Psychologically safe interactions workshop

These free workshop materials help show how behaviours might be interpreted as bullying, regardless of intent. Included is a slide presentation, facilitator guide and participant handout.

What is covered in the workshop?

The Psychologically safe interactions workshop is a set of resources to help prevent bullying, whether intentional or unintentional. The workshop resources are based on the premise that most of us, including those in management and union roles, don’t intend to bully and aren't aware that our behaviour can be experienced as harmful by co-workers and employees.

There are 3 main areas covered in the workshop:

Perception versus intention

Without asking participants to share their personal reflections you will pose questions that help them think about how their behaviours and reactions impact others. Sometimes, people experience behaviour as harmful even when it wasn’t intended that way. In fact, it can be shocking to hear different interpretations of things we said or did. But there is a difference between our intentions and someone else’s perception.

Checking assumptions about others

Continuing with questions participants will reflect on how they interpret the behaviours of others as intentionally hurtful or malicious. By examining our assumptions rather than seeing them as and choose how we react to build resilience against the effects of psychologically unsafe behaviour.

Moral courage

The last area is moral courage. This is our ability to intervene in a respectful way.
When we witness psychologically unsafe behaviour, we may:

  • Feel uncomfortable intervening
  • Believe we don’t have the authority to intervene. This is especially true when the person exhibiting
    the behaviour has more power or rank than we do.
  • Fear the consequences if we choose to intervene
  • Worry it could look like we’re bullying the bully.

What are psychologically safe interactions?

Psychologically safe interactions don’t cause undue stress or fear in others, but support all employees to:

  • Feel safe speaking up about legitimate concerns in the workplace
  • Effectively resolve most disagreements themselves
  • Respectfully intervene when witnessing inappropriate behaviour
  • Feel included and valued

This doesn’t mean that we will never disagree or that we won’t occasionally have a bad day. It does mean that our disagreements and bad days will not have a significant negative impact on others. Some ways we can make interactions psychologically safer could include:

  • Someone disagrees with you by insulting your intelligence – acknowledge that there is room for difference of opinion, but ask that we stick to the issue rather than make things personal. For example, when someone else speaks, the person who was just insulted doesn’t have to respond.

  • A leader provides feedback that’s negative – train leaders on constructive feedback. You could also ask specifically how you could do things differently to improve, rather than focusing on the negative feedback.

  • Someone takes credit for your work – if you hear this about someone else, ask who else contributed to the work to give the person an opportunity to be more inclusive. If it’s about you, ask for feedback on how your contribution helped or not.

  • A client, patient or customer is upset – depending on the setting, you may not have the authority to do anything in the moment, but we can take de-escalation training to help us deal with confrontational situations so they’re less harmful to us and others. We can also develop a process to help each other debrief after confrontational situations so we feel the support of our team.

Workshop materials

Psychologically safe interactions workshop

Prevent bullying and increase psychological health and safety by improving awareness of how workplace behaviours may be interpreted as harmful, even when that isn’t our intention.

Included in the presentation and facilitator's guide is an outline to help improve processes and agree upon appropriate and respectful (psychologically safe) team interactions. The participant's workbook is ready to copy and print or email prior to facilitating your sessions.