It’s no surprise if we are optimistic for 2022. It’s no surprise either that many employees have mixed emotions around what the new year might bring. Some white employees’ statuses in their organization and society, help them look forward to returning to work. With eager anticipation I might add. Not true for some employees who identify as peoples of African descent, Indigenous or peoples of colour (BIPOC), not true for employees who are marginalized such as LGBTQ2S+ community. No surprise either that employees who intersect with one or more of the above groups find the workspace doubly hard on their psychological health.
BIPOC employees, employees of the LGBTQ2S+ community who have chosen to keep their identity private for myriad of reasons, and employees with both visible and invisible disabilities; they too face going back to a physical workspace with emotions that are less than eager anticipation.
Employees in the above-mentioned groups fortunate to work from home, the thought of having to return to the physical workspace is a trigger for the mental, emotional, and physical stress they endured. Speaking with some of these employees, they shared how they wake up with dread at the thought of going to the physical workspace. This dread causes some to vomit every morning.
A 2021 HBR article How to Intervene when a manager is Gaslighting Their Employees by Mita Mallick, the author provides some important tips on how to intervene. |They| also discussed how perennial the problem of gaslighting employees is within workplaces.
I was introduced to the psychological abuse tactic of Gaslighting, in a speech by former Senator Murray Sinclair. The abuser (a boss, co-worker, family member, etc.) makes the abused person question their own sanity and sense of reality. Put simply, the abuser manipulates the truth as presented by the abused and turns the issue upside down. The abused is presented as delusional and untrustworthy. This makes the abused also question their own state of sanity and reality.
Imagine returning to a workplace where you face gaslighting? Or imagine some of the other daily traumas such as not able to show up as your whole self? For example, a 2020 HBR article illuminated this reality by showing how people of African descent and white women, are often penalized when they speak assertively. While this is often not the case for white men who historically are expected to earn respect by speaking assertively.
Imagine you are that employee who faces daily the mental, emotional, and eventually physical toll from being in a work environment where you are discouraged to be you and are subjected to psychological mind games? Why would you want to return to the physical office?
NB! these abuses also take place in a virtual workplace, but the fact you are in your own space physically away from the abuser, tends to ease the pressure-a bit-not much, but a bit.
John Maxwell told us many years ago that everything rises and falls with the leader. This was supported by Daniel Goleman and colleagues in their work on leadership. It is still supported today by current experts on leadership such as Simon Sinek and Oprah Winfrey, to name a few.
What to do to get back to working in a healthy, and more wholesome manner for all employees?
1. Because everyone looks to the leader, it is logical and more effective that is where change must start. Leaders will need to practice the principles of P.A.U.S.E See Blog Post Oct.2021.
2. Leaders committed to creating psychologically safe and healthy workspaces for their employees will do so by recognizing The Standard (National Standard of Canada on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace). A body of work the basis of which is used for defining and providing psychologically healthy and safe workplaces.
Because The Standard offers a definition for a psychologically healthy and safe workplace, and a framework for a psychologically healthy and safe system of work, it is predicted to have an impact on the law, even though it has no legal force.
With The Standard in place, it is suggested that employers consider its implication and “act as though there is a duty of care to provide a psychologically safe system of work by all reasonable means.” In so doing, it is suggested employers use of The Standard could be a way to help in discharging this duty of care.
3. Practice the principles of Inclusive and Transformational leadership. Leaders who lead with these principles in mind know the value of ensuring all voices are heard. See Blog Post Oct.27,2021.
- A holistic inclusive strategy for returning to the physical workspace is critical
- Not all employees are allowed to “show up as their whole self”
- Gaslighting is a psychological abuse tactic used in workplaces
- The Standard is a crucial tool for building psychologically safe and healthy workplaces
- P.A.U.S.E. ensures all voices are heard
Tools & Techniques
The 3-Pathways Framework is a tool and technique we use to support leaders in building psychologically safe and healthy workplaces.
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