Regular communications from senior managers improves corporate culture, curtails toxicity and relives stress, because transparent and truthful communications helps keep employees calm and gives them a sense of purpose and relatedness to the company as a whole. Events include: bagels with the boss, “ask me anything” with the CEO, town-halls held on a monthly basis.
As a part of my series about the “5 Ways That Businesses Can Help Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Joanna Massey.
Dr. Massey is a forward-thinking, change oriented C-level communications marketing executive and Board Director, who advises executive teams at Fortune 500 companies, startups and nonprofits. She has worked for over 25 years as a strategist advising on global brand reputation management in the United States, as well as with partners in Europe, the UK, China and India.
Dr. Massey combines the principles of NEUROSCIENCE and COMMUNICATIONS to help management teams and employees identify unconscious bias and better implement diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in order to drive an organization’s growth and vitality. Dr. Massey is the author of the books, “Communicating During a Crisis: Influencing Others When the Stakes Are High” and “Culture Shock: Surviving Five Generations in One Workplace.” Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She is a global corporate speaker on the how to combat your own unconscious stories; strategies for working with people who are different from us; corporate social responsibility; and career pivots.
Dr. Massey is also an adjunct professor at Columbia University, teaching a graduate level course in corporate and crisis communications. In addition, she mentors and coaches female executives combining her psychology and business expertise to help them challenge the status quo and their own internal biases in order to achieve personal equanimity and greater professional success.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Dr. Joanna Massey: When I was in college, we had to declare a major as a freshman, so I declared acting, because I had worked as a model and actress starting a 5 years old. I wasn’t passionate about acting, but I thought I could make money at it, so when the drama teacher told us in our first semester that we needed to quit acting now if we were in it for the money, I left class (after it was over), walked over to the drama school and resigned from the major. I had to pick another major immediately and I had no idea what to do for a living. My mom worked in finance and my dad was in advertising. I didn’t like finance, so I figured that I would go into advertising. One problem, the only way to take advertising classes was to go through the business school, which meant taking finance. Plan B… journalism with an emphasis in public relations (PR). PR and advertising are closely related AND advertisers back off from advertising to save money during a recession. That means a lot of layoffs and, at 18 years old, picking a career that was susceptible to layoffs during a recession didn’t sound like a smart job choice. That’s how I ended up in a 30 year career in communications.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Dr. Joanna Massey: After 30 years of working in TV, film, digital content, and publishing, I have been to some very glamorous events that many people watch from afar and dream of attending. For example, I have attended multiple Oscar, Emmy and Grammy award ceremonies. The opposite side of that is I have also been in dangerous situations. I was involved in a bomb scare during a high-profile press event where we evacuated a building and, while everyone else was being ushered out of the building, I had to stay in it to work with the bomb squad and provide information to the press, who were waiting to hear what was happening.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Dr. Joanna Massey: I am the wrong person to ask this question of because I am a workaholic. I thrive on too much work, deadlines, and a lot of travel and events. It doesn’t burn me out; I love it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
Dr. Joanna Massey: “When one door closes, another door opens, but if it takes a while for the next door to open and you find yourself in the hallway, decorate the hallway.”
It means that if you find yourself in between opportunities — whether they be in your professional or personal life — work with what is happening instead of fighting it or trying to push it away. A friend said this to me when I was laid off right before the 2008 recession and found myself out of work for several years.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. In recent years many companies have begun offering mental health programs for their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, we would love to hear about five steps or initiatives that companies have taken to help improve or optimize their employees mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?
Dr. Joanna Massey:
- Being allowed to bring dogs to work — workplaces that allow dogs have decreased levels of stress and depression, which in turn increases productivity
- Flex hours — Keeping with the dog theme, if someone needs to take their dog to the vet during the week, NOT being allowed to do that causes a lot of stress and mental anguish. When people don’t have to worry about handling their personal lives, they are happier and more focused when they are working.
- Regular communications from senior managers improves corporate culture, curtails toxicity and relives stress, because transparent and truthful communications helps keep employees calm and gives them a sense of purpose and relatedness to the company as a whole. Events include: bagels with the boss, “ask me anything” with the CEO, town-halls held on a monthly basis.
- Work from home. One thing we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is that employees can function very effectively when working from home. When employees are allowed to work from home, they have more time to be productive at work and less stress from the commute and other pressures of being in an office.
These ideas are wonderful, but sadly they are not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?
Dr. Joanna Massey: Speak the same language as the CEOs. You have to put any change in terms of dollars. How much money is the company losing from stressed out employees in a toxic workplace culture, and how much more money could the company make if it deployed measures to promote the mental health of its workforce.
From your experience or research, what are different steps that each of us as individuals, as a community and as a society, can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling stressed, depressed, anxious and having other mental health issues ? Can you explain?
Dr. Joanna Massey: The mind rejects that which it does not seek. If someone comes to you to complain, then be a good listener. Don’t tell the person what they should or shouldn’t do or how they should or shouldn’t feel. Just be supportive and listen. If — and only if — they ask you what you think, can you then give advice. Do not offer unsolicited advice. This will be met with resistance and defensiveness.
Habits can play a huge role in mental wellness. What are the best strategies you would suggest to develop good healthy habits for optimal mental wellness that can replace any poor habits?
Dr. Joanna Massey: Make a list of the things that bring you joy. List it by what you can do if you only have 1 minute, 5 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, half a day, and a whole day. When you feel stressed, anxious, depressed and reach for something that doesn’t make you feel good — such as, alcohol, sweets, social media, binge watching videos or TV — do one of the items on your list instead of doing the thing that might feel good for a few minutes, but makes you hate yourself later.
Do you use any meditation, breathing or mind-calming practices that promote your mental wellbeing? We’d love to hear about all of them. How have they impacted your own life?
Dr. Joanna Massey: I have a Ph.D. in transpersonal psychology and, as part of my degree, I had to study innumerable technique and methods for helping clients with whatever problem they present. In psychology, the way you study things is by doing them yourself, so I have tried so many mindfulness and calming practices that I can’t name them all. The number one thing I tell people about meditation is that it is a clinically proven way to calm your system and fix innumerable mental and physical issues; however, meditating does not mean that you are supposed to stop your thinking. Meditation is about watching your thinking, not stopping it. The mind’s job is to think. The thoughts still come, so don’t think you’re doing it wrong if you can’t stop your thoughts; your mind is just doing its job, so thank it.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
Dr. Joanna Massey: “The Tao of Physics” by Fritjof Capra. It was a best-selling book in the U.S. in the 1970s. It draws parallels between the principals of eastern religious philosophies with those of physics. A lightbulb went off for me when I read it. I have a hard time believing things that can’t be corroborated by fact. Showing the parallels between the spiritual and the scientific opened my eyes to various realities of our existence that I did not previously understand.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Dr. Joanna Massey: I have already started it! There is only one guarantee in life, which is change — everything in the life changes minute-by-minute. Yet, human beings are biologically hardwired to resist change. It’s like a cosmic joke. In my work as an author, a public speaker and a corporate trainer, I help people understand our biological resistance to change and I provide them with solutions for working with people who are different than they are in both their personal and professional lives.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
Dr. Joanna Massey: They can buy my books and sign up for my newsletter and blog alerts at my company website, which is www.JDMAinc.com
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!