Workplace Wellness: Filling your Leadership Toolbox- The Top Five Ways to Develop a Culture of Care
You can’t build a house without the right tools. It’d be impossible to construct a new Tudor with a Rubik’s cube, tennis racquet, and a chocolate chip cookie. Now, imagine establishing a successful workplace culture without trust, empathy, and clear communication. While not as obvious, it’s equally unrealistic.
A psychologically safe culture in the office (or remotely) strengthens team bonds, increases productivity and encourages creative problem solving. Read on for five ways you can start building a workplace you’re proud of and where employees want to work.
Remember that Good Communication is a Two-Way Street
It’s official - the days of fear-based leadership are gone. I once had a CEO who’d get so angry he’d turn red berating everyone. Every. Single. Day. It took me YEARS to realize this wasn’t OK (and that it didn’t improve anyone’s work).
Communication starts at the top and leadership sets the tone. If you want employees to be honest, they need to trust you’ve made space to receive legitimate feedback. This often requires genuine and transparent communication.
Give your Employees Permission to Fail
Employees with space to make mistakes grow empowered to take risks and arrive at their own decisions. I once published an article that was missing a KEY detail. This didn’t feel great. But I issued a correction and created a process to prevent similar issues.
Years later, I’m always cognizant to avoid that mistake and I still remember the entire conversation with the manager who explained my error.
My point? Employees are often hardest on themselves and remember mistakes more than wins. Real leaders don't dwell on failures, they celebrate successes, and TRUST that employees will work to the best of their abilities- mistakes included.
Focus on Lessons Learned
Mistakes are opportunities for growth. After an error, focusing on problem-solving rather than punishment is imperative. Use these moments to teach employees how to succeed in the future – not in an “I told you so” way, but in a “we’ve all been there” manner. Ensuring your teams possess the language these conversations require will likely lead to fewer inaccuracies.
Model Psychologically Safe Behaviors
It’s not enough to simply say “we’re a psychologically safe organization”; you must support your claim with actions. Leaders set the company’s standards and employees will likely emulate their behavior (culture in the making). If you talk openly about anxiety, stress, or needing to take a break and go for a walk, employees will too. Workers want these conversations- just open the door.
Emphasize Empathy Above All Else
Empathy involves caring about your employees as real people and not viewing them as “cogs in the machine”. We all have lives outside of work and appreciating your employees’ other commitments is essential. Successful managers focus on what employees need instead of blindly following protocol. Empathy and flexibility should always reign supreme- these attributes are the beating heart of every great organizational culture and psychologically safe workplace.
Written by Dr. Lisa Desai, Psy.D. Dr. Desai has over 25 years of clinical and administrative experience across delivery systems in college counseling, community mental health, hospitals, and private practice. In her current role at MindWise, Dr. Desai leads the development and implementation of behavioral health programs for workplaces and communities, with the goal of building psychologically safe environments and reaching at-risk and underserved populations. She oversees the MindWise behavioral health screening platform and regularly consults with partners across various sectors. Dr. Desai is committed to understanding and addressing specific, contemporary behavioral health needs and working collaboratively to expand access to resources. She enjoys spending time with family and friends and is fluent in Gujarati.