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How committed is your organization to positively impacting employees’ psychological safety?
Regardless of your answer, one factor that will influence employees’ experience in the workplace with respect to psychological safety is manager effectiveness. Core skills that predict how effectively a manager will be at facilitating psychological safety for their employees include their own mental health, communication skills, ability to prevent mental harms and promote mental health, conflict resolution skills and emotional intelligence.
However, there may be no more important skill a manager can develop than their openness, awareness and commitment to being an inclusive manager.
Many organizations are beginning to ask their managers and employees to be more mindful of how their behaviours may be hindering or inhibiting an inclusive culture. In the simplest terms, inclusion promotes the idea that all employees benefit from feeling welcomed, included and cared for in the workplace.
This increases the likelihood that when interacting with an inclusive manager employees will feel respected and being treated fairly. They won’t feel discriminated against, regardless of their beliefs, culture, sexuality, gender or age. Highly inclusive managers are also more likely to feel personally valued, based on their knowledge, skills and abilities.
An inclusive manager takes steps so that all employees on their team feel they’re playing on a level playing field. Meaningless work such as note taking is not reserved for the young, female or old employees. If there’s non-value work that must be done as a part of the operation, an inclusive manager explains the reason and ensures it’s distributed without prejudice or bias. They also check in with their team to ensure that’s the case.
An inclusive manager:
• Will be open to the notion that some things they do exclude people from feeling valued or equal. They’re also keen to learn about their blind spots and to close them quickly.
• Understands that inclusion is defined not by what they think is happening but by what their employees experience, based on their perceptions and experience. They accept to learn that they’ll benefit from being open to feedback and to creating conditions where employees feel safe to share it.
• Doesn’t assume; they ask and are open to learn from their employees by facilitating open and safe feedback.
One approach to receiving feedback could be asking employees to complete the following worksheet monthly online, print their responses and drop it into a confidential box.
How do you feel when you interact with your manager? Answer on a scale of 1 (Never) to five (Always) One idea to improve on this item
1. I feel welcomed.
2. I feel like I belong.
3. I feel included in decision making.
4. I feel my opinions are valued.
5. I feel safe expressing my opinion.
6. I feel I am being given a fair opportunity to grow.
Repeating this exercise over 12 months will assist a manager to become more in tune and aware of what they need to demonstrate to all their employees to show that they are, indeed, inclusive.
Commitment and desire to learn how to ensure all employees are always experiencing the above six behaviours will help to lower employees’ risk for stress and uncivil behaviours when interacting with their direct manager. These are key ingredients for supporting employees’ mental health and protecting their psychological safety.
The experiences employees have with each other and with their manager have a positive impact on their perception of feeling psychologically safe with their manager.
Coaching tips to promote inclusion
• Evaluate your risk for implicit bias — Implicit bias is unconscious bias that attaches judgements or options. Many may be surprised at the kinds of bias we have that can negatively impact our ability to be neutral and fair. One way to screen and learn is to complete the Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT) that can be easily found on Google.
• Pay attention to what you do — It’s easy to say the right words that suggest you care and are committed to being an inclusive manager. However, what really matters for each employee will be defined by their experience. An inclusive manager understands actions are really the only things that matter.
• Never assume small things don’t matter — Pay attention to the small things, as they matter and can add up. As mentioned above, if the same person is tasked with meaningless, non-value work, such as taking notes in a meeting, this can over time have a negative impact on their perception of equality and fairness.