POISED researcher contributes to ‘The State of Wellbeing in Michigan Communities’ report

May 20, 2021

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POISED (Positive Organizational Inclusion Scholarship for Equity and Diversity)
Research Spotlight

Meg Warren

POISED researcher Meg Warren contributes insights on allyship and diversity, equity, and inclusion in “The State of Wellbeing in Michigan Communities” report.

The Wellbeing Lab study provides an up-to-date snapshot of Michigan workplaces, families and communities, the impact of COVID-19, and allyship. Positive organizational scholar Michelle McQuaid led the study that incorporates research from 10 contributors, including Warren and Center for Positive Organizations Research Advisory Board member Mandy O’Neill. It is based on survey results from April 2021.

The study defines wellbeing as “the ability to feel good and function effectively as we navigate the inevitable highs and lows of life.” It is a multifaceted concept that relies on individual and community factors, the need for safety, the need for economic security, and the need for inclusion, the report says.

The study’s wellbeing results fall into four buckets: “consistently thriving,” “living well, despite struggles,” “not feeling bad, just getting by,” and “really struggling.” The study found that, in Michigan, 9.9 percent of people were consistently thriving, 41.7 percent were “living well, despite struggles,” 35.4 percent were “not feeling bad, just getting by,” and 13 percent were “really struggling.”

“Michiganders who were consistently thriving or living well, despite struggles reported higher levels of satisfaction with their lives, their families and their communities. Meanwhile, those who were not feeling bad, just getting by or really struggling reported significantly lower levels of satisfaction,” the report says. “Even when facing a global pandemic, a changing political and economic landscape, and numerous personal and professional challenges, it appears that it is possible to thrive despite struggle.”

A key finding of the report is that women and Asian respondents were more likely to be “really struggling” or “not feeling bad, just getting by.”

“Communities need to consider how they can support the wellbeing of those who are “not feeling bad, just getting by” or “really struggling,” the report urges. “This is particularly true for young adults, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), those with fewer economic resources, and those who are newer to the community.”

The study finds that the most valuable community supports are healthcare facilities, access to natural environments, mental health support, opportunities for connection, and wellbeing and information tools. Addressing inequalities was of particular importance for BIPOC community members.

The report also says making community members feel safe to talk about their feelings of struggle, anxiety, and stress — especially during uncertain and disruptive periods like the COVID-19 pandemic — can improve wellbeing.

Wellbeing at work is another crucial area the study examined. It found that 11.1 percent of Michigan workers were “consistently thriving,” 42.7 percent were “living well, despite struggles,” 33.2 percent were “not feeling bad, just getting by,” and 13.1 percent were “really struggling.” Black/African-American respondents were even more likely to be struggling, the report notes.

“As circumstances in American workplaces have changed over the past year due to the COVID pandemic, the number of workers who reported they were consistently thriving has continued to decline,” The researchers write. “While Michigan has a healthy percentage of workers living well, despite struggles, there is also the highest percentage we’ve seen in all our studies of workers really struggling, which is likely to be impacting wellbeing and performance in workplaces.”

The researchers note that a number of factors can influence employee wellbeing, including work environment; autonomy; mindset; economic security; compassionate, possibility-seeking leadership; and allyship.

Allyship, in particular, is an area of opportunity. The report found that 57 percent of employed Michiganders reported high intentions to be workplace allies, but only 39 percent reported being effective allies. The report suggests that organizations can bridge this gap through training.

“With the help of Dr. Meg Warren our data shows that wellbeing is associated with higher allyship at work. People who were consistently thriving or living well, despite struggles were more likely to report that they could recognize situations when they should step up to be an ally, relative to those not feeling bad, just getting by and especially those really struggling,” the report states. “In contrast, people who were not feeling bad, just getting by and those really struggling were more likely to feel like a ‘fake’ when it came to being an ally. This suggests that stresses and struggles – which have intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic – may compromise one’s capacity to recognize allyship opportunities.”

The report closes by laying out a roadmap for how readers can help their communities and workplaces thrive.

Meg Warren is an Assistant Professor of Management in the College of Business and Economics at Western Washington University. She is also co-editor of the International Journal of Wellbeing and a co-founder of POISED: Positive Organizational Inclusion Scholarship for Equity and Diversity.


POISED — Positive Organizational Inclusion Scholarship for Equity and Diversity — is a new microcommunity that investigates diversity, equity, and inclusion through the lens of Positive Organizational Scholarship — paying special attention to positive states, qualities, relationships, and processes (such as dynamics that contribute to human strength, resilience, and flourishing) in organizations to surface new insights.

POISED is tackling vital questions such as how underrepresented minorities develop the capacity to thrive in the workplace rather than being derailed by discrimination, how leaders and allies partner in DEI efforts to help underrepresented minorities thrive, and how organizations that have stumbled in their efforts to support DEI can learn, grow, and flourish from their experiences. All are invited to learn more and join.