Creating a Strong and Psychologically Healthy Workplace

28 Jul Creating a Strong and Psychologically Healthy Workplace

The following is a guest post from Marjorie Munroe, the Alberta Co-Director of Workplace Fairness. In this post, Marjorie discusses what makes a psychologically healthy workplace and the strategies behind building a psychologically safe environment.

Do you work in a psychologically healthy workplace? According to the HRIA Fall 2016 HR Trends report, 9 out of 10 Alberta organizations have policies for sexual harassment, general workplace harassment and harassment based on protected grounds in provincial human rights legislation. Policies addressing psychological harassment are less common at 70%.

Why is there a gap? Are you in on it? Ontario has been a leader in Canada for enacting legislation to protect workers against harassment in the workplace, and other provinces are not far behind. In Alberta, Craig Coolahan’s private member bill is aimed at protecting all Alberta employees from harassment in the workplace.  If you don’t have a policy and a strategy to ensure a psychologically safe workplace, it’s time.

Blaine Donais of the Workplace Fairness Institute has developed a tool to help to assess your workplace health. As Blaine says, the health of a workplace is much like your personal health. You actively make decisions on both destructive and constructive behaviours which impact your health – including decisions about exercise and food consumption. Similarly, actors in the workplace take actions which can positively or negatively impact the health and the psychological safety of a workplace. The Workplace Health Scorecard asks a series of questions which will help you understand your level of workplace health.

Typical destructive behaviours include bullying, harassment, and harsh or unfair punishments. Most organizations do not have institutionally integrated destructive behaviours, but rather, they are uniquely evident and can often be dismissed or ignored.

Constructive workplace behaviours include fair and balanced decision making, and support for the equitable and respectful resolution of interpersonal disputes. The healthiest workplaces rely on constant feedback from staff, engaging them to play a positive role in engendering workplace health, and a commitment to continuous improvement in the way they deal with human resources issues.

Every workplace participant has a role to play in contributing to a strong, psychologically healthy workplace. Here are some strategies:

  • Normalize conversations about safety in the workplace to include psychological safety. For example, if you have a safety minute before meetings, regularly integrate psychological safety minutes.
  • Step into every conversation with a desire to understand. As you listen, remind yourself that understanding is not the same as agreement. Through engaged listening, you will build trust.
  • Manage your own emotions. Take a break when things get heated, and resist the temptation to step in when your emotions are governing your actions.
  • Familiarize yourself with your workplace policies and your rights as defined under your provincial legislation (Alberta), and federal human rights legislation.
  • Take courage and speak up when you witness destructive behaviour aimed at coworkers.

Everyone has a role. The small steps we each take in our daily lives will have a tremendous impact on our working environment and workplace health.

About the Author: Marjorie Munroe is a Chartered Mediator and Ombudsman partnering with organizations to support strong healthy workplaces and the equitable and respectful resolution of conflict through facilitation, coaching, assessment and training.