Foster a safe and open environment

Safety is at the core of dignity. In a safe environment, people can speak up, give feedback, and bring up dignity violations without fear of being ignored or punished. They also need to feel confident that workplace safety measures are being followed.

An open and safe environment is essential to ensuring a dignity-centered workplace.

A crucial element of honoring dignity is creating and maintaining an environment where people feel safe—to speak up (including to their manager), give feedback, offer a different perspective, and raise an actual or perceived dignity violation without fear of being ignored, judged, or punished. The difference between how managers and their reports view this kind of safety is stark: In our own research with Willis Towers Watson, we found that while most senior leaders (79 percent) believe they encourage employees to speak up, only 51 percent of employees agreed. Promoting open dialogue advances dignity, and it is crucial in a heavily “work remote” environment, where ideas can be raised only via technology such as email, messaging, and video.

A lack of psychological safety is a barrier to other elements of dignity—people won’t feel included or have a sense of belonging, for example, if they feel unsafe.

What is the manager’s responsibility?

Leading by example, managers can foster psychological safety by encouraging people on teams to speak up, admitting their own mistakes, and acknowledging their blind spots. In doing so, they are honoring dignity by encouraging the open expression of ideas and employee voices. As organizational psychologist Adam Grant has written, “In every team and every organization, the responsibility for creating psychological safety starts at the top. When people get penalized for voicing problems and concerns, they learn that it’s not safe to speak up. It’s up to those in power to open the door—and keep it open.” (Learn More) The manager plays a key role in setting the dignity tone. Here, that means explicitly creating room for disagreement, opening channels of effective communication, and showing fallibility. Where psychological safety is high and paired with robust performance standards that are clear and in service of organizational goals, employees will thrive.

Finally, the manager must help ensure that all applicable workplace safety measures are followed.

What you can do: Actions

1. Demonstrate through your words and actions that you encourage and welcome all perspectives—even if they are not popular or easy to discuss, or they raise a conflict.

2. To encourage people to speak up, acknowledge your own vulnerability.

3. Listen, stop, and reflect, and be mindful of your body language.

4. Constructively approach conflict and difficult conversations.

5. Value and respect everyone’s contributions.

6. Show appreciation for various points of view and experiences.

7. Don’t encourage gossip.

8. Be mindful of workplace safety issues.

9. Valuing employees who lead internal initiatives (Tool)

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