Cover Story

James Campbell Quick, PhD, was weaned on psychology. His grandfather, a pediatrics professor, did pioneering work with emotionally disturbed children. So when Quick headed off to business school, he carried his keen interest in behavior with him, earning an MBA and PhD in organizational behavior and management.

"My lifelong interest has been on healthy people and healthy organizations," Quick explains.

His blend of psychological insights and management skills led to a dual career in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserve helping units become more efficient and at the University of Texas at Arlington's business school, where he works with graduate students on stress and health topics. Today, Quick is a top expert in workplace stress and alleviating the strains that make workplaces unhealthy. He will draw on that experience when he gives his presentation, "Working together: balancing head and heart." Quick will discuss the central effect of relationships on workplace health and individual well-being.

"My talk is about having your head and your heart together in conversation with each other so that, as you go about doing your work, it's not simply cold, calculated and impersonal, but rather doing it in a very personal, heartfelt and compassionate way," he says.

Quick's premise is that employees need to be healthy individuals, with balanced heads and hearts, in order to be good workers. And they also need to understand that it isn't necessary to like someone to have a good working relationship with him or her.

"I have some wonderful relationships with professional colleagues with whom I don't agree on any number of things," Quick explains, "But that doesn't interfere with our ability to work together."

But without such understanding, "those interpersonal tensions and conflicts can become very divisive," he explains. Quick has first-hand experience in helping to bridge those divides.

In one of his leadership positions in the Air Force, he received accolades for reorganizing his unit and addressing the key stressors in the employees' daily work experiences, such as turning previously tense relations with other Air Force groups into positive interactions.

As part of his Air Force duties, Quick ran workshops, seminars, briefings and other presentations on reducing stress at the Pentagon and other military posts. More recently, he was awarded the Legion of Merit in honor of his work that helped civilians deal with the closure of Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio (see "When workplaces shut down" in this month's Monitor).

Before his retirement from the Air Force last summer, Quick wrote or edited several APA publications, including the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, which he founded, and the books "Preventive Stress Management in Organizations" and "The New Organizational Reality: Downsizing, Restructuring and Revitalization." A fellow of both APA and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, he continues to teach management classes at the University of Texas at Arlington and directs the school's doctoral program in business administration.