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Workplace Mental Health - the hidden risks of workplace incivility to psychological safety and productivity.

Posted by Jason Aitkens on Wednesday, July 08, 2015.

Australian workplaces face an often invisible yet increasing threat to productivity that, if not addressed and rectified, can compromise the psychological health of employees and the workplace. Incivility is an insidious threat that can lead to increased absenteeism, presenteeism, grievance claims, workplace conflict as well as increased workers’ compensation claims for psychological injury.

David Burroughs, Managing Director, CommuniCorp says “The increasing ‘casualisation’ of the workforce has contributed to this and, often, uncivil behaviours are unknowingly modelled by managers. Poor role modelling in the workplace can directly increase counterproductive workplace behaviours. Additionally, with everyone being asked to do more with less, with technology blurring the boundaries between home and work, with instant mass communication mechanisms that are often devoid of niceties and or context, and the increasing general levels of stress that appear inherent within Australian workplaces, it is easy to see how levels of civility can be eroded.”

Organisations that neglect to address the psychosocial risk factor caused by incivility may find themselves in breach of occupational health and safety legislation, since it is a foreseeable risk that can be managed.

There are a number of ways organisations can reverse the trend of incivility, including:

  • Ensuring good person-job-fit and equipping people with the psychological capabilities, not just the technical/professional competencies required to do their role;
  • Conduct workplace training to help all staff understand the impact of both positive and negative behaviours;
  • Require managers to model desired organisational behaviours and make them accountable;
  • Set a company standard for email communications, such as not sending time-sensitive information via email;
  • Reinforce workplace values, codes of conduct and behavioural expectations as well as creating expectations around zero tolerance to uncivil behaviour;
  • Developing workplace systems, policies and procedures that promote a psychologically safe and healthy workplace;
  • Be sensitive to cultural differences and expectations and ensuring all staff understand what is expected.

David Burroughs said, “It doesn’t seem like a big deal if people forget to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ but when this lack of manners continues it can lead to an environment where people feel undervalued and unimportant. This can undermine the sense of psychological safety within the workplace, and create the foundations for more problematic workplace psychological health issues to develop.”

“By contrast, a workplace that fosters good manners, citizenship and teamwork is much more likely to thrive and be successful.”

Modified excerpt from CommuniCorp article first published on Business Review Australia | September 2014

"System-Based or Symptom-Based? Approaches to Workplace Mental Health"

During August CommuniCorp is delivering a series of talks together with leading global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills entitled "System-Based or Symptom-Based? Approaches to Workplace Mental Health". This national series will focus on the clear and urgent need for more integrated, systemic approaches to workplace mental health.

Led by leading corporate psychology expert, Dr Chris Stevens, these talks will take a candid look at the complex issues around the mental health landscape in corporate Australia.

Register your interest to attend, and receive additional information regarding these sessions:

Phone 1300 855 140

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