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OTHER ARTICLES Last modified on November 19, 2018

People Matters – Wellbeing@Work

Richard Plenty and Terri Morrissey provide their thoughts on how the changing nature of work can impact psychological wellbeing.

Working in paid employment can be good for us. Having a job gives us an income, and provides a sense of purpose, meaning and structure to our lives.

We have the opportunity to develop our skills and competencies, build social networks and friendships, and feel that we are contributing to society. Feeling engaged and absorbed in our work can be a wonderfully positive and fulfilling experience.

So, perhaps it’s not surprising that the evidence shows that people who are employed generally have better psychological health than those who are unemployed.

But the nature of work is changing. There are increasing demands for higher standards of performance; innovation and new technology are reshaping the workplace; and there are much higher expectations around customer service quality.

Workloads can be high and leave people with little time to reflect or recover. Jobs are less secure than they used to be as roles change and new skills and competencies are needed. And an ‘always on’ culture means that, for many, there is work to be done outside conventional working hours. In the airport sector, simply coping with rapid growth is constantly ratcheting up the workload.

In short, organisational life is becoming more challenging. Just ‘keeping your head down’ and looking for an easy life is rarely an option. Organisations expect people not just to turn up and do their job but to deliver results: be responsible, adaptable, show initiative, be positive about change, learn new skills, work hard, put in extra time when necessary, show empathy with the customers and embrace innovation. And be loyal and cheerful!

The good news is that it’s possible to create a working environment where all this can be the norm, where people love their jobs and can perform at levels than they hardly believed possible.

This can happen when organisations pay sufficient attention to their people and commit to creating people-friendly workplaces.

Where this is missing, psychological well-being cannot be guaranteed. Depression, anxiety and burnout become real risks. Organisations can drift towards a culture of absenteeism, high turnover and low motivation with all the attending financial and industrial relations consequences.   

‘Psychological wellbeing’ needs to be a leadership priority. The key is to identify and systematically eliminate and eradicate those outmoded approaches and practices which give rise to a toxic organisation culture.

These include poorly designed jobs with unclear objectives, excessive workloads and inadequate support; lack of attention to the needs of those in the front line; inadequate communication on the reasons for change; badly trained and ‘old school’ style managers with a lack of empathy and human understanding; and an absence of ‘psychological safety’ which stifles risk taking and innovation.

Involve people; give them control of their work as far as possible; invest in the development of skills in personal leadership, resilience, relationship building and team working. People matter.

Arrivals and departures

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest airport handling in excess of 100mppa, has a new boss following the arrival of John Selden as its new general manager. Announcing his appointment, Atlanta Mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, said: “Hartsfield-Jackson is without question one of our city and state’s most valuable assets, with an annual economic impact of nearly $35 billion for metro Atlanta. It has allowed our city to become a gateway to the world and it serves as a critical cargo hub for North America. I am excited that we have identified someone with the qualifications and passion of John Selden to lead our airport into the future.” A former navy and commercial pilot, Selden moves from the role of deputy general manager of New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport, the US’s sixth busiest passenger gateway.

London Stansted has a new chief operating officer – former Virgin Atlantic COO, Steve Griffiths. Griffiths, most recently chief operating officer for the London Underground at Transport for London, will be responsible for the safe and secure day to day leadership of the airport whilst it undertakes its biggest ever capital programme.

Auckland Airport has announced the appointment of Mary-Liz Tuck as its general manager of corporate services. In this role, Mary-Liz will be responsible for leading key corporate functions including legal, people, safety and public affairs.

Groupe ADP has announced four new appointments – Aude Ferrand has become its new chief retail officer; Mélanie Carron has been promoted to the position of chief marketing officer; Eric Labrune takes up the role of chief customer satisfaction and operations officer; and Guillaume Arrigoni is its new chief marketing officer, whose role includes managing the route development strategy of Paris’s airports.

Inez Bartolo is the new airport director of Ports of Jersey, the operator of Jersey Airport in the Channel Islands. He replaces the retiring Stephen Driscoll who worked at the gateway for an incredible 44 years, initially as an electrician, before working his way up the ladder.


About the authors

Dr Richard Plenty is managing director of This Is… and runs the ACI World Airport Human Resources programme. Terri Morrissey is chairperson of This Is… and CEO of the Psychological Society of Ireland. Contact them through

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