Psychologically Safe, What Does It Mean?

Psychologically Safe. What does this mean and how do we keep our employees psychologically safe when disasters strike? A person can wish they had a crystal ball that would show them everything to prepare for, unfortunately, that is not the case. We as humans and as leaders must prepare ourselves and those around us in the best way we can, without knowing the future.  

Recently I read the article “Keeping People Psychologically Safe When Disaster Strikes” by Dr. Bill Howatt and Michel Rodrigue, and the opening line of the article is so true, “We all experience crisis at some point in our lives.” A person will experience a crisis in their life, but when? but how? Those are the questions that are never answered until after that crisis makes its presence known.

A particularly intriguing aspect of the article was what was listed as a critical event. Most would assume critical events are emergencies and disasters, however, the article included social conflicts and personal crises as critical events as well. Although this is not what immediately comes to mind, they are right!

If you consider the 13 Psychosocial Factors in the workplace, Factor #2 is Psychological Support, a work environment where coworkers and supervisors are supportive of employees’ psychological and mental health concerns and respond appropriately as needed. Would focusing on that factor help to plan for a critical event? Absolutely! An even more important factor may be Factor #12 Psychological Protection, this is where a work environment ensures the psychological safety of its employees. We have the duty to protect our employees, and we must plan ahead for the “what ifs?” that could come.

We often think of the negative effects that a crisis can have on a worker, however, Dr. Bill Howatt and Michel Rodrigue shared a study about the positives it can bring to the workplace. Pushing aside the shock, helplessness, worry, fear, guilt, etc., they went on to highlight that those employees may also see a boost in morale and greater appreciation for life as people come together to support each other.

Personally, I think we focus sometimes on the negatives of the “what ifs?” and forget about the positives. Humans are strong individuals and when given the right opportunity and tools, we will strive to succeed and come together in the most unfortunate of situations.

As leaders – I challenge you! I challenge you to look at the critical events that could arise in your organization and push to see, have you thought of them all? If you have that’s great! Now consider what comes next. When the event is over, and the crisis adverted (or not), what comes next? Have you begun to look at how to support your employees post-event? Will you be able to keep them psychologically safe?

Unsure where to begin? Reach out to an advisor today and Service Hospitality can help you through all the emergency responses and crisis response planning.


If you are not a part of our Mental Health Best Practice Group, please consider joining. In the fall, the MHBPG will be meeting in person and are proud to present the wonderful Dr. Bill Howatt.

Dr. Bill Howatt will be sharing his Master Class in Workplace Mental Health. This program provides leaders skills they need to make a change and answer some of the most challenging questions that organizations struggle with such as – how do we get started; how do we best engage workers; what programs and policies should we have; and perhaps most importantly, how do we know what we are doing is working?

Dr. Bill Howatt will guide you through an engaging and interactive learning experience that combines human behaviour theory, workplace mental health research and applied psychological health and safety learning in three modules:

Module 1: Foundation: How to facilitate a psychologically safe workplace

Module 2: Preparation: what to do and why?

Module 3: Action: Universal protective factors to consider.

To be a part of this group, please contact us at with your name, organization, and contact information to join for FREE today!

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