I gave a talk this week to several hundred high school students at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research where the Eating Disorders Foundation had their Youth Forum. My talk was about body image – specifically how fantasies are literally manufactured in the media, advertising and the fashion industry.

Eating disorders aside, there is no doubt that being constantly bombarded with impossible and unattainable ideals will negatively affect self esteem.

So what does doing my bit for self esteem have to do with my work? Indeed, why should businesses in general give a damn about self esteem anyway? Isn’t that up to each individual?

Self esteem is related to how we perceive ourselves, how we think others perceive us. It is affected by many work-related factors such as the sense of achievement and contribution, of belonging, of being valued and respected.

The cost of not looking after your people’s self esteem can be high. Low self esteem means low morale, low participation, and general withdrawal. Unhappy people generally tend not to be as creative. Self esteem affects the ability of a business to innovate!

There are many related issues being discussed at the moment: the no assholes rule, bullying in the workplace, and abuse in business relationships which has the same behaviour pattern and devastating outcomes as domestic emotional/verbal abuse. All of these negatively affect a person’s ability to function optimally in the workplace. Then there is the real cost to the business of stress and sick leaves.

Thus – taking active steps to further and protect the self esteem of your people must do good things for your business.

A movement like Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty and Self Esteem Fund has to ultimately contribute to the ability of a nation to innovate.

It also makes for a great differentiator in the market.