Safety and Security in the Workplace – A Caring Environment
Our brains are wired for survival, so physical safety and emotional security are paramount. When employees feel threatened, they start making decisions to ensure their own job security rather than focus on the best interests of the company. They start acting defensively, blaming others, and being exceptionally careful. They are not creative or team-oriented.
The absence of very clear signs of acceptance can create anxiety. No matter how secure a person seems to be, some part of them is keeping an eye out for warnings that they are in danger of being rejected. So, if people don’t feel cared for, or valued, or important by the organization, then they are less likely to feel safe and secure and to perform well.
These are hard-wired reactions. And this is why, from my point of view, it’s just plain common sense that leaders make intentional efforts to manage some of these basic emotional responses. Making people feel valued reduces stress, allows people to engage in the work at hand, and helps them commit to the mission of the organization.
W. Edwards Deming said that it is critical to ‘drive out fear.’ Fear stirs up instinctive worries, leaving workers insecure and unable to function at their best. The most effective way we know to drive out fear is to make people feel cared for. When there aren’t concerted efforts to have the staff feel valued, fear can easily creep in. Workers need specific people, like their manager or supervisor, to show caring for them at work.
When people feel cared for they have the best shot at thinking clearly. Companies benefit. Employees can then take those kinds of creative and intellectual leaps that can make a company dramatically more successful. In an accepting culture, people take risks because they feel they won’t be rejected if they fail. Banishing fear is a prerequisite for innovation. What it takes is managers and supervisors taking the trouble to show that they care.
Tom DeMaio, PhD