Do your employees feel comfortable expressing concerns about their work environment? According to MHA’s Mind the Workplace 2019 Report, 54 percent of employees reported they were not comfortable reporting dishonest or unfair practices to Human Resources or management, and 60 percent reported it was safer to remain silent about things that need improvement. If HR and management are hearing crickets, it might be more reasonable to assume that your employees simply may not be telling you their concerns instead of assuming that no concerns exist.
According to MHA’s research, employees were hesitant to talk to their supervisors about personal issues affecting their performance at work, especially if the supervisors were perceived as unfair or biased. This hesitation only increased for employees in reporting ethical violations and areas for improvement in the workplace. In addition, employees who were silent about personal issues experienced problems with sleep, confidence, motivation, and staying focused at work.
An employer should focus, first and foremost, on building a better culture as a preventative measure. Creating a culture in which employees can share their personal concerns such as stress is the best way to ensure employees feel safe to report more serious concerns such as workplace bullying. Build a better culture by incorporating employee feedback in company policy, training managers to be fair and effective, and promoting information and resources that help employees understand mental health in the context of their work.
However, changing culture can be an involved and lengthy process, so implementing a grievance procedure as a safeguard is a promising start. The grievance procedure should reflect the workplace culture the employer wishes to achieve: fair, accessible, and designed with employees’ needs in mind.
The foundation of a psychologically safe workplace is inclusion, safety, and support that is communicated to and experienced by all employees. Without an effective procedure in place, the toxicity in a workplace can contribute to an increasingly poor environment for employees and put an company at risk for litigation. The employer should implement a fair, clear, and accessible procedure for employees to report unfair or unsafe practices such as discrimination based on race, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, and physical and mental health disability; sexual or other forms of harassment; and concerns with toxic working conditions or workplace bullying.