Marriage Education and the Workplace - 1/04/07
smartmarriages at lists101.his.com
Thu Jan 4 11:00:17 EST 2007
- REPORT: "MARRIAGE AND FAMILY WELLNESS: CORPORATE AMERICAN'S BUSINESS?"
- CORPORATE MARRIAGE EDUCATION: LESSONS LEARNED
- MARRIAGE IN THE WORKPLACE: WHAT "JUST ONE" MARRIAGE EDUCATOR CAN DO
This series of posts on Marriage in the Workplace is one to print out and
keep for ideas about how to work with businesses in your community healthy
marriage initiatives. - diane
- FREE REPORT: MARRIAGE AND FAMILY WELLNESS: CORPORATE AMERICAN'S BUSINESS?
Several of you are asking, "What will be new in Denver?" To which I can
reply, "Lots of new stuff!" I'll have the program laid out soon, but want
to get you info about the workshop that will be presented by the
> Marriage & Family Wellness: Corporate America¹s Business?
> Jeff Fray, PhD, David Olson, PhD, Gary Oliver, PhD, Matthew Turvey, PsyD
> Compelling research makes the case: employees with healthy marriages are more
> productive. Learn what HR executives say they need and how marriage educators
> can deliver. Corporate examples.
I'm sure many of you remember that at the 2006 Atlanta conference we
presented our first ever Smart Marriages Impact Award to a business leader,
to Truett Cathy the founder of Chick-fil-A for his foundation's amazing
marriage strengthening mission.
The foundation is continuing its Marriage CoMission work and is making
exciting progress in both communities and corporations. They have produced
a research report ³Marriage & Family Wellness: Corporate America's
Business?² which they are making available to you as a free 33-page pdf
download at: http://www.marriagecomission.com/resources/?ID=71
- CORPORATE MARRIAGE EDUCATION: LESSONS LEARNED
Today, I received the latest version of the Couples Communication Newsletter
produced by Sherod and Phyllis Miller. This newsletter is available only to
those who are trained and active Couples Communication Instructors, one of
the perks of being part of the Couple Communication family. It's always full
of great information and tips. I asked if they'd let me share this info
with the list as it's especially practical as we try to work our way into
the corporate world. You can take the Couple Communication two-day
Instructor training in Denver June 26 & 27, or as is listed at the end of
this newsletter, take their I-SKILLS ZONE/COLLABORATIVE TEAM
SKILLS CORPORATE Instructor Training workshop in Atlanta, GA
February 22-23. See below for details. - diane
CORPORATE MARRIAGE EDUCATION
Sherod Miller, PhD
Over the years, through my work with delivering corporate training
programs and with the COUPLE COMMUNICATION program, I have observed
the connection between business organizations and marriage education.
Now that more interest exists in offering marriage programs to
corporate audiences, it may be helpful to share some of the things I
have learned about blending these worlds.
Direct and Indirect Marriage Education
Generally two ways exist to deliver marriage education in
corporations: direct and indirect. Direct programs are advertised and
delivered as marriage education events. Examples of direct programs
include short bag-lunch presentations, marriage classes, or marriage
Indirect programs consist typically of relationship and communication
skills-building courses or coaching contracts that are designed to
benefit the performance and productivity of employees at work.
Examples of indirect programs include training in conflict
resolution, team building, or manager-supervisory skills development.
The major goal is for participants to apply the training actively to
increase their interpersonal competence on the job. At the same time,
participants are encouraged to apply the concepts and skills to their
significant relationships off the job at home with spouse and
children, or with friends.
Marriage Education and Corporate Profit
Direct delivery of marriage education has been very slow to catch on
in companies, however, this could be changing. Corporations are in
business to make money, and unless a company can see and experience
how a program can benefit its bottom line by increasing its profit
margins, it has no reason to offer marriage education. What do the
³Happily married employees increase profitability.²
³Unhappily married employees decrease profitability.²
These are the finding of a recently published report titled,
³Marriage & Family Wellness: Corporate America's Business?² published
by the Marriage CoMission in conjunction with Life Innovations. The
report provides compelling data in support of the benefits to a
corporation for actively encouraging healthy marriages and
relationships in their organization. This is a must read for anyone
interested in corporate marriage education.The report is available at
www.marriagecomission.com or www.prepare-enrich.com (click on research).
