PSA: How do you safeguard a healthy and productive working culture?

Research shows that many employees have to deal frequently with undesirable behaviour or integrity issues. In fact, 1 in 6 employees in the Netherlands are confronted with bullying, (sexual) intimidation, discrimination or aggression in the workplace. The consequences of undesirable behaviour are major and have a significant negative impact on people and organisations. Misconduct contributes to psychosocial workplace hazards and stress (in Dutch: “Psychosociale Arbeidsbelasting” or PSA) and leads to more burnout, more absenteeism and poorer general health. Health issues are sleeping problems, depressions, and burn-out cases estimated at an additional absenteeism of 7 working days per victim which comes down to €1.7 billion per year. Undesirable behaviour has received worldwide media attention (e.g. #Me too) and reputational damage to companies including high-level embarrassment is not uncommon.

Most workplace misconduct is still not addressed properly, let alone reported. Nevertheless, more progressive organisations realize they are risking considerable damage from misconduct and start to acknowledge that current remedies for undesirable behaviours are not sufficient (enough). Apart from legal obligations lied out in the Working Conditions Act (Arbowet), they also understand that happy employees are often more productive at work They therefore would like to take responsibility for the idea that every employee is entitled to a socially safe working environment. The question is how to achieve this and what measures can they take.

Confidentiality Counsellor

All employees should have access to someone in- or outside the organisation they can talk to in confidence. They can then discuss any inappropriate behaviour they’ve experienced or witnessed and what options are available to them before deciding what action to take. Confidentiality counsellors are trained for this role; Their main tasks are:

  • offering guidance and counselling to the victim and/or bystanders
  • offering support in effective conflict management and -resolution
  • identifying patterns of undesirable behaviour and providing solicited and unsolicited advice to management
  • working with organisations implementing well-designed policies and communicating to staff
  • provide people management and ethical leadership training

According to a national survey, not more than 1 out of 8 employees have access to a confidentiality counsellor. Member of Parliament Wim-Jan Renkema has proposed a bill with changes to the Working Conditions Act that aims to make the confidentiality counsellor mandatory in every organisation. Confidentiality counsellors play an important role in preventing and limiting the harmful consequences of undesirable behaviour on both employees and employers. Many organisations understand the value proposition and are motivated to use confidentiality counsellors. They can proactively help safeguarding a healthy and productive working culture. Does your organisation need the support of an external confidentiality counsellor?

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