Three things we learnt about feeling secure at work

Published: 28 Nov 2023

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Well-known clinical psychologist, Nana Tsai delivered an insightful keynote speech on sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace, as well as the approaches that an organisation could adopt to foster growth mindset and ensure individuals feel secure at work.

1.    Sexual harassment is about power

The speaker addressed several misconceptions. Firstly, they clarified that sexual harassment can occur irrespective of the victim's attire or gender. Based on psychological research, sexual harassment fundamentally involves the abuse of power. Nana then cited a government agency's definition, which states that "any unwelcome words or actions related to sex or gender that make another person uncomfortable, uneasy, offended, or insulted constitute sexual harassment." Secondly, given that sexual harassment revolves around power dynamics, the victim's response is more intricate than commonly perceived. Beyond the well-known "fight or flight" responses, a wide range of reactions can occur during or after instances of sexual harassment. Blaming the victim for not immediately resisting or leaving the scene is inappropriate.

2.    Be a confidant to the victim, and never suggest doubt

With regard to bullying in the workplace, Nana indicated the dos-and-don’ts for a colleague who wants to be the “protector” of the bullied. She highlighted that helping the victim to voice out or report to relevant personnel, being the person that the victim could confide in, and providing support to let the victim not feel isolated, are effective measures that a “protector” could take. She also discussed that there are several improper things to say to the victim during this situation including casting any doubt about what actually happened, questioning resistance as well as any delayed reporting on the incident. She flagged that it is advisable to express gratitude for their openness and collaborate on potential solutions.

3.    Lose the stigma around making mistakes to inspire growth and innovation

Nana emphasised the importance of destigmatising mistakes and redefining them to encourage a growth mindset and enhance employee performance.

People often try to hide their mistakes or find workarounds, which can leave the root cause unresolved and worsen problems. Nana framed making mistakes as "discovering that the reality falls outside of your current understanding."

She classified mistakes into three categories:

-    Avoidable Mistakes: These result from deviations in known processes and can be addressed with more training and process redesign.

-    Complex Mistakes: Arising from a combination of events and factors, they can be solved by improving systems, identifying risk factors, and analysing failures from multiple angles.

-    Experimental Mistakes: These occur during the pursuit of progress and innovation. They should be rewarded, documented, analysed, and restarted with new assumptions and designs.

By reshaping the perspective on mistakes, organizstions can foster a growth mindset, which, in turn, promotes a healthy sense of security. Employees with such security tend to perform better.