Racialized, Indigenous workers feel more psychologically unsafe at work

Report calls for employers to step up and help workers

Racialized, Indigenous workers feel more psychologically unsafe at work

Canadian workers appear to be comfortable in the workplace.

Nearly nine in 10 working Canadians indicate they are comfortable being themselves at work, and eight in 10 feel they can bring concerns to their manager or senior leadership team, according to a report from ADP.

And 82 per cent of respondents also note their unique skills and talents are used and appreciated at work.

However, it seems that in the workplace, racialized and Indigenous workers are still not enjoying psychological safety – the belief that you won't be punished or humiliated for speaking up, sharing ideas, asking questions or making mistakes at work.

Overall, these workers are nearly twice as likely (36 per cent) as white respondents (21 per cent) to say they feel their colleagues may deliberately act in a way that undermines their efforts at work. Among male members of the racialized and Indigenous group, this number jumps to 40 per cent, found the survey of more than 1,000 Canadian respondents conducted between March 8 and 14, 2022.

"We know strong connections are an indicator of inclusion – a recent ADRI study determined employees who feel strongly connected are 5x less likely to be experiencing discrimination at work," said Heather Haslam, vice president of marketing at ADP. "It is crucial to acknowledge that psychological safety plays a role in building strong connections. Leaders are responsible for creating psychologically safe spaces that build strong connections, create more inclusive environments and better position opportunities to enhance employee engagement, collaboration, and creativity," concluded Haslam.

Nearly half (49 per cent) of racialized and Indigenous workers believe that making a mistake at work will be held against them, however 35 per cent also say it is difficult to ask colleagues or a direct manager for help.

The majority (52 per cent) of Indigenous workers suffer from emotional tax at work, as they are regularly on guard to protect against bias because of race, ethnicity and gender, found another survey released in February 2021.

The growing awareness of mental health in the workplace started before the pandemic, but in the last two and a half years, psychological safety has become a top concern for safety professionals

In February 2021, in time for Black History Month, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) launched a campaign to end systemic racism within psychiatric hospitals by 2022.

But employers still have work to do to ensure all employees feel seen, heard and valued, according to the ADP report.

“It's important to recognize that microaggressions – subtle or unintentional acts of discrimination – can occur in the workplace and psychologically impact employees, often leading to feelings of not being connected,” it said.

“Encouraging an environment that promotes open discussion and action around disadvantage, including microaggressions, and issues of inclusion can help employers create a workplace that promotes psychological safety, a sense of belonging and a culture of advocacy.”

Ninety per cent of Ontarians agree that mental health supports should be available to those who need it and 84 per cent agree access to mental health supports is vital for Ontario to move past the pandemic and ensure the province's economic recovery. However, only 28 per cent feel mental health supports are easy to access, according to a previous report.