Friday, November 13, 2009

Unhappy Marriages Cost Businesses $6.8 Billion a Year

All businesses are concerned with boosting productivity and reducing health care costs and employee turnover. This combination has become even more crucial in today’s competitive and challenging economy. Often missed, however, is the significant economic cost businesses actually bear for carrying employees on the payroll who are unhappily married or undergoing divorce.

Whether corporate America notices it or not, employees in failing relationships are costing it about $6.8 billion a year. Employees with relationship woes are frequently absent or sick, present at their desks in body but not spirit, or just too stressed out to do their jobs properly. Stress-related problems cost corporate America $300 billion a year.

What is more, couples who aren’t getting along are more likely to be troubled by domestic violence in an attempt to “solve” their conflict, which costs corporate America $7.9 million in lost work days each year. In addition, employees in such relationships are more prone to substance abuse problems, anxiety and depression that, in turn, lead to higher health care costs.

As bad as failing marriages are for corporate America, the financial fallout for divorce is no better. A 2006 research study found that the projected cost to a company of an employee making $20 an hour who gets divorced is more than $8,000. In fact, recently divorced employees spend eight percent of their work days away from work because of relationship-related issues. That is the equivalent of being absent from work an entire month!

Even more telling, researchers have found that it can take as many as five years for employee productivity to return to what it was before an employee got divorced.

So far I have examined what happens to employees in troubled relationships who stay on the job. But what happens if the stress of a bad marriage or difficult divorce leads an employee to quit? The financial impact of this situation varies depending on whether the employee occupied a blue collar position or managerial post. A company forced to replace a blue collar worker will spend 150 percent of his/her total benefit package to do so. Meanwhile, the true cost of replacing a manager is 250 percent of his/her total benefit package.

As a marriage and family therapist and relationship consultant, I am offering these figures not just to illuminate a little-known problem, but also to suggest a solution. I believe it is imperative that all executives concerned with the welfare of their employees realize that the health of employees’ marriages is directly correlated with the health of their business’s bottom lines. Companies can not afford to turn a blind eye to or ignore the marital problems of their employees. Instead they must look for creative ways to help their employees improve their relationships. This will be a win-win situation for everyone. The employees and their spouses can enjoy the benefits of a strong union. And their employers stand to gain stable and happier employees who are more able to make a strong contribution to the day to day operations of the companies for which they work. Of course, then employees and their families are spared the high emotional cost of marital turmoil and divorce as well.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happily Married Employees Are Good for Business

Employers care about a lot of things that relate to their employees, who are, after all, their most valuable asset. But how many of them have discovered that happily married employees actually increase their business' profitability? Sadly, the answer is not very many. But that situation is changing because an increasingly growing body of research points out the many benefits that companies achieve when their employees are in stable relationships.

Among the many benefits you can expect are:

Happier and healthier employees. Happily married men, for example, are absent fewer days and stay in their jobs longer. People in good marriages tend to practice healthier lifestyles, so they avoid being out sick. That means they are less likely to tap expensive health care services.

Greater commitment. Happily married couples who both work outside the home have been found to have a stronger commitment to their employers. This is especially important given that the average employee will change jobs seven times in his lifetime.

Younger employees. It’s astonishing but true. A happily married male is the equivalent of 18 months younger than his biological age. Meanwhile, a happily married female is about six months younger than her chronological age. Younger, healthier employees not only use fewer health care services, but also they also bring more enthusiasm to work with them every day.

More productive workers. Researchers have shown that employees who have good relationship skills – like the ones needed to sustain a fulfilling marriage – are among the most productive, even when they are exposed to significant stress at work.

Workers who get better over time. Many things deteriorate over time, but not so with employees who come from long marriages. Their performance actually improves with each year they remain married.

Workers who sing your praises. Companies that support their employees’ emotional needs through sound corporate policies are prized by employees. They recognize that such a company is an excellent place to work. Not only are they reluctant to move on to greener pastures, but also they are also likely to spread the word to others about what a great place it is to work. Of course, having that reputation is priceless and will make attracting new employees a lot simpler.

One more thing. If these “intangible” benefits still don’t convince you that the health of your employees’ marriages is your business, then perhaps this next fact will make the difference. For every dollar a company spends on physical and relational wellness programs, the return on investment will be huge – and that’s not factoring in the increased happiness of the couples involved. One study involving nine companies ranging in size from 50 employees to 50,000 employees found that the return on investment was nearly 500 percent. Other studies place that figure even higher, at close to 700 percent.

I hope that reading this information leads you to explore this topic further and to learn what companies are doing to make strong marriages their priority.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Costs of Low Trust at Work and at Home

“Our distrust is very expensive.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bestselling author, Stephen M.R. Covey, wrote a wonderful book called The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything. An M.B.A., business consultant, and CEO of FranklinCovey, Mr. Covey unapologetically talks about the importance of trust in a business context. He takes on the myths that trust is a soft topic and is too risky and potentially costly for businesses.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Among the multiple costs of low trust in business are speed and efficiency decrease, taking productivity in the same direction. Thereby, costs increase, as does corporate sabotage. Teamwork to produce high quality products is diminished and is replaced by covert cooperation to create a negative culture.

