issue Winter 2023

Sustainability is the Pathway to Raising Burnout Management Into the C-Suite

By David “Daven” E. Morrison, MD
David “Daven” E. Morrison, MD
Photo by Michael R. Schmidt

What if organizations, in particular, healthcare organizations, were truly interested in their employees as much as it seems they are motivated by profit? Then imagine there was a metric every organization could use to bring attention to how their people are doing. For those of us who are interested in success being measured in more than dollars, it could be a wonderful situation. Currently, this becomes even more exciting when it’s recognized there is significant motivation within private industry to think beyond “shareholder value.”

Recently, while I was preparing a new presentation on the role of Psychological Materiality for a fraud-mitigation conference, a fellow presenter, Brad Preber, shared his plans to present on a seemingly unrelated topic: sustainability and fraud. There is significant concern that one of the categories of sustainability — global warming — could be subject to fraud, given the volume of interest and money flowing toward the concept.

This was not a new idea, as it had been framed previously as “greenwashing.” Sustainability is also known as Environment, Social and Governance, which is commonly shortened to “ESG.” ESG does not appear to be a “flash in the pan” and is a serious consideration for many large organizations as well as potentially all organizations if reporting on ESG becomes a federal mandate. As CEO of Grant Thornton and the author of the afterword to the book “ABCs of Behavioral Forensics,” Brad Preber developed a thoughtful response to recent concerns of greenwashing fraud.

The presentation was for a national conference on fraud-prevention ethics, ethics in accounting and cyber-fraud risk mitigation. After the conference, there was interest in the intersection of sustainability and fraud, and in particular the role of Psychological Materiality.

We discovered that there is conceptual overlap between wanting to do the right thing for the environment and the importance of considering things beyond profit. Organizations measure engagement regularly. Because when there is disengagement, there is burnout. Why not include engagement findings in the formal corporate accounting for ESG?

The final piece of the puzzle came when two fellow occupational psychiatrists and I wrote a review article of the current impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on burnout.

To the readers of Helix, you will likely know just how stressed healthcare providers and educators have been during the pandemic. Our literature review confirms this. And, it makes sense, given the definition, to add burnout to the mission of sustainability.

David Evan “Daven” Morrison, MD, is an associate clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Chicago Medical School. With a primary focus on the judgment of senior executives, Dr. Morrison advises private industry and municipal leaders. His work includes developing workshops on executive judgment: when it works and when it derails. These are taught in the Midwest Leadership Institutes (municipal leaders) and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management in its Executive Education programs. Application of judgment failures is explored in burnout and fraud.

Opinions expressed in “Through the Microscope” columns are solely those of the authors and are not intended to represent those of Rosalind Franklin University.

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