Talent leaders must protect employees from harm and embrace harassment prevention as one of the primary means of doing so.
Post-pandemic, mental health in the workplace has become a priority like never before — and bullying prevention is at the heart of the issue. A community mental health organization put it this way: “When you’re harassed at work, it leaves more room for anxiety. There are many anxiety disorders that people can develop over time, and many of them can affect your functioning. You may have constant feelings of fear and anxiety, thoughts that something bad is going to happen soon, and an inability to work on your tasks because of these thoughts.
According to a McKinsey study, one in three employees say returning to work as part of a post-pandemic transition has had a negative impact on their mental health, making them anxious and depressed.
The findings of the study posit that “employers who recognize and prioritize psychological safety alongside physical safety in their post-pandemic operations can aid employee mental health and their own efforts to cultivate inclusive workplaces. This support can have real effects on critical workplace outcomes, including employee well-being, satisfaction, productivity and absenteeism.
A new mental health framework from the US Surgeon General
US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy agrees. A recent release Surgeon General’s Framework for Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace describes the fundamental role that workplaces should play in promoting the health and well-being of workers. “As reports of the ‘Silent Resignation’ and the Great Resignation have shown, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the nature of work for many and the relationship some workers have with their work.”
The surgeon general says this frame will “force organizations to rethink how they protect workers from harm, foster a sense of connection among workers, show workers they matter, make room for their lives outside of work, and support their growth. It will be worth it, as the benefits will accrue for workers and organizations. »
The executive’s announcement cited these startling statistics on mental health in the workplace:
The top recommendation should come as no surprise. Listed as “protection against damage”, it is described as follows:
protection from evil: Creating the conditions for physical and psychological safety is an essential foundation for ensuring mental health and well-being at work. To promote practices that better protect against harm, workplaces can:
- Prioritize physical and psychological safety at work
- Allow adequate rest
- Normalize and support with a focus on mental health
- Operationalize Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) standards, policies and programs
Let’s take a deeper dive into what it means to protect employees from harm and why preventing harassment is one of the key ways to do this.
Link between bullying prevention and mental health
Protection from harm, by its very definition, requires preventing something bad from happening. That’s why it’s called bullying prevention. This means not only raising awareness of the damage bullying can cause to mental health, but also taking concrete action to address the behaviors that can ultimately lead to the legal definition of bullying – such as bullying, microaggressions (insults and beards sometimes disguised as “jokes”) and other behaviors that belittle and belittle others.
- Raising awareness of the effects of bullying on mental health – Deep down, most people want to help others. That’s why your first step is to prioritize the physical and psychological well-being of your employees by educating them about the damage harassment can cause and by appealing to their own natural instincts to protect others from harm. Consider that there is nothing more powerful than story-based learning. When people hear others talk about their experience, it broadens their perspectives and provides insight into how people can experience the same workplace in different ways.
Action: Expose your employees to learning that shows real people sharing their personal mental health experiences.
- Tackling the Harassment Precursors – Harassment does not come out of nowhere. Bullies will often test their limits to see how far they can go. That’s why it’s essential to tackle the precursors to harassment, such as bullying, microaggressions and sexual innuendo. Employees need to understand the nuances of misconduct and the damage it can cause to the mental health of their colleagues. Pivotal to this, they need to be able to see both positive and negative behaviors manifest and know what to do when faced with these situations in real life.
Action: Have your employees participate in interactive scenarios that challenge them to make choices about how they might behave in certain situations.
- Make sure managers know what to watch out for – Managers are your most important audience. They are a primary organizational channel, conferring influence in multiple directions – their team, their leaders, and their peers. They play a crucial role in creating a safe and inclusive environment, ensuring the psychological safety and mental health of your employees. But to do that, they need to be equipped with the right strategies and the right tools they need to make a difference. To get started, they need guidance on how to spot signs of behavior change in their employees. And when an employee raises concerns with him, he should be prepared to join the conversation believing that what he is hearing is real and should be investigated.
Action: Provide managers with education and training on issues such as intervention and retaliation. Fortify them with what they need to take deliberate action.
- Fostering a culture of inclusion and belonging, from the top – Your corporate culture determines the behavior of your employees. If employees feel protected, included, and valued, that lays the foundation for trust. This trust can help employees understand each other better and see that differences are what make teams stronger and more successful. Culture change must start at the top and respectful behavior must be modeled by everyone in a position of leadership. Employees will mirror this behavior and can help create an environment that supports mental health.
Action: Promote the commitment and accountability of leaders/managers. Help them cultivate a sense of empathy and put them at the center of creating a safe and inclusive workplace.
- Prioritize mental health and harassment prevention through policies and processes – All of your efforts and best intentions to create a culture of psychological safety and mental health for your employees can crumble without supportive policies and procedures. Consider the manager who is unable to grant an employee time off during a stressful time in their life, or a workplace with such rigid standards and high demands that the work/life balance of an employee is seriously compromised.
Action: Review all policies and procedures and adjust areas that are not conducive to the safety and well-being of your employees.
Finally, remember your own experiences with what it’s like to be in an organization that sees you as more than a resource for monetization. Think back to those times when you felt appreciated, understood, and valued as a human being. How did that make you feel? Has it made you want to work harder to support the organization’s mission? Has it made you more focused and engaged in your work? While research shows statistics about the importance of mental health in the workplace, your own experiences will give you the commitment, time and energy you need to put your plans into action.
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