Gallup Business Journal: Why has psychological injury become such a concern in the workplace?
Damian Byers, Ph.D.: Health and safety in the workplace is often looked at from a cost point of view. Psychological injury has become a well-recognized category of injury, and the rate of increase is skyrocketing. So the people who are most vociferous about managing it tend to be the finance people. And because of the risk exposure associated with any kind of injury, there’s often interest from [corporate] boards as well. But they’re usually interested in aggregated macro lag indicators, such as lost-time injury frequency rate or other kinds of overall incident rate indicators, not individual cases.
The problem is that boards and finance people are a long way from the day-to-day work of a line manager. Line managers don’t see the cost of psychological injury, but they’re accountable for it because they’re accountable for team performance. And because the metrics of injury are macro lag indicators, they don’t guide decisions or change behaviors for anybody. Lagging indicators don’t tell people what they need to do.
What causes psychological injuries?
Dr. Byers: It’s almost always [the result of] a failure of management practice and process, particularly a breakdown in the management relationship. In most of the cases that I have analyzed in the organizations that I have worked in, we’re talking about bad manager-worker relationships and a well-established, unproductive, poisonous dynamic within a team. These dynamics are the result of poor people management practices and often poor people management tools and policies. The remedy there is well and truly in the hands of senior line managers.