Workplace well-being is a shared responsibility
If you’ve followed my business page on Facebook, you know that I’m a huge fan of Harvard Business Review. They provide exceptional well-researched and well-reported articles about the latest trends and challenges in the business world. That’s why I was surprised by the Management Tip of the Day, How to Handle an Unpredictable Boss, which essentially placed all the responsibility on the employees of such bosses to manage their own response to such things as workplace bullying, harassment or intense emotional outbursts.
What distressed me about today’s article was that it suggested that the behavior of such bosses could be managed if the employee were to employ strategies such as learning to cope with the bosses’ outburts by noticing their patterns, understanding the bosses moods before making requests or showing gratitude to defuse tension. While employees share the responsibility for their health and wellness at work, workplaces are increasingly seeing it as a core competency for for those who lead, manage or support others to gain emotional intelligence or at the very least understand the consequences of their own emotional response as well as bullying and harassment on the psychological health and safety of the workplace. I don’t say any of this without an appreciation for how difficult it can be to manage and lead people in highly stressful workplaces. But there are things that can be done to support the leader as well as employees.
While I’m not sure what is in place in the U.S., in Canada, numerous provinces have legislation that requires employers to develop policies and practices to prevent and respond to violence, harassment and bullying in the workplace. We also have a National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. It states that the “The vision for a psychologically healthy and safe workplace is one that actively works to prevent harm to worker psychological health, including in negligent, reckless, or intentional ways, and promotes psychological well-being…Psychological health and safety is embedded in the way people interact with one another on a daily basis and is part of the way working conditions and management practices are structured and the way decisions are made and communicated.”
Leadership is seen as a key component to psychological health and safety in workplaces and the Standard states that among other things people in leadership roles “shall lead and influence organizational culture in a positive way.”
The Standard also states that “Workplaces with a positive approach to psychological health and safety are better able to recruit and retain talent, have improved employee engagement, enhanced productivity, are more creative and innovative, and have higher profit levels. The voluntary standard has been downloaded over 30,000 times and early results are showing that organizations that are implementing it are already seeing some of these positive results. This underlines that behaving in ways that reduce psychological harm to employees makes sense from both a human and business perspective.
There are many resources to help leaders and their teams. Here are two:
Both are courtesy of the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace. The site has many other tools and resources to address these kinds of issues.