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When employees don't have psychological safety at work, it costs their bosses the most

The number of people quitting their jobs could have less to do with the actual work and more to do with how employees are treated.

DENVER — Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of millions of Americans have quit their jobs. A Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed employers advertised 10.9 million job openings, up from 10.8 million the previous month.

But the mass exodus of employees isn't necessarily indicative of people not liking what they do. Mental health experts say many people are in search of employers who make them feel more psychologically safe.

Psychological safety describes “a workplace where one feels that one’s voice is welcome with bad news, questions, concerns, half-baked ideas and even mistakes," licensed psychotherapist Heather Hans said. "Employees need to know that they're cared for. They need to know that they're more than what they produce."

Traci Sitzmann, a professor of management at CU Denver, said this movement, now commonly referred to as "The Great Resignation," is showing of "people standing up for themselves." Sitzmann said people are no longer accepting jobs where they feel they are paid or treated unequally.

"People are standing up for themselves in a way that a 'shareholder first' model may no longer be making sense in Corporate America," she said.

Hans said if a person isn't secure emotionally or physically at work, "they're going to have a limited life there before the stress starts to take a toll." She said research supports this kind of stress affects one out of every two employees and some of the reasons are: dealing with a difficult boss, setting unreal targets, excessive demands, being given tasks outside of an employee's role, lack of praise and emotional volatility.

"When this happens, you're going to see a high turnover, low morale, a lot of absenteeism," Hans said. "And that all costs the employer a lot of time and money."

"So, what we're saying then is that the firms are taking hits to their bottom line when they are mistreating workers," Hans said. 

Hans shared some advice for employees to retain workers:

  • Give employees some control over their jobs
  • Give employees a voice
  • Provide employees with helpful feedback
  • Give employees praise
  • Celebrate employees' milestones
  • Give employees more personal communication
  • Take research-backed leadership courses

RELATED: The Great Resignation: Why are people quitting their jobs in Colorado?

RELATED: Why are so many Coloradans quitting their jobs?


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