Worryingly low levels of psychological safety for many businesses

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PRIOR to COVID-19, many boards and executive committees failed to engage in uncomfortable conversations in the workplace.

A report by the Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland and the Centre for Synchronous Leadership indicates that workplaces are not always the best at dealing with psychological issues.

Out of the boards and committees that were asked about confronting mental health issues in the workplace 75% reported that admitting mistakes was not a regular occurrence with 43% indicating that this rarely happened.

justine lutterodt| Business News Scotland
Justine Lutterodt, Managing Director at Centre for Synchronous Leadership(Photo from The Chartered Governance Institute)

Out of those surveyed 71% reported that surfacing or challenging core assumptions was not a regular occurrence and 31% indicated that this rarely happened.

Justine Lutterodt, Managing Director at Centre for Synchronous Leadership says: “We’ve known for years that lack of psychological safety in the boardroom is a problem, but this study highlights the scale of it at a time when it has become even more business critical.

“The report suggests that we need to pay more attention to how healthy dynamics are being cultivated in between meetings.

“It makes intuitive sense that boards and executive committees that take the time to clarify their shared values and objectives, understand the expertise they bring to the table and establish ground rules will have a different level of discussion than those that do not.

“The collective ownership this engenders shifts the role of chairs from policeman to facilitator. Boards and executive teams are overstretched as it stands, so this evidence may help in justifying the investment of time.”

Peter Swabey| Business News Scotland
Peter Swabey, Policy and Research Director at the Institute (Photo from The Chartered Governance Institute)

Peter Swabey, Policy and Research Director at the Institute concludes:“Boardrooms are not meant to be comfortable places where everyone agrees with everyone else 100% of the time.

“Board members are meant to challenge the information that they are presented with as challenge and debate is part of the effective oversight of management and the decision-making process.

“There has long been a drive to improve diversity in the boardroom as diversity of thinking is recognised as a fundamental part of boardroom effectiveness.

“Boardroom dynamics play a crucial role too so it is troubling to think that so few boards are truly challenging the status quo.”