Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Fountain of Wellbeing

We can find the name of at least 1 person associated with a quest for the fountain of youth in the annals of history.  Spanish conquistador, Juan Ponce de Leon is the most outstanding example because he was the center of a historical debate about whether the search for a mythical fountain was the motivation for his sailing adventures.  
In our 21st century, the legendary fountain has a new name – wellbeing.  And the search is now openly embraced by swashbuckling organizations. We wonder if Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) are involved in this quest and the question arises:
What is the extent of wellbeing in Air Traffic Control (ATC)? 
The following are excerpts from an information paper on wellbeing in ATC to be presented at the upcoming IFATCA conference.

<<The theme of this year’s IFATCA conference <<satisfied controller = safe sky>> is a truism with important implications.  What ideas come to your mind when you see the phrase “satisfied controller equals safe sky”? If controllers are satisfied, wellbeing will increase which will result in better performance and in turn, safer skies. ATC is a service based industry so if wellbeing increases, controllers will produce better service-related goods of communication which will yield better performance and in turn, safer skies. But, do we have a definition of wellbeing in ATC?
From 1946 till now, this aggregate concept has taken on several meanings - mainly job satisfaction and wellness.   In 2011, Professor Martin Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania explained that one of the elements of wellbeing is engagement, or a state of flow.  A controller who is engaged in the job is in a state of flow. If you are a controller, is this how you feel about ATC?  
Workplace wellbeing has gained ascendance over the past decade. In 2006, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, United Kingdom recommended a symbolic fountain of wellbeing as a panacea for the pandemic of worker absenteeism and increases in stress-related illnesses among employees.
In 2010, the Versailles Court of Appeal ordered the Rénault Guyancourt Technocenter to pay compensation to the widow of an employee who had committed suicide. The court ruled that the employee had developed anxiety-related depression due to his dissatisfaction with certain working conditions inspite of the Technocenter boasting of novel management techniques. The syndicate that investigates working conditions found that the Center’s managers were largely to blame for the state of poor workplace wellbeing of the workers.
To determine the extent of wellbeing (W) in our organization, 140 Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs) around the world participated in a survey with 52 Likert-type statements pertaining to the Organizational Structure (OS) and the presence of a Social Matrix (SM). Statements about narcissistic management behaviorisms and managerial policies including the role of the union represented the Organizational Structure. Coworker support and behaviorisms of workplace happiness, trust, confidence, bullying and emotional dissonance represented the Social Matrix.
Using STATA 12, a SEM analysis (Structural Equation Modeling) revealed that we need a symbolic fountain of wellbeing in ATC. For Organizational Structure had no significant impact upon Wellbeing which was in contrast to a Worker Ethnography sample that showed a significant relationship between OS and W. This study demonstrates that wellbeing is not prevalent in ATC and that there is great scope for improving our organizational structure globally.

However, the study also showed that the social matrices in ANSPs impact upon wellbeing in ATC. But deficiencies in the structure or organizational framework of an ANSP indicate the presence of organizational disorder (OD). The situation is characteristic of administrations with uneven distribution of roles and unsuitable management personnel who either lack the expertise or have self-glorifying ambitions.
If our OS improves, the chances for greater workplace wellbeing in ATC will improve and we will be in a more favourable position to realize the benefits of workplace wellbeing. >>

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