Leadership Series - How to promote a socially and emotionally healthy workplace climate
Shari Walton, Organisational Development Consultant
Promote a socially and emotionally healthy workplace climate by adopting specific combinations of leadership behaviours and strategies
Leading a team has always presented challenges and this has only continued to increase recently. With burnout rates going up and new legislation requiring organisations to proactively address psychosocial (emotional and social) hazards, new research suggests leaders can create a safer and higher-performance work environment by developing specific combinations of leadership strategies.
Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, explains that specific combinations of leadership behaviours shape an employee’s mindset, experience, and quality of work. Leaders can better create a psychosocially safe climate by moving away from authoritative leadership and demonstrating consultative leadership and supportive leadership styles combined with challenging leadership.
Consultative leadership encourages employees to support each other and seek each other’s input. Challenging leadership encourages employees to aspire to do more and encourages the expression of creativity, sense of empowerment, and desire to learn and improve. All these factors have a direct and indirect effect on psychological safety.
Consultative leadership and challenging leadership proactively shape an employee’s mindset, quality of work and the degree to which they feel a psychologically safe climate has been established.
The optimal approach is:
- The Learning Zone – this is achieved when a leader is highly supportive and consultative and challenges the team. Employees achieve a “flow state” and feel properly supported and challenged, and capable of rising to the challenge. Employees feel energised by their work and enabled to take necessary risks. Learning agility is common and there are often reciprocal offers of help and support each other in the learning zone.
Some leadership pitfalls to avoid include:
- The Apathy Zone – where employees are afraid of interpersonal engagement, reluctant to ask others for help, and are not motivated to offer improvements or suggestions and there is a tendency to be disengaged and apathetic.
- The Comfort Zone - when a leader is highly supportive and consultative but doesn’t challenge employees, they tend to not display ambition, or “stretch”.
- The Anxiety Zone - when a leader is neither supportive or consultative but challenges the team, this can create anxiety. Employees often face the kind of anxiety that gets in the way of collaborating, asking for help, and contributing their best work, often keeping work-related ideas to themselves resulting in improvement opportunities being lost.
At AccessEAP we have a range of learning and development modules as well as individual and integrated wellbeing services to assist you in managing your psychosocial risks. Reach out to us on 1800 818 728 or speak to your main contact at AccessEAP to chat about how we can help.
Shari Walton is a highly skilled senior Organisation Development Consultant committed to helping organisations thrive through creating mentally healthy workplaces. She has extensive experience designing, developing, and implementing a broad range of Leadership Development, Talent Management, and other Learning and Organisation Development interventions that drive change and support individual, team, and business success.
Shari has over 30 years’ experience in the organisation development field across Finance, IT and Higher Education sectors. This experience is complemented with formal qualifications in Human Resources, Learning & Development, Executive Coaching, along with a Graduate Diploma in Communication Management, and a Diploma in Holistic Wellness Coaching.