Leaders are incredibly important in an employee’s work experience. Often times, they make or break an employee’s decision to stay or leave an organization. They also have a huge impact on employee wellness. In addition, new research highlights leaders importance in growing a psychosocial safety climate within teams and organizations. Today, we breakdown this new research and provide some recommendations to create a more psychosocial safety within your workplaces!
What is Psychosocial Safety Climate?
First, what is psychosocial safety? Basically, a psychosocially safe workplace is one where employees’ psychological health is supported. Employees are able to take care of their mental health, share concerns with leaders, and have decent work. We know it feels good to be part of a workplace where we can be authentic, have work-life balance, and not fight stress every day.
A Psychosocial Safety Climate (PSC) is when an organization has strategic programs, policies, and initiatives driving a focus on psychosocial safety in the workplace. Organizations with a high psychosocial safety climate are ones that emphasize employee psychological health by making improvements on the work environment. They are the companies that try to reduce stressors, create communication channels to share feedback and concerns, and provide job security. In short, having this type of climate means the organization works to create a safe environment for everyone.
Why Do Leaders Matter?
If you are anything like us, having a strong climate focused on psychosocial safety sounds like a huge win! So what can companies do? Of course, organizations need to focus on formal policies and procedures to support psychosocial safety. For example, they can create appropriate channels to report harassment and effectively handle it. However, we know that leaders can make a difference too!
Recent research is the first to show that leaders have an impact on this type of climate. Psychosocial Safety Climate Leadership (let’s call it PSC leadership) is a specific leadership style that really focuses on enforcing this type of climate. This leadership style includes a focus on preventing workplace stress and improving psychological health. These leaders communicate with employees around their psychological health, stress, workload, and concerns consistently.
If an organization is already doing a good job of creating a high psychosocial safety climate, good PSC leaders can sustain that climate. There isn’t much room for improvement but these leaders can keep things steady. On the other hand, a low PSC leader can cause employees to see the company climate as worse. Makes sense, right? If my leader isn’t focusing on my psychological health, I won’t feel like the company is doing as much. My leader often acts like the ‘proxy’ for the company in my perspective. If my leader isn’t valuing psychosocial safety, then the company isn’t putting enough effort in it either.
The research also looked at what happens when a company has a low psychosocial safety climate. In this case, a good PSC leader can actually improve how employees view the company. Employees will begin to view the climate of the company as more focused on psychological health. Even if the company isn’t doing much to focus on this, the employees of a good PSC leader still feel good about it.
In summary, leaders make a difference. Companies that want to create a positive climate focused on psychosocial safety need to think about their leaders. Good PSC leaders make their employees feel that care and concern at the company level. They also help enforce the company values on psychosocial safety. These leaders also educate employees on all of the company’s policies and programs related to psychological health, stress, and the work environment. Thus, companies need to invest in helping leaders learn psychosocial safety behaviors. This type of training will go a long way in helping employees be healthy but also better performing!