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How can leaders create ‘psychologically safe’ workplaces?

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Poor management dramatically affects office culture

The idea of a ‘psychologically safe’ workplace is being actively discussed in organisations in Australia. But what role do leaders play in creating this, and how can they ensure their workplaces are free from psychological harm? According to DLPA Managing Director Karlie Cremin, the area of psychological safety has become increasingly complex over the last few years.

Hybrid working has meant that the early warning signs are less visible, leading to larger and more complex problems potentially arising at a later stage. “Market pressures” such as the cost of living, accelerated change, lower headcount, and ambitious growth targets could also result in a difficult environment.

To counter this, Cremin says it’s vital for employers to proactively manage psychosocial risks. As the movers and shakers of their organisations, leaders play a particularly important role in doing this. “The key message is that it stems from the top,” Cremin said. “You really need to have genuine commitment from leadership teams and boards to drive the implementation of structures that consistently deliver safe workplaces.”

“Leaders need to understand how much power they have from a cultural perspective and how some older tools in this space no longer serve,” she explains. “There is a need to upgrade and adapt to different worker expectations and a different way of working.” When thinking about factors like workload, headcount, and potential for burnout, job design becomes a key tool in ensuring that you know what you’re asking of your team members. It can also highlight whether you’re communicating these expectations clearly enough and whether your whole network of processes is as effective as it should be.

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