Can leaders overcome workplace bullying by creating psychological safety?

Workplace bullying and psychological safety can be viewed as polar opposites. Without safety, a person who feels they are being bullied will not come forward. Without safety, witnesses to bullying will not speak up. Without safety, companies won’t have employees advising them there is a bullying problem to fix leaving the business vulnerable to a hole in the business which is bleeding productivity and financial resources.

If you are looking at turning this around, plugging the bleeding hole, your workplace leaders need to create psychological safety. This will ensure that your employees can raise concerns and your leaders can address them. This in turn will leave your employees free to focus on fighting external threats to your company, rather than those within.

Creating psychological safety

Simon Sinek argue that creating a circle of safety within a businesses is essential role to keep them successful. The responsibility of creating psychological safety starts and extends from the top with the CEO and executive management of the company. They then extend this down to every level of the company, effectively cushioning every employee in care and safety.

A leadership group that establishes psychological safety in the workplace will feature a range of positive workplace characteristics. This includes:

  • the workplace is inclusive of everyone
  • everyone feels valued by colleagues
  • employees feel cared for by their leaders
  • employees will feel looked out for and protected by those inside the circle of safety (their colleagues)
  • employees have confidence in their leaders
  • there is free exchange of information and effective communication resulting in better ideas and workplace innovation
  • employee time and energy is focused on protecting the company from outside dangers and seizing opportunities as they arise.

It is these very characteristics that help prevent bullying in the workplace. Where employees feel cared for and valued, they feel safe to speak up when there are concerns. When they feel looked out for and protected by those in the company they feel, if something does occur, others will have their back. Positive teams dynamics is an early intervention approach to workplace bullying.

Psychologically unsafe workplaces on the other hand are characterised by employees working as individuals in silos. They work alone to protect themselves and protect their own interests. A psychologically unsafe workplace can leave employees feeling intimidated, isolated, useless and rejected. These are characteristics commonly associated with a bullying workplace. The business risk is growing from the inside.

It is vital if leaders want their companies or teams to succeed, that they invest time and resources into creating a psychologically safe workplace. At the end of the day, fighting internally costs you not only lost productivity and mental healthy injury related costs, but lost innovation and opportunity.

Do you need to develop your leadership team and create a psychologically safe workplace?

Contact us today for a confidential discussion on how we can help you through our bullying prevention workshops.

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