I have worked as a consultant for several unions, and it has always been a great place to work as the people are humanists and hold values like democracy and equality very high. But when it comes to Psychological Safety, I would have expected it to be more up to my standards. Anxiety is the word I would like to use to summarise the work environment at Unions. Not really fear, as Psychological Safety indicates, but a moulding gut feeling that people don’t trust you and double check behind your back to make sure that they will not personally be impacted if you fail.
In January 2022 I reached out to the biggest Unions in Sweden to check how they work with Psychological Safety. And I was disappointed. Few of the Unions seemed to understand my questions – and even fewer answered them. My conclusion is that the union representatives in all Swedish companies do not know what Psychological Safety is, and so cannot achieve it. The unions have a responsibility to educate their representatives so they, in their turn, can create safe workplaces as a “Workplace Safety Ombudsman”! They are skilled in physical safety and make sure you don’t slip and hurt yourself, but if you are feeling down, bullied, or excluded at work in any way, they redirect you to healthcare and dodge their responsibility of preventing an unhealthy working environment. In the training material for this role one union tells us it is important to “make sure people don’t become sick due to organisation or psycho-social factors”. That’s about it. Nothing about how to do it.