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Psychological Safety, Social Connections and Self-Advocacy

Sep 24, 2020

Psychological SafetyThe following article is republished from the Psychological Safety Blog, a resource posted on our CEO Health + Safety Leadership Network website. Although the article and blog are written for senior leaders, we think they offer something for everyone. Check out the blog for more inspiration in the era of COVID-19.

By Dr. Bill Howatt and Andrew Harkness

Only 23% of Canadian workers would feel comfortable talking to their employer about a psychological health issue. [1] The average employee spends about seven working days per year stressed out about a work-related problem instead of coming forward with their concern. Often, it is because they don’t feel their workplace is psychologically safe.

Employees who don't feel psychologically safe are likely to feel apprehensive about expressing concerns for fear of being judged or negatively affecting their job security or status. This reluctance to speak up and deal with an issue can cost employers as much as $7500 per employee in lost time and resources. [2]

Do your employees feel safe to speak their mind without fear of repercussion?

If not, it may be because they feel isolated and are lacking critical social connections in the workplace.

When employees feel socially disconnected from peers and managers, and lack the confidence to speak up, they can feel uncertain about the future and what is going to happen to them. If left unchecked, these feelings can lead to loneliness and will have a profound impact on their outlook toward work and their overall mental health.

Leaders see only the tip of the iceberg

A psychologically safe workplace promotes employees’ psychological well-being and actively works to prevent this type of harm. However, it is not always easy to see when an employee’s psychological safety is at risk.

They may be having different experiences than what you observe. You may not be aware of a lack of trust or feelings of anxiety. People can give the impression that everything is okay when, in reality, below the surface, they’re experiencing some degree of worry or even fear.

You want to ensure that each of your employees has at least one psychologically safe relationship in the workplace, so no one feels isolated and lonely and they have the confidence to self-advocate.

Create a psychologically safe workplace where employees feel connected and more confident

Creating this type of environment requires you to look not only at your own relationships with employees, but also the relationships they form with their peers and supervisors.


1 https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/health-safety/reports/psychological-health.html
2 https://www.recruiter.com/i/when-employees-are-afraid-to-speak-up-organizations-suffer/