PsychoWHAT? - Unpacking the terminology around Psychosocial Hazards and Psychological Safety
by Sophie Dawson – Consultant
Psychosocial Safety Climate
Psychosocial Hazards & Risks
We understand there’s a lot of terminology, but in essence, it’s all about creating the right environment for people to thrive.
In case you’re a stickler for a definition, let’s try to distinguish the key phrases:
Psychosocial Hazard: This encompasses any aspects of work (such as the culture, physical environment, or work tasks) that could cause psychological harm (i.e. harm someone’s mental health).
Psychological Safety: Popularised by modern psychologists like Amy Edmondson, this exists in organisations where employees believe they will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. At its most powerful, people can challenge the status quo, increasing creativity and innovation.
Psychosocial Safety Climate: This is the overall picture of psychological health and safety at work. It can be influenced by many aspects of organisational culture, including employee behaviour and WHS policies and procedures.
So how do these three concepts interact?
Different Psychosocial Hazards are present in every workplace. Research confirms that effectively mitigating them relies on consultation with the workforce about their experience.
The effectiveness of the consultation process hinges on the presence of Psychological Safety, as it encourages open communication and honest feedback. We can use the proposed regulations as a checklist to ensure we’re creating the right conditions and fulfilling our obligation to consult with people. In this way, Psychological Safety helps employers gain a holistic understanding of the steps needed to achieve compliance and control Psychosocial Hazards in the workplace.
But there’s an opportunity to improve your Psychosocial Safety Climate further than this.
Compliance should be viewed as ‘ground zero’. If we continue to drive psychological safety beyond this point, that’s the key to unlocking a host of organisational benefits.
Of course, creating a generative psychosocial safety climate, eliminating psychosocial hazards and risks, and achieving psychological safety should not be the end goal for any organisation.
Instead, it should be to create a workplace where these elements are in alignment, so that employees are best supported to be creative, to innovate and to productively contribute to the growth of the business.
If you’d like to learn more about Psychosocial Hazards and how to address them in your workplace, come to our event.