Author Bio ▼

Dr Flis has a BA SSc and a PhD in organisational social psychology and is passionate about helping people who lead and work in organisations create better workplace experiences and improving work cultures. Get free resources and tactics on appropriately dealing with negative online and offline workplace behaviours at or contact Dr Flis at[email protected] or  LinkedIn. You can also follow Dr Flis on her blog Twitter or Facebook.
March 7, 2018

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Boost wellbeing: Happier you, happier workplace by Dr Flis Lawrence

Have you ever joined a new work team and for the first weeks or months wondered if you’d landed in a bad comedy, because you simply couldn’t come to grips with the group’s social rituals, values, or even the acronyms?

boot wellbeing

When you walk into a new work culture, you can also find that your personal boundaries become infringed upon, mainly because the workplace culture accepts different behaviours with which you may not be familiar. This is where you quickly discover whether you can defend your personal boundaries from people who think it’s completely normal to (for example) talk over you when you’re in the middle of a critical presentation.

First of all, if you’ve experienced any of these scenarios then be assured that you aren’t alone!

It happened to me too. In my late 20s, I decided I’d had enough of the Navy military environment and went back into ‘civvy land’. I didn’t think there’d be a huge difference, however I surprised myself at how much of a culture ‘shock’ I experienced. Weirdly, it was the little things that got under my skin, the different dress standards (crocs were in) and a much more relaxed style of communication. I hadn’t even realised that I’d changed the past 10 years!

Culture shock can be both a challenge, and an opportunity – to reassess.

This form of culture shock can be traumatic if you accidentally land in a workplace that explicitly expresses certain workplace values and behaviours (such as respect, collaboration and communication). And yet, you find that your daily experiences are often contrary to those explicit values and conduct.

How to avoid unhealthy workplaces AND protect your personal boundaries (so you don’t get bullied!)

After this experience I decided to plan ahead to avoid accidentally moving into an organisation that appeared awesome on the outside, however was really a highly dysfunctional workplace culture. This can be harder to do than it sounds.

To dodge the extremely dysfunctional workplaces, I’ve used my PhD research (plus more) and figured out five secret ‘moves’ that I’ve called the values alignment steps (see below). This is a great tool to avoid ‘jumping from the frying pan into the fire’. I believe there is simply no point in moving from one bully workplace to another one. Why destroy your mental and physical wellbeing?

Boost your wellbeing dr Flis

Personal boundaries instrument

Additionally, to help me quickly spot situations that could breach my personal boundaries, and to safely protect myself from unhealthy online or offline conduct like bullying or cyberbullying, I developed a personal boundaries instrument.

The basis of this instrument is to identify your core personal values to figure out how you tick (e.g., why certain beliefs and attitudes drive certain actions and behaviours), and to use this self-knowledge to uncover your personal boundaries (i.e. how you expect to be treated).

For example, respect is a HUGE personal value for me, and I’m very careful to show respect to others by listening (and not talking over people, or to apologise when I do), and I’ve learned how to respectfully stop others from talking over me. This is a very powerful process, especially if you’re experiencing unhealthy workplace behaviours like gossiping, backbiting, abuse, threatening behaviour, bullying, etc. Furthermore, it’s a safe strategy to quickly and safely stop these acts.

If you’d like to access my two instruments and learn more about my Workplace Values Congruency Tool and my Personal Boundaries Instrument, I’ve packaged both inside my new Happier YOU, Happier Workplace Framework , which you can access here. Or simply click on ‘products’, ‘digital products’ under my website.

About the author

Dr Felicity (Flis) Lawrence is the founder of Happier Workplaces. She has a PhD in organisational social psychology plus 25 years’ experience in private, military and government workplaces.  She provides leaders, managers and workers with strategies to build healthier, happier team and workplace cultures, and to spot and safely stop dysfunctional work conduct like bullying and harassment. Contact Dr Flis at: [email protected]or follow her on LinkedInTwitter or Facebook.

Find more information about Happier YOU, Happier Workplace here. 

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Diane Thomason
Diane Thomason
6 years ago

Interesting. What I’d be interested in is how we can collectively tackle the highly dysfunctional workplaces – those that allow people who behave very badly to get into positions of power, and then tolerate or enable that behaviour. This isn’t to do with personal beliefs and values, as the behaviours are usually contrary to the organisation’s own codes of conduct and often actually illegal under UK employment law. Yes, we can do our best not to join a toxic workplace and can leave if it’s horrible – but the horrible people and bad culture are still there to damage those… Read more »

Dr Flis Lawrence
Dr Flis Lawrence
6 years ago
Reply to  Diane Thomason

Hi Diane Yes, it is possible to align the attitudes and actions (i.e., online and offline behaviour) of the people working in organisations to the conduct that was intended by the core work values (e.g., respect etc.) and expressed in the official workplace policies, rules, regulations, processes, etc. Basically, what we’re talking about here is re-aligning the implicit culture (this is how we do things around here) with the explicit work culture (purpose, core work values, policies, rules, etc.). It’s a process of re-training everyone in the organisation about what healthy online-offline conduct looks and feels like, and learning how… Read more »

6 years ago

After reading this I experienced a light bulb moment! Why isn’t anyone else talking about this?

6 years ago

After reading this I experienced a light bulb moment! Why isn’t anyone else talking or writing about this?