How to protect your people, your business, and your brand from unhealthy behaviour

Feb 09, 2015

Workplace harassmentMedia reports of disturbing behaviour on Parliament Hill and at CBC have created an impression of systemic problems at these two organizations: individuals who abuse their position, people who are reluctant to voice complaints for fear of reprisal, lack of management support, and an absence of policies and procedures.

"Such problems may indicate psychologically unhealthy workplaces," says WSPS consultant Margaret Cernigoj. Unhealthy workplaces are often less productive, experiencing higher than average absenteeism and turnover, as well as legal, recruitment and retention costs.

Contrast this with psychologically healthy workplaces: "they're proactive, not reactive," says Cernigoj. "They prevent mental health issues from developing or getting worse, engage everyone in fostering a healthy culture, and hold people accountable for their behaviour." Typically, they’re also more successful. Cernigoj explains how:

  • you're managing risk, which helps retain people and reduce production and productivity losses
  • you're managing compliance and human resource issues. People are less likely to go on disability or file grievances
  • you're engaging your people, which contributes to safety, innovation and loyalty
  • you're protecting and enhancing your organizational reputation. You become a supplier and employer of choice.

Getting there

"Figuring out who's responsible for creating a psychologically healthy workplace and how to do it may seem overwhelming," says Cernigoj, "but there are different ways of doing it and lots of free resources you can tap into. In fact, it rarely requires a significant financial investment because the process is very people-centric - managing the people and the workplace, being aware of how the workplace negatively affects psychological health, and then re-jigging things to lessen the impact."

Next steps

Margaret Cernigoj offers six steps that can help you avoid the problems experienced on Parliament Hill and at CBC, and create a healthier and more productive working environment in the process.

What's behind these results? Why are people off work?

  1. Become more aware of mental health issues that may exist in your workplace. Look at workplace data, such as
    • absenteeism rates
    • short- and long-term disability
    • employee assistance program access for workplace stress issues.
    What's behind these results? Why are people off work?
  2. Conduct employee surveys. How engaged are employees? How stressed? But if you ask questions, warns Cernigoj, be prepared to act on the answers.
  3. Establish standards of behaviour so that people understand what's acceptable and unacceptable. Include processes that allow employees to voice concerns without fear of reprisal.
  4. Train managers to identify and respond to symptoms of problems. "Psychological support can be as simple as asking, 'How can I help?'"
  5. Foster conversations. Talk openly about mental health. Make information available. Post information on bulletin boards and Intranets. Find workplace champions willing to talk about their experiences and why mental health is so important in the workplace.
  6. Fight stigma. "Stigma results from a lack of knowledge and information. People don't say the worst part is dealing with their problem. They say it's dealing with the stigma."

How WSPS can help

WSPS can help you develop any or all aspects of a psychological health and safety management program tailored to your organization's goals and objectives. For example:

  1. Our consultants can help you
    • assemble a business case around psychologically healthy and safe workplaces
    • collect and analyze data
    • create an action plan and a process for achieving it
    • review and evaluate the plan, recognize success, and identify opportunities for improvement.
  2. Check out our online healthy workplace resources, including e-courses, free downloads and articles.
  3. Learn how leadership can promote a health and safety culture.
  4. Attend these sessions at Partners in Prevention 2015 Health & Safety Conference & Trade Show:
    • Implementing the New National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace: Case Studies
    • Proactively Addressing Addictions in the Workplace
    • Mental Health in the Workplace: How Managers Should Respond
    • What’s Going on With Traumatic Mental Stress Entitlement in Ontario? How to Navigate the Changing Times
    • Workplace Bullying: It's Not Just "Joking Around"
    • Hope, Understanding and Victory: one person's story about mental health, addictions and removing the stigma.