Guidelines for Direct Marriage Education
To deliver direct marriage education successfully within a company, I
recommend following several very important guidelines:
1. Get buy in and sponsorship from the top. The troops watch Caesar
for direction. If leaders are genuinely involved, in terms of policy,
participation, and support, others will follow. The best corporate
example of top-level support is Chick-fil-A. The owner-leaders of
this company implement marriage-friendly policies and offer multiple
programs (education sessions, marriage retreats) for all their
employees and store operators.
2. Build in protective couple boundaries and security. Both employers
and employees can be reluctant to mix their private and business
lives, and often rightly so. Job security for a person providing
economically for his or her family is critical. If some marital
tension is exposed in a marriage education seminar, participants may
have fear (real or imagined) that their job security is threatened,
or that their chances for promotion or advancement are jeopardized.
If a hint of either occurs, employees will not participate in
marriage education. So, be sure couples are not put in situations in
which they overdisclose or inadvertently disadvantage themselves.
3. Focus on positive, proactive training equipping, not repairing.
Marriage education and skill building are not group therapy. Marriage
counseling is an alternative resource. Be sure marriage education, as
other corporate programs, is offered as training and development to
support and enhance workers¹ resilience and productivity.
Indirect Marriage Education
Much can be done indirectly to influence marriages positively through
corporate training programs that emphasize interpersonal skills and
competence, which build social and emotional intelligence. Programs
that offer immediate and direct benefit to the corporation, as well
as to continuous employee learning and development, are easier to
implement. These kinds of programs can have significant impact on
important relationships, both on-the-job and off-the-job.
How Presenteeism Relates to Corporate Marriage Education
Many people know about how absenteeism negatively impacts a company
employees not showing up for work physically can create trouble for
a business. However, ³presenteeism² showing up for work physically,
yet not being present mentally and emotionally is becoming an even
greater problem for corporations. Presenteeism can persist for days
and beyond, impacting productivity and profits. Lost productivity due
to presenteeism is, on average, seven and a half times greater than
that lost to absenteeism. The Harvard Business Review estimates that
presenteeism costs American Business $150 billion annually in direct
and indirect costs. (Dixon, ³Weighing the Costs of Presenteeism² The
Chief Executive, June 2005)
Presenteeism occurs when a conflict at home is unresolved so anxious
emotions fester and keep intruding onto an employee's ³mental screen²
throughout the day. This flooding interferes with the brain's
³working memory² and executive function. The employee is distracted
and pre-occupied. The person loses ability to focus and concentrate
fully on the task at hand, causing lost productivity, until the
situation that plagues him or her is resolved. Presenteeism has
impact on safety as well.
The same is true for unresolved issues and conflicts arising on the
job. A person returns home physically, but is stuck mentally and
emotionally in an unsettled event, a difficult situation, or a
stressful relationship with someone at work, unable to relate fully to and
engage with his or her spouse and children.
Specific ICP Marriage and Corporate Programs
Besides providing instructor training to teach COUPLE COMMUNICATION,
through Interpersonal Communication Programs, Inc. (ICP), I have
recently upgraded our corporate programs: the I-SKILLS ZONE and
COLLABORATIVE TEAM SKILLS (see www.I-SkillsZone.com).
