet, activist, therapist) offered this quote as part of the night’s thesis for her presentation at the Ath on Tuesday, October 1st. Coming from the perspective of a 1st generation, queer, Pacific Islander woman, Terisa discussed her role as an award-winning poet and artist in being a voice that reflects what society is feeling and being an activist for healing and change.

In addition to reciting powerful poetry that filled the room with snaps of agreement, Terisa shared her background of how she navigated the 1st generation struggle and how she found her voice through poetry. She discussed the risks of being an artist, especially this day and age with social media and increased vulnerability. Despite this, she says, “the cost of my silence was way too high of a price to pay… it was affecting my whole well-being”. It opened up conversations with her family that would otherwise have been kept closed, and it helped her to find the transformative power of poetry in trauma. With a degree in marriage and family therapy, Terisa has a unique perspective of how creativity and artistry can be combined with healing. She not only teaches this to small groups, but speaks out as a member of society, following and reflecting current events and emotions. She shares how poetry is becoming more popular now than ever – it’s economic and easy to access, it grabs attention, and it forces you to be creative with what you want to say while challenging you to be intentional with your words. But the benefits don’t stop at there: “Our health improves when we have agency over our voice and control of our narrative… and not just in art,” states Terisa. Her goal right now is to find ways to not only have poetry impact the individual and the larger community by using voice to address change, but to address the root cause of current issues.

To keep track of Berger Institute events, click here. To learn more about Terisa Siagatonu, click here.