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Why a dynamic team environment is needed to negate psychosocial risks in the workplace

By Kace O'Neill | |6 minute read

Psychosocial risks in the workplace can be a hazard for a team environment, but there are a number of strategies to nullify them.

HR Leader recently spoke to the founder and chief executive of Leading Well, Vanessa Fudge, about dealing with psychosocial risks in the workplace and the strategies that leaders and employees can deploy to elude any detriments towards wellbeing.

Fudge believes it’s crucial for leaders to create a positive environment for their employees to mitigate psychosocial hazards: “What we want to create for people is an environment that is conducive [to] doing work in a healthy way. So, it’s absolutely a leader’s responsibility to make sure that environment is healthy and sound.”


The definition or understanding of what constitutes a psychosocial risk can be very undistinguished for a number of leaders, which can prove to restrain their ability to negate them.

According to Safe Work Australia, a psychosocial hazard is anything that could cause psychological harm (e.g. harm someone’s mental health). Common psychosocial hazards at work include:

  • Job demands
  • Conflict or poor workplace relationships
  • Poor support
  • Lack of role clarity
  • Poor organisational justice
  • Traumatic events or material
  • Poor physical environment
  • Bullying
  • Sexual and gender-based harassment

“I think what’s so pertinent now is the broadened definition of what poses as a psychosocial risk and leaders needing to expand their awareness and get clearer on what’s entering their responsibilities with this expanded definition,” said Fudge.

Training is a clear answer to this lack of awareness, but Fudge believes it is not enough as it tends to not equip leaders with the needed understanding to change the working environment.

“Training in itself is useful, but it’s not going to equip leaders with the change they need in their environment. For example, role clarity is a psychosocial risk. [To fix that] you need to come back to the strategy, the structure, and the bigger pieces of the leadership narrative and even recast the organisation to meet today’s challenges, particularly if it was built for yesterday’s challenges,” Fudge said.

“So, some of this is going to come down to more serious pieces of leadership work than training and development.”

Healthy dynamics are fundamental to limiting psychosocial risks. Fudge explained that the different departments in the workplace can lead to potential disconnects between staff and cause them to not get along with one another. This is a clear sign that healthy dynamics need to be improved.

“If you think about the organisation as an ecosystem, and we often say we don’t want to forge an ecosystem, we actually want to have a healthy, connected ecosystem, then some of the areas you need to give attention to are things like belonging. What does it mean to belong to our organisation?” Fudge said.

“There’s lots to explore when it comes to healthy dynamics. [If questions aren’t being asked,] it means that dynamics have not been thoroughly attended to and there’s a lack of leadership across that whole ecosystem.”

At the end of the day, healthy dynamics in the workplace come down to the leaders of the organisations. Building cohesion in a team works when the leaders in the organisation provide sound context.

“I’m a bigger fan of team coaching than team building because team coaching is going to hopefully create a memorable experience but also move that team forward towards greater success and ongoing connection,” Fudge said.

“It’s how it’s woven into the leadership narrative. If you can run something like that and link it to your purpose and your vision, it’s so much more successful than running something like that as a more reactive or isolated intervention because often, people don’t really get why they’re there.”

Bringing a team together is so important for leaders. Better relationships and connections lead to a healthier dynamic, which, in turn, lessens the probability of psychosocial risks coming to fruition.

“As long as it’s integrated into the messaging of the leadership, I think things like that can go a long way. There’s been a lot of isolation in the last three to four years, and anything that brings people back together in a way that they can really enjoy and lift everybody’s spirit is going to be a plus,” Fudge concluded.

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Vanessa Fudge, click below:

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill is a Graduate Journalist for HR Leader. Kace studied Media Communications and Maori studies at the University of Otago, he has a passion for sports and storytelling.