In a Harvard Business Review article entitled “Begin with Trust”, the authors cite 3 core drivers of trust, also referenced as “the trust triangle”: authenticity, logic and empathy. The authors further state that it is generally a failure in one of these core drivers that creates a lack of trust. Interestingly, the conclusion (and recommendations) regularly drawn in workplace investigations is a need for training leaders to develop empathy (similar recommendations are also often made in DEI data-driven audits where employees express a low sense of belonging in the workplace). As described in the HBR article, empathy, in simple terms, is the ability to show that one cares about the well-being and success of others. It’s the lack of empathetic leadership found in workplace investigations evidence which is generally at the root cause of issues when it comes to the low confidence employees have about their concerns being addressed when raised – they don’t think their employers care. When employees perceive that their employers don’t care about their concerns it stymies the workplace experience for employees.
Workplace Investigations are a reliable source of insights into the employee experience. Albeit a reactive source, there are key data points to be gleaned from workplace investigations. One of the more prevalent insights that can be gleaned in investigations data is flawed (or an overall failure in) leadership accountability. For example, if employees are not confident that their concerns will be addressed, then leaders are most likely missing the mark in owning their responsibilities to care for their employees. Workplace investigations oftentimes reveal that employees generally sense this lack of care when leaders are not managing the workplace centered in trust. From an employee experience perspective, not caring has adverse impacts on the workplace – low morale, declining productivity, high attrition, and toxic workplace cultures.
When individuals perceive leadership as lacking care in their well-being those individuals become less likely to voice their concerns; in other words, employees do not feel psychologically safe to speak up and thus, employers lose the benefit of investigating concerns and using valuable data from those investigations to take corrective action. Instead, when psychological safety is low in the work environment, employers risk higher attrition according to a recent report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Data shows that “[w]hen empathetic leaders build a culture of psychological safety, . . ., retention risk is reduced”, according to the same BCG report. In addition to psychological safety having positive impacts on retention, other data shows that a psychologically safe work environment can also impact productivity. According to a survey by The Conference Board (TCB) of 28,000 employees across 16 countries, “ . . . psychological safety was associated with employees feeling 2.1-times more motivated, 2.7-times happier and 3.3-times more enabled to reach their full potential at work.” Thus, the upside to managing a psychologically safe work environment provides a gateway to safeguarding critical business outcomes.
Fostering trust in the workplace is mutually beneficial to employers and employees. Encouraging employees to speak up helps build trust through psychological safety. It’s critical to also emphasize, that when employees speak up, they should be able to do so without fear of reprisal. In so doing, employers are actively fostering an inclusive work environment through psychological safety. If effectively and successfully done, feelings of belonging will yield results that directly impact business outcomes such as lower attrition, higher productivity, and positive employee relations. Taking these proactive measures can create opportunities for fostering a healthy workplace culture and creating positive employee experiences. Leading with empathy is a good starting point and the bottom line is dependent upon it. For more information about fostering psychological safety, managing employee concerns through workplace investigations and empathetic leadership, contact TULIP Advisory Professionals LLC by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Understand how addressing employee concerns can yield valuable data for influencing better workplace experiences and fostering psychological safety
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