Earlier versions of these corporate programs have been taught for
years at 3M, Motorola, Eastman Chemical Company, and Ball
Corporation. These are a few of the major corporations that have
experienced positive impacts on the businesses and secondarily on
their employees' marriages. (Often going through the I-SKILLS ZONE
class at work, participants will ask about the availability of a
COUPLE COMMUNICATION class for their own marriages. And in turn,
after taking COUPLE COMMUNICATION, participants have brought ICP's
business systems into their companies.) These participants recognize
how concepts and skills that work in one area would fit another, as
The Information Wheel (an I-SKILLS ZONE business tool, similar to
the Awareness Wheel taught in COUPLE COMMUNICATION) is useful for
dealing with presenteeism both at work and at home. The Information
Wheel is the structure of any issue and provides a simple but
powerful way to work through decisions and conflicts intrapersonally
and interpersonally. This and other tools, skills, and processes have
multiple applications both at the office and at home.
The same relationship concepts, skills and processes taught in large
corporations are being taught with good results in smaller
businesses, too. Ed Koplin and his wife Mary Beth are certified
COUPLE COMMUNICATION instructors who regularly teach the program
through their church. Ed is also the president of a civil
engineering company in the Baltimore area called JDA Consulting
Engineers. He has become an I-SKILLS ZONE/COLLABORATIVE TEAM SKILLS
Instructor, teaching and coaching the skills in his own company with
positive effects on the business. Ed's examples below illustrate how
skills training at work can improve significant relationships at
home. Ed tells the following:
1. A junior mechanical engineer had extreme anger problems. Talented
though he was, he was very demeaning and critical of any errors or
confusion of those he worked with. Over a period of time he learned
new methods (from COLLABORATIVE TEAM SKILLS) to express his
frustrations and wants, developing collaborative team skills with his
peers. The quality and quantity of his work group improved. It was
obvious that he was happier and less tense, even during tough deadlines.
One day, he came to me first thing in the morning and said, ³I used
the stuff we are learning at work, at home.² With a little prompting
he went on to say that the previous night he had come home to find
his wife packing up her things. She had a note explaining her deep
dissatisfaction with their relationship and was leaving him, taking
their one year-old son. As he put it, ³I thought if I was ever going
to use the listening skills I learned at work, this would be the time
to do it.² He encouraged his wife to talk while he ³furthered² her
to discuss her wants, feelings and expectations. It was the first
time in their marriage that she was listened to deeply. It has been
a year since that day and they are still together raising their son.
I've met her picking up our engineer at work and they appear to be
comfortable togethershe was smiling as he got in the car.
2. Ten midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy lined up a
classroom and asked me to teach the³I-SKILLS ZONE² program. The
format was four, two-and-a-half hour sessions, one per week. The
academic and organizational pressures are extreme at the USNA;
tensions and exhaustion are rampant. The mids worked their way
though understanding that they could use the skills even if the other
party they were in conflict with didn't have them. Their goal was to
develop better collaborative skills, even with superior officers.
At one point in the program, participants plan a discussion with
another person and practice the discussion with someone in the class,
prior to being face-to-face with the person in real life. One of the
mids spent at least an hour between classes filling out the issues
with his girl friend. I think it took a lot of courage to practice
with a male mid, in a classroom setting, about his girl friend.
Probably he was desperate. A few weeks after the class he met with
me to report that he had the discussion with his girl friend and was
elated at how well it went. They developed their relationship to a
deeper level; he was much more at peace with how it was maturing. It
has been about ten months since the class, and last Friday night he
came over to show me the engagement ring he picked out for her!
3. Our in-house accountant at the engineering company is a middle- aged
woman who will be married soon. I have noticed that she has become extremely
intentional about working through difficult interpersonal situations at
work. She writes down her "awareness" of the events that trouble her with
other people in the office and reviews them with me prior to her
face-to-face discussions. Since many of the issues are financial, and the
discussions are with senior production engineers, the probability of
escalation of tension is very real. She is progressing famously. Everyone in
the office has a deep respect for her and her management skills are highly
valued and appreciated. Men who might otherwise dismiss her accounting needs
as trivial have developed a real empathy for her needs and respond in a
I had a discussion with her regarding how exciting it was to me that she
was doing such a great job with her communication, even though I knew
she was raging mad at times. I was floored when she commented that her
ulterior motive was to prepare for her upcoming marriage and deal
with issues in the blended family. Recently a future step-daughter was
in the office helping to assemble Christmas presents for our clients,
working for her "mom to be!" Apparently, the course, learned at work,
was having a real impact on her relationship with the future daughter-
in-law with whom she had previously been in conflict.