Yes, Covey acknowledges, there is a risk in trusting people. But clearly, there’s an even greater risk in not trusting. Covey refers to this as “the low trust tax.”

How do these concepts map over to personal relationships?

There are typical makers of low trust marriages, such as extramarital affairs, constant conflict, stonewalling and general lack of cooperation on matters that should be faced jointly. But there are more subtle indicators of low trust relationships as well.

In low trust marriages, people don’t disclose important information. While they may readily offer up the mundane parts of their day and of their existence, they withhold the important and real stuff: their hopes, dreams, fears and feelings.

Little wonder these people become bored with each other and with living like roommates, or detached siblings, or their children’s chauffeurs. Being lovers and confidants who have each other’s backs eludes them completely.

With each passing month, the alienation grows, taking on a life of its own until one or both spouses scream, “Uncle! I can’t take it anymore!”

Now their pain provides a prime opportunity for the couple. Yes, you read that correctly. An opportunity is created by admitting there is a problem, before it’s too late and the emotional cancer has metastasized too far, and the walls are too high and too thick, and the numbness has crept in so thoroughly that there is no longer any will to work to change. These are the more subtle, insidious aspects of a low-trust relationship that too often make those marriages a statistic.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You don’t have to join the ranks of, as the nineteenth century American philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The mass of men [who] lead lives of quiet desperation.”

Each of us gets to choose.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

7 Deadly Sins Against Relationships

I have devoted my professional life for over three decades to helping people improve the quality of their relationships and their lives. Recently, I have begun thinking about how to summarize the best and the worst things people do in relationships.

In my most recent book, Marriage Isn’t for Sissies: 7 Simple Keys to Unlocking the Best Part of Your Life, I list and discuss the 7 most essential skills people need to possess in order to have a satisfying and healthy relationship.

Those 7 Keys are:
1. Deepening Trust Affair-Proofs Marriages
2. Taking Time for the Daily Magic Ten Minutes
3. Setting Good Boundaries Keeps Everyone Safe
4. Sharing Feelings Enhances Intimacy
5. Fighting Fairly Solves Problems and Builds Intimacy
6. Healing Past Hurts
7. Cultivating a Nurturing, Close Sexual Relationship

Here are the 7 Deadly Sins Against Relationships.

1. Emotional Reactivity. When individuals are unable or unwilling to respond to each other and to the world in a calm, reasonable manner, situations easily degenerate into explosiveness and misinterpretation of each other’s words and intentions. This typically occurs when people grow up in a family where individuals are poorly differentiated. These couples have difficulty getting genuinely close because emotions are weapons that are used to create distance. Therefore, feelings drive a wedge between them.

2. Being controlling. There is a vast difference between being controlling and being in control of yourself. Controlling people have a high need for structure and order as they define it. They leave little or no room for others’ needs and opinions. They often overtly are tyrants. But they also can be the more subtle – and more infuriating – kind of controller who gets his/her way by passive aggression and manipulation. By contrast, people who are in control take responsibility for themselves, their emotions, and their lives.

3. Blaming and Shaming. People who use this strategy to get their way generally seek power over their spouse, partner, or children. It is a defensive strategy so they can remain “safe” by being holier than thou. What they don’t realize is how they give away their power to improve situations in the process. It is only in taking responsibility for ourselves and for our actions that we claim the full measure of control of our lives.

4. Jealousy. People who are jealous to a fault are either highly insecure, extremely controlling, terrified of being abandoned, or all of the above. Jealousy is different from envy, which is a normal human emotion. Jealousy carries emotional freight. and is not endearing. In fact, it backfires, often serving the unconscious function of creating psychological and emotional distance in a relationship. It is a significant barrier to intimacy.

5. Negativity. The renowned marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, found that for every 1 negative comment couples make to each other, there should be 5 positive comments to counteract the impact of the criticism. Yet some couples seem to subsist on a steady diet of negativity, sometimes disguising their intent saying they are being honest with each other. They may be honest, all right. But it is not an intimacy-generating sort of honesty. Furthermore, viewing the world through a lens of scarcity and negativity, perhaps more than anything, is contagious. It eventually infects
both parties with despair and hopelessness.

6. Unfair Fighting. There are three main earmarks of unfair fighting. They all involve defensiveness. First is "hitting below the belt,” that is, using previously shared information as a weapon against the other person. This can be extremely brutal if it is flung at your partner in the midst of a fight. Second, attempting to control conversations and the other person so no vulnerability is required. Third, self-righteously blaming the other person for all problems in the relationship. A close cousin to this Deadly Sin is accusing.

7. Stonewalling. This is one of the most detrimental sins in a relationship. When partners stop openly communicating and become stone walls to each other, all overt communication stops. It is replaced by anger, conflict, and isolation that smolder inside each person. As partners add stones to their wall, they become more and more alienated from each other until the cracks in their relationship eventually become unrepairable. Then an emotional – if not an actual – divorce ensues.

If you have any questions about these 7 Deadly Sins – or
anything else – feel free to call my toll-free number
(888-546-1580) for a free 20-minute consultation.