Appreciation instead of pressure: Psychological security: How companies can strengthen the mental health of their employees

Climate crisis, war and inflation - the world is currently experiencing a turnaround.

Appreciation instead of pressure: Psychological security: How companies can strengthen the mental health of their employees

Climate crisis, war and inflation - the world is currently experiencing a turnaround. This also affects the economy. What is currently driving companies the most?

Mareike Bruns: We work with many managers who currently do not know how to deal with the sometimes difficult situation in their company, especially when it comes to communicating with their employees. For example, they have to fire someone or restructure the team - and are unsure how to deal with this in this already confusing time.

How can it be that managers are overwhelmed with such unfortunately everyday things?

Not everyone who takes on a leadership role is prepared to fulfill it. Many managers simply do not have enough skills to do this and then, when in doubt, lead their team uncertainly - which of course can also lead to insecurity among the employees.

Why do you actually start with managers and not, for example, with the management or with the employees?

This is definitely the group with the most fears. Although managers do not have the responsibility of management, they act as mediators, especially when it comes to bad news and unpopular decisions.

The key to a healthy work environment is appreciative communication. How does this work?

The main thing is to create space for open communication, for every employee. In addition, a healthy error culture is elementary. In 1999 there was a research project on the subject. At that time, it was assumed that the team with the fewest errors was the most productive. But exactly the opposite was the case. The team with the most mistakes delivered the best work results because it was able to grow together through an open error culture.

What exactly can we learn from this?

This shows that there is psychological security in the company when the employees have the basic assumption that they can openly express problems, concerns and criticism without having to fear hostilities or even being thrown out.

The question remains, how exactly do you establish such a working atmosphere in your own company?

Managers do indeed play a key role in this. They are the ones who should lead by example. For example, it makes sense to approach employees transparently with crises and challenges, instead of leading the team in private. It's tremendously helpful when everyone knows where the company is and where it's going.

How do managers ideally deal with bad news for their employees?

Sending out an email with the news wouldn't be the most sensitive thing. It is better to seek direct dialogue with employees and to be open to questions and criticism. Especially in times of crisis, it is important that employees feel heard and seen.

Let's change the perspective: How should employees address their concerns and criticism in the company?

First of all, they have to be clear about what exactly is bothering them. Sometimes the annoyances in everyday working life are manifold, so it is worth taking a closer look at the causes. Anyone who knows them should then contact a trusted person in the company. That can also be a colleague, it doesn't have to be going straight to a manager. The only important thing is to talk about it.

Many companies are currently encouraging a return from home office to the office, which in turn creates new challenges for many employees. What do you make of it?

Companies should definitely make it as easy as possible for employees to return to the office and invite them to come back. However, I consider a duty to be difficult if the job does not absolutely require it. Because there is always a bit of distrust in one's own team. And of course that's not good for the psychological working atmosphere.

Companies need clear structures for psychological security. Flexibility is becoming increasingly important, especially for the younger generation. How does that go together?

It is important that each and every employee does the task that suits him or her. Then the employees can express their individuality and flexibility within a fixed framework as long as they do their work. It's about enabling autonomy and providing security. Then the employees also feel that they are in good hands and perform well.

Psychological safety sounds like it should almost be mandatory for companies. However, reality shows that many companies have obviously not heard of it. How do you assess the current state of affairs?

You are right, actually it should be standard. But many entrepreneurs just don't have the topic on their radar. But I think that will change soon. Young employees in particular are increasingly paying attention to their mental health and are demanding appropriate measures from their employer. And companies that want to be successful in the long term must therefore learn to respond to their employees and their needs.

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