These are a few examples that I have first hand in which learning
collaborative team skills has an impact in personal relationships
outside of work. I suggest that there are a few similarities between
work and home relationships that help to create transferable skills.
First, we spend most of our waking hours with people at work; we
really get to know them. Second, like a ³small marriage,² work
groups have an implicit commitment to each other; they have to get a
job done, even if they have relational problems with each other.
Third, as they find alternatives to fight, flee, falsify, or
flounder, their work group relationships become more satisfying.
Employees that are happy at work are happier at home.
Ed and Mary Beth Koplin have been using ICP materials for eleven
years. The past several years they have been working formally as
certified instructors. They can be reached through their website,
For anyone interested, the next I-SKILLS ZONE/COLLABORATIVE TEAM
SKILLS Corporate Instructor Training workshop is in Atlanta, GA
February 22-23, 2007. For more information, see www.I-SkillsZone.com
or call 800-328-5099.
For information on the COUPLE COMMUNICATION instructor training, see
Interpersonal Communication Programs., Inc.
- MARRIAGE IN THE WORKPLACE: WHAT "JUST ONE" MARRIAGE EDUCATOR CAN DO
Appreciate your inquiry, and, yes, I do have an update. When I last
presented on "Marriage Education in the Workplace" at Smart Marriages 2005,
I had a LOT of research on the effects of marital health (and marital
break-up) in the marketplace and one major client (a Fortune 200 company).
Now, 18 months later, I have something a little more important: experience
from the school of hard knocks as to what works and what doesn¹t and what
just one marital educator can do.
Here¹s what I've been up to:
In the summer of 2006, I conducted a Webinar with business owners and
CEOs from around the country. There were 12 participants. My goal was
simply to get feedback on the whole concept of bringing marriage
strengthening programs into the world of work. All the participants were
very supportive and bought into the importance and the need --- yet there
was much hesitation with simply launching a Marriage Initiative. We are in
ongoing conversation and I am learning ³alternative ways² to get in the
Also in the summer of ¹06, I began working with a large electronics
and appliance corporation with approximately 90 stores in 8 states. They
had noticed a large turnover in their general managers on an annual basis,
often connected to the stresses that the job put on their marriages. After
conducting several interviews with company executives (which is key to
finding out needs and perspectives), I created a proposal that included:
o Speaking (with my wife) at their annual retreat for GMs and their
spouses (which also included my wife and I being available their entire
three days just to talk with employees).
o Sending out a weekly email with a mixture of research and things
they can ³do² to keep their marriages healthy.
o Providing relationship coaching to GMs as requested (this is done
without reporting the names to corporate).
o Being available for general consultation.
(The President of the company was very skeptical at first, but after a 10%
reduction in turnover in the first 6 months of the program, he is now a
Though marriage is often a ³hard sell² as a program to businesses,
there are many things connected to relationships that they are very
interested in. I have developed programs in Emotional Intelligence and
Personal Strengths which can initially get you in the door and allow you to
tie those presentations into personal lives, especially marriages. After
one recent presentation to a large IT Corporation¹s sales force, I was asked
to come conduct a weekend marriage seminar for the executive team.
I have created a ³Marriage at Work² presentation, incorporating what
I¹ve learned, and have begun to present to different business associations.
(Associations of small business owners are a great platform). I will be
launching ³Marriageatwork.com² in the Spring.
There is much more to do, but I am finding a market in smaller, private
companies who are very interested in decreasing turnover, increasing moral,
and thus improving their bottom-line.
Thanks for asking,
Marriage Ministries, Inc.
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