During my travels in Europe, I have been privileged to meet with various academics, businesspeople, and community folk. At the core of our discussions has been what constitutes personal and professional growth, particularly in a global period of dynamic change. Even more specific has been the discussion of the workplace context and how it impacts individuals, how they turn up for work every day, and how others see them turn up. What has changed? What has not?
The power of context is a critical factor in all environments. Goldwell (2015, p.152) outlines that our “inner states are the result of our outer circumstances.” We are less likely to be our best when we feel psychologically unsafe in our workplace. Elson, (2021, p.1) stipulates that “the power of context is the ability to approach professional situations in a more empathetic manner after understanding the surrounding circumstances.” What does this all mean? As leaders, we are responsible for getting to know the people we work with or who work for us. We need to understand their ‘why’, and instead of being judgmental of their thoughts and opinions, why not seek to understand before being understood? (Covey, 2020)
In Australia, the annual mobility survey published by the Bureau of Statistics (May 2022) showcases an increase in worker movement from 7.5%-9.5%, with the prediction for this to increase. Interestingly, research on behalf of the Australian College of Applied Professionals in 2021, found that 65% of workers indicated that their line managers struggled with soft skills. Mallick (2021) highlighted that toxic managers and their gaslighting of employees is an ongoing challenge. As a result, organisations are “racing” to develop their leaders for $370 billion yearly. This is not a national but a global challenge. What does that mean for a committed leader?
· Consider investigating the negative narrative provided by your manager about specific employees.
· Determine what is going on.
· Is it that there are hidden agendas?
· Is it that there is mateship in play where cliques oust employees for reasons only known to them?
· Have a conversation with the person who is being gaslighted. What is going on for them?
When examining the power of context, we must be fully aware of what is happening in our teams and organisations. Be on the lookout for high performers who disengage. Be curious and not furious.
· Ensure that the employees have a seat at the meeting table.
· Work with them to find opportunities that grow them.
· Performance Appraise your manager.
Take some time and think about what type of leader you are. What story are you sharing about the people with whom you work? If it is a negative story, what are the facts? What are your biases?
What can you do to make your work environment psychologically safe?