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The Great Unmasking

As governments remove requirements to wears masks to curb Covid-19, there are mixed sentiments, from employers and employees alike, about whether we should so quickly display our smiling faces again or retain face masks until we have eliminated all risk. 

That’s an issue related to our physical health. But there is another issue that needs to be unmasked, and it’s about employers disregarding (or not appreciating the importance of) the psychological safety of their employees. An indicator of the poor recognition or support given to diversity, equality, and inclusion (aka DEI) initiatives within organizations.

Both matters have layers of complexity that merit proper discussion. But while Covid-19 dominates much of the workplace narrative in recent time it’s clear that psychological safety and DEI have been left with far too little attention from business leaders. 

When left unchecked this has the potential to pave the way for unsavory forms of oppression, discrimination, and bullying. Scores of companies have suffered from overlooking workplace DEI issues, often incurring heavy financial costs in avoidable fines. And it has also created untold reputational damages that no PR campaigns can spin away.

Why is this important?  Refocusing efforts on DEI and psychological safety opens a judgment-free zone to raise concerns, challenge assumptions, share thoughts, or ask questions about (for instance) your organization’s future workplace plans. These questions may not resonate with everyone—but they need to be discussed without fear of getting ignored, called out or worse. 

Listen to employees and take their concerns on board 

When leaders show genuine concern for their people’s wellbeing, it gives employees real trust and confidence knowing their interests are carefully considered and removes any hidden anxieties that may arise at work. 

Elaine Murphy, SVP for LiveTiles in EMEA, welcomes how leaders are increasingly placing psychological safety as a priority item on their agendas: “Psychological safety has become a must for all workplaces. It is vital that companies incorporate it in training for all employees and rethink how to continually invest in fostering a psychologically safe environment. This helps pave the way for enhanced employee wellbeing and engagement and ultimately allows individuals and teams perform at their optimum levels and feel more connected to company values”. 

Leaders understand how crucial it is to feel their people’s pulse. And this is where DEI comes into action. By initiating DEI-led efforts, companies get to tap their community of great ideas and hidden talents. This entails actively listening and facilitating knowledge sharing and apply ideas that can benefit and better represent the organization.  

To make the right decisions, employers need to consider and respect employees’ personal choices and circumstances. Psychological safety means valuing people’s concerns, dispelling fears, validating their preferences, removing any form of judgment. And a company’s DEI policy should empower the employee voice and strive only to support and include them. 

This involves making them feel at ease speaking about matters they feel uncomfortable about or being participants in creating a people-focused workplace. The hybrid workplace is an opportunity for leaders to show how they will apply DEI and psychological safety efforts with the same intent as protecting employee morale to demonstrate genuine concern for and empathy with their people.