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Where's Father Mulcahey When We Need Him?

Mash fans will remember the Army chaplain, Father Mulcahey, who was always available with kind words, good counsel, as well as a great sense of humour. In the trauma and stress of war, Father Mulcahey helped everyone hang onto their sanity.

Ever feel at work like you, too, are under attack? Have some days where you wonder how you’ll stay sane? Well, you’re not alone! A recent survey showed that 83% of Australians were stressed at work about something. Where’s Father Mulcahey when we need him?

With focus shifting heavily in corporate Australia to culture, reputation and people particularly after the Royal Commission into Banking where misconduct was exposed at an alarming rate, what we often forget is there are many, many, great people who work in that sector who were probably highly distressed by the shaming of their profession and leaders. Could they talk about it to anyone? Or were they just looking for new jobs? That will probably come out in the wash and in forthcoming HR stories about talent and the sector. (In an update to this post we do know that in one of the bank's own staff surveys more than half of the ANZ bank staff are looking for a job elsewhere. Morale in this sector is plummeting.)

One thing is however for sure and that is corporate culture will continue to keep directors awake at night.

According to the latest bi-annual Australian Institute of Company Directors sentiment survey, 22 per cent of board members said that the reputation of business in the community was one of the main issues keeping them awake at night, the second-highest after long-term growth prospects.

This means everyday 'people first actions' of directors and officers is critical to building a sound and positive corporate culture. It also means rapidly responding when a crisis hits with 'people first' strategies has to become front of mind. The same will probably apply as we move further into another Royal Commission with the Aged Care Royal Commission and of course newly announced Royal Commission into the Disability Sector. Are we prepared?

I'm very focused on helping Australian companies understand the world of work goes way beyond the border of an office building and that work is an extension of self, the whole self. We all have issues happening in our lives, think about it. Children and exams, financial pressures, family relationships and more. At the worse end of the scale Domestic Violence and other distressing events. World of Work Chaplaincy or 'WOW' is very much about this. Being there for people.

Workplace chaplains are becoming more common than you think:

Workplace chaplains are common in the armed forces, hospitals, fire, courts and police departments, prisons and universities. Did you know that chaplains also serve for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives? Even sport teams and the arts have chaplains to help the players or performers manage their stress. Mercedes Fashion Week in Australia provides chaplaincy support services for models and the production team delivering this large scale event.

The use of workplace chaplains is also on the rise.

In the US there are companies such as Marketplace Chaplains USA and Corporate Chaplains of America serve this growing field. Major corporations, such as Tyson Foods, Coca-Cola and General Motors are among the companies now offering chaplain services to their employees. We’re all familiar with Employee Assistance Programs, but workplace chaplains serve a little bit different purpose.

What can corporate chaplains do?

Chaplains do not 'promote religion.' At all. That's a much dated view and inaccurate. These days Chaplaincy is a highly trained profession with many Chaplains having Undergraduate Degrees plus Diplomas or Degrees In Chaplaincy and Ethics Training. Human beings needs humans to talk with and AI will never replace that much needed caring interaction nor, do EAP services adequately address this needs.

As moral injury becomes more widely understood expect Chaplaincy to be used by enterprise to help people navigate complex work and personal issues that require spiritual care and morale safety. Chaplains will be retained or an staff, probably as Chief Heart Officers.

Chaplains recognise that spirituality for the individual is often about emotional wellness so Chaplains serve as counsellors, coaches, and confidants. With a commitment to confidentiality, employees can talk with them without fear that information shared might be used against them on the job.

When a chaplain is present on a regular basis in the workplace, employees can bring up issues when they first develop, before they begin having a negative impact. Chaplains also refer on to a variety of support services as required, so their tool kits are extremely important.

The benefits of using corporate chaplains:

Even if counselling is not needed, corporate chaplains still have benefits for employees. It's called a 'ministry of presence', although I prefer to describe it as 'sitting in the mud' with someone. We all know how that feels, to have someone listen and be understood no matter the crises. And I think most of us would describe that experience as helpful beyond measure.

Employee Assistance Program provide access to occasional counselling for employees, but corporate chaplains are present regularly in the workplace, creating trusting relationships with employees. They visit workplaces, workstations, tea rooms and remote site locations.

After getting to know employees, chaplains can be called on to perform weddings and funerals. They are able to check in with employees on a casual, regular basis, helping to head off problems before they become a distraction.

Employees who are hesitant to discuss their personal issues with their boss or the Human Resources department can talk without fear to the chaplain. Chaplains are even available outside of work hours so in an emergency situation an employee has someone familiar to call.

The wrap-up:

It’s interesting to see that chaplaincy in the workplace is on the rise, and that companies are doing it quietly, recognising that heading off crises is a much better management tool.

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