At the recent Human Resources Professionals Association
(HRPA) 2018 Annual Conference and Trade Show, a panel ses-sion,
“Developing Psychologically Safe Leaders,” addressed those
very issues. The panel was made up of Sarah Jenner, national man-ager,
Mindful Employer Canada; Elina Fonariov, senior human
resources administrator at Participation House; Linda Brogden,
an occupational health nurse with the University of Waterloo; and
Christine McGregor, human resources advisor at Community &
Home Assistance to Seniors.
McGregor noted that while the goal of the organization is to
train and equip managers with the tools to incorporate wellness
policies into the workplace, the road can still be an uphill battle.
There are examples, she said, where discussion can be had about
things like accommodation or other mental health issues and, in
her words, “I have a manager say, ‘Why do we have to deal with
this?’ And so, it’s not unusual to have those archaic values still
come up. However, as we progressed in the sessions and applied
the tools, the individual who had expressed reservation said,
‘Well, I can do that.’”
In other words, McGregor explained that education in the right
context and with the right tools could change the minds of manag-ers
who are sceptical or “old-school thinkers.” Even within sessions
at the workplace, she said, attitudes can change so long as the tools
are presented properly.
Fonariov noted that her goals to undertake this effort were also
to help managers improve their ability to deal with the challenges
and situations that occur as a result of mental health issues in
“I try to emphasize to managers that we need to think of our staff
and their mental health and safety as a priority so they can provide
good care to residents, which is our mission,” she said. Managers can
oftentimes be too focused on day-to-day operations, she added, and
it was important to also re-focus their attention towards the mental
health of staff and not just of clients or residents.
In the case of the University of Waterloo, Brogden said there is a
two-fold mental health problem. There is the fact that students are
going to faculty with issues that require solutions, but it is the fac-ulty
themselves that have to both learn how to address these issues
and also be able to take care of their own issues.
“If you can’t train your employees to look after themselves and
be healthy and understand what their tools and resources are for
themselves, then how can you expect them to be there to support a
student who is having difficulties?”
To do that, Brogden used the resources of Mindful Employer.
She said that it was difficult at first, but once faculty understood
why the tools were being introduced, it became an easier task. She
started with senior faculty/staff.
“They’re hungry for information and so we got buy-in right away
when we wanted to do this,” she said. She added that employees
were interested in helping others, but also mindful of not putting
themselves at too much risk by asking too many personal questions.
Rather than having all the answers, learning about the tools helped
them realize that listening was just as, if not more, important than
having solutions and gave staff the confidence to listen and know
how to help.
“That’s really what it’s all about,” said Brogden. “We have a start
and we are seeing change.”
Over time, panellists, who oftentimes started programs alone,
eventually received buy-in from senior management on the benefits
of a psychologically safe workplace. Sessions became more frequent
and discussions became more open. The consensus at the panel was
that pushing this kind of agenda in the workplace required encour-agement
and a tone set by the most senior levels of an organization.
Support, at all levels, is the key to a successful program. n
health & safety
THE STANDARD HAS
PROVIDED A DEFINITION
OF WHAT CONSTITUTES A
SYSTEM OF WORK – A
LACKING IN THE LAW.
sdecoret / 123RF Stock Photo
32 ❚ MAY 2018 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL