Psychological Safety – What makes a workplace safe? (Part 2)
Psychological Safety Defined
For the purpose of the National Standard, psychological safety in the workplace has been defined as, “…one that is the result of every reasonable effort being made to protect the mental health of employees.”
The 5 factors considered to contribute to a psychologically unsafe workplace include:
1. Job demands: when job demands consistently exceed worker skill levels, are distributed unevenly or exploit them beyond what would be considered reasonable.
2. Job control or influence: when discretion over the means, manner and methods of work (including the perceived freedom to express views) is withheld from workers deliberately.
3. Reward: when praise, recognition, acknowledgement and credit are withheld from workers for no good business reason.
4. Fairness: when there is consistent failure or refusal to recognize and accommodate the reasonable needs, rights and claims of workers.
5. Support: when support with regard to advice, direction, planning and provision of technical and practical resources and information is withheld from workers by choice.
What are the 13 factors that determine psychological safety?
The Standard recommends employers consider the following 13 factors that affect psychological health and safety in the workplace. All are within the influence of the workplace and therefore, addressing them has the potential to have a positive impact on workers’ mental health, psychological safety and participation — in turn improving productivity and bottom-line results.
These 13 factors aim to help organizations think about the current state of their own workplace:
1. Organizational culture is a mix of norms, values, beliefs, meanings and expectations that group members hold in common and that they use as behavioural and problem-solving cues.
2. Psychological and social support refers to the degree of social and emotional integration and trust, as well as the level of help and assistance provided by co-workers and supervisors. Equally important are workers’ perception and awareness of support.
3. Clear leadership and expectations are present when leadership is effective and provides support that helps workers know what they need to do, explains how their work contributes to the organization, and discusses the nature and expected outcomes of impending changes.
4. Civility and respect are based on showing esteem, care and consideration for others.
5. Psychological demands of any given job are documented and assessed to determine whether any given activity might be a hazard to the worker’s health and well-being and then risks are minimized through work redesign, analysis of work systems, risk assessment, etc.
6. Growth and development is present in a work environment when a range of internal and external opportunities for workers to build their repertoire of competencies, through encouragement, support and job skills development, is provided.
7. Recognition and reward is present in a work environment where there is appropriate acknowledgement and appreciation of workers’ efforts in a fair and timely manner.
8. Improvement and influence is present in a work environment where workers are included in discussions about how their work is done and how important decisions are made.
9. Workload management is present in a work environment where tasks and responsibilities can be accomplished successfully within the time available. *Canadians describe this as being the biggest workplace stressor.
10. Engagement is present when policies, practices, and procedures are in place to ensure workers enjoy and feel connected to their work and where they feel motivated to do their job well. Engagement can be measured on a physical, emotional, and/or cognitive level (or all 3).
11. Balance is present in a work environment where there is acceptance of the need for harmony between the demands of personal life, family and work.
12. Psychological protection is present when workers feel able to put themselves on the line, ask questions, seek feedback, report mistakes and problems, or propose a new idea without fearing negative consequences to themselves, their job or their career.
13. Protection of physical safety is present when a worker’s psychological, as well as physical safety, is protected from hazards and risks related to the physical environment.
Watch for Part 3 next week: How to assess your organizations’ psychological safety.