Why Collective Partnering is the must have skill for Psychosocial Safety

ISO 45003… heard of it?

If not, let’s get you ahead of the wave that’s coming your way as a leader…

Mentally Safe and Healthy Workplaces – a legal requirement

ISO 45003 is the first global standard on managing psychological health in the workplace. It provides guidance on the management of psychosocial risk and is applicable to organizations of all sizes and in all sectors for the development, implementation, maintenance and continual improvement of psychologically safe and healthy workplaces.

The Standard is being adopted at a national level, which here in Australia is through Safe Work Australia. (You can see a Model Code of Practice for the Standard here.) It’s also making its way into State legislation, for example SafeWork NSW has an approved Code of Practice for Managing Psychosocial Hazards under section 274 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act). It’s expected to be in all States in the next 12 – 24 months.

Defining the terms – Psychosocial Hazards and Risk

In Australia, ‘psychosocial hazards’ means any factor in the design, systems, management, or carrying out of work which may cause an employee to experience a negative psychological response that creates a risk to health and safety. The definition also extends to personal or work-related interactions.

The new regulations give examples of ‘psychosocial hazards’ as bullying, sexual harassment, aggression or violence, exposure to traumatic events or content, low or high job demands, lack of support or organisational justice, role clarity, poor environmental conditions including remote or isolated work, poor organisation management, poor change management, low recognition and reward, and poor workplace relationships.

‘Psychosocial risk’ relates to the potential for these types of hazards to negatively impact individual health, safety and wellbeing and/or organizational performance and sustainability.

The ‘So What’ for Leaders

The legislation places the primary duty of care on the PCBU – the person conducting a business or undertaking. And this is where leaders need to take note…

The term PCBU captures all types of working arrangements or structures: a company, an unincorporated body or association, a sole trader or self-employed person. Individuals who are in a partnership that is conducting a business will individually and collectively be a PCBU.

There is also a requirement for ‘leadership and management commitment’ to this work. The Code states “Effective management of psychological health and safety risks starts with a commitment from you and others who operate and manage your business or undertaking.”

So whether you are a business owner or employed as a leader in an organisation, the responsibility for meeting the requirements of the legislation is with you, which means you need to eliminate psychosocial hazards or if that’s not possible, to reduce the risk so far as is reasonably practicable.

Not just ‘What’ but ‘How’…

But the legislation goes further than just prescribing the psychosocial hazards that PCBUs (leaders) need to address; it also describes the process – how it needs to be done.

The Code recognises workers’ input and participation can improve decision-making about psychosocial safety and places a duty on organisations (… leaders) to consult with their people. In fact, it suggests that consultation is a key element of providing a psychologically healthy and safe work environment.

And this is the role of Collective Partnering.

Collective Partnering – the must have mindset and skill

I’ve talked before about the ‘withing’ nature of Partnering.

When we ‘with’, we generate ‘co-active power’, we provide opportunity for voice, we invite different perspectives and create space for empowerment and co-creation. This is in stark contrast to the disempowerment of doing things ‘for’ people or the domination power of doing things ‘to’ them.

Mary Parker Follett – one of Peter Drucker’s gurus – first spoke of power-with instead of power-over in the late 1800s.  She knew exactly what we needed today; it’s as if she was speaking to today’s times…

Mary found that the best leaders didn’t rely on hierarchical power. They made people feel like they were generating power-with, together – by listening to, consolidating, and integrating other people’s ideas.

In fact, Mary thought that integration was the only desirable outcome of any meeting. When people integrate their ideas, they make a whole new thing together, rather than ending in one party’s submission, a hard-fought victory, or a mutually unsatisfying compromise.
Too often it’s this win-or-lose strategy that keeps us from true withing and co-creation.

Mary’s advice was that we shouldn’t go into a meeting ready to force our ideas on people. Instead, we should go in expecting to need others, expecting to be needed, and expecting to be changed.

I’ve come to understand this through colours…
We each enter a conversation or meeting with our experiences, beliefs and values, which means we have a particular perspective – we could call that ‘blue’ or ‘yellow’ – and as we engage in the conversation and partner with others, we should expect that colour to change from our original blue or yellow to something different – let’s say green. Because as we expand our perspectives we create a third space that is not ‘blue’ or ‘yellow’ but that draws from all of the experience and wisdom in the room.

Building the mindset and skills of Partnering is critical for leaders going forward…

Because this is how we generate co-active power and ‘with’ rather than ‘to’ or ‘for’ our teams, this is how each member of the group feels just as valued as the next, and how we focus energy on the situation we face together, rather than on managing and controlling each other.

It’s how we ‘get to green’ rather than staying stuck in yellow or blue.

The wave of ISO 45003 is in our shores and it’s coming your way. Building your Partnering mindset and skills will help you ride it more successfully

So, how could you ‘get to green’ today?

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