What Most People Don’t Know About Psychological Injury at Work

Traditionally, when speaking of Workplace Health and Safety, psychological injury is not something we thought about. But, as many professionals have realized lately, a Workplace Health and Safety strategy is severely incomplete without taking psychological injury into account. (for help creating a Mental Health Workplace Strategy visit www.wmhi.com.au) Psychological injury is also known as psychiatric injury, and it includes all mental, emotional and physical injuries acquired from the place of employment. Employees that suffer from a psychological injury due to an employer’s negligence can take legal steps against their employers, so it is essential to create a safe working environment to prevent such occurrences. Legally, it’s no longer ok to ignore the psychological safety of employees. Managers are now liable.

Yet, how do we know if an employee is at risk of psychological injury at work? One symptom of employees that are suffering from psychological injuries is a noticeable and measurable reduction in their production or in the way they handle, or their inability to handle, emotional issues. Psychological Injury at WorkFor example, they may become acutely defensive even when feedback given in a reasonable manner. Unfortunately, many businesses refuse to recognize that a place of business can have a severe psychological impact on its employees. However, considering that employees in full-time employment spend a significant portion of their time at work,it is clear that a workplace plays a vital role in an employee’s life. As well as their psychological state.

Traditionally, psychological injury was thought to be brought about by stressors in the workplace such as extremely high workloads, difficult employees, unrealistic deadlines or unrewarding work. Under this assumption, it was thought that a combination of stressors in a place of business increased the risk of psychological injury significantly. However, according to recent studies, other crucial factors can affect or cause mental injury at work. According to these studies, relationships at work and the level of support given to employeesis more likely to cause psychological injuries than anything else. In this regard, the less supported, the less valued and the less understood an employee feels at work, the greater the risk of a psychological injury.

This not only indicates that a change of attitude and behavior is required from employers;it also emphasizes the need to establish interpersonal relationships with employees.  A positive relationship between employers and their employees creates a platform to handle conflicts well, which reduces the number of psychological injury claims made by employees. Additionally, through positive work relationships, collaborative behavior is encouraged, which promotes the establishment of considerationsthat can regulate the number of psychological injury cases that may arise.

A business that supports its employees through flexible arrangements makes employees feel valued, which encourages productivity in the personal and business lives of employees. To reduce conflict brought about by psychological injuries, it is essential for employers to create a safe work environment that is free of discriminatory practices and one that fosters positive work relationships between employees of all levels. By instituting training, campaigns and prevention strategies, employees can become more engaged, happier and less inclined to take legal action.

It takes effort, from both the employers and their employees to reduce the instances of injury. But, ultimately, it’s the employers responsibility to take the initiative to create a psychologically safe environment at work.

We help management create psychologically safe environments, and minimise psychological injury, with our many programs. In particular, our flagship course the Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders. Check it out and see if it can help you too.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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