Do you know what the new work ‘stress’ issue is? It is what I like to call our current ‘culture of contentiousness’ that have created a need for ‘psychological safety’ (you can thank Google leadership for this term). It is the floating anxiety caused by disruptive conversations and actions based on a provoking news stream of Constantine political opinion, traumatic news, and disasters. And it’s associated lack of adherence to standard professional communication in the workplace. And the associated ‘mental fatigue’ that these accelerated conflict driven conditions are causing. And it is troubling. And personally and professionally unhealthy and disruptive. And it defies catch phrase generational compartmentalizing as it applies to all ages and demographics.
Given the discord of our political leadership, and the general feeling of unease and instability that has not left many workers post our last recession (regardless of their financial standing and record positive unemployment stats) and the average worker may be externally coping, but internally is mentally imploding.
Add this to the generation specifics; increasing ‘social anxiety’ for millennials , and the Baby Boomers ‘health and retirement anxiety’, and …well…you have a great big work-space full of angst and defense/offense driven antagonism. *insert nail biting and rocking in a fetal position in the corner quietly here for many managers failing in the task of focusing their teams away from such drama*
Employees need clear and stable leadership to create clear and stable behavioral conditions in the workplace. Managers needs to create a level set of steady acceptable behaviors. This does not mean leaders can’t initiate change. It means in a world of worry employees need ‘Psychological Safety’ (you can thank Google leadership for championing this new term) to thrive in the workplace. Especially when their personal and political worlds are awash in instability.
What is employer/employee Psychological Safety?
It means different things in various contexts, but in the workplace it means an environment where leaders create a atmosphere worthy of trust, be it in an office based or remote team. Supervisors apply common denominator values in an authentic, predictable, and consistently firm but fair manner as the authority on acceptable behavior for their reports. They are not only intolerant of inappropriate actions, words, conversations, and behaviors under their watch, and mitigate them as they occur – they also take steps to prevent them. These actions inspire respect, create calm, and increase productivity, worker satisfaction, and loyalty.
Sounds simple, right?
Well, then why don’t managers do this? Because guess what; they are stressed by the same factors as well AND many avoid conflict when they are running at a deficit.
But that is not enough in this era of talent shortage and conflicting political and personal opinion conflict increases. Supervisors have to weather the current social norm storm and provide an umbrella of psychological safety behavioral shelter for their staff. Their team is their responsibility and they need to make the work environment a place of consistent, respectful, productive interactions. The unspoken bargain for success these days is the manager will have expectations for their employees to perform and be accountable for deliverabes. And the employee will have expectations the buck stops with their boss; they will have the fortitude to advocate immediately for them to ensure any unpredictable, unsettling words, actions, or conflicts are stopped.
It used to be you just needed experience, clear expectations, and vision to lead your teams and organizations to innovation and productivity. More and more I see that many super stars and essential staff need consistent psychological safety in their work environment to ground their professional world for them – because their personal world in politics, shootings, and news s just so unstable.
In a world where as the saying goes, many times the inmates seem to be running the asylum, their is an opportunity for us as employers and leaders to create a healthy sanctuary of competent communication and predictable actions, which ironically – will create the safe relaxed anxiety free format for productivity and innovation (and retention) to thrive. Which will always feed the bottom line.
Want to get the most from your employees? Learn to face ALL conflict with confidence and be a consistent leader with clear boundaries. Man/woman up and ensure you don’t let the loudest voice, the biggest personality, the weakest leader, or the most aggressive staff run the show. Set the positive professional respectful tone, and make sure YOU are running the show, by showing you do not tolerate provoking behavior and destructive expressions of opinions.