Nurturing a supportive work culture

May 19, 2024


Supportive leaders who prioritize communication and psychological safety can foster a positive work environment where employees feel valued and motivated.

In our modern workplaces, the relationship between people leaders and employees is crucial not only for productivity but also for mental well-being and overall employee experience. New research is demonstrating that people leaders have a more significant impact on their employees’ mental health than doctors or even therapists.

Thus a supportive, empathetic, and inclusive supervisor can foster a positive work environment, whereas a toxic or unsupportive one can have detrimental effects on employee mental health. Understanding the dynamics of this relationship is essential for creating healthier workplaces and promoting overall employee well-being and experience.

  • Creating a supportive and inclusive work culture. People leaders play a pivotal role in shaping the culture and climate of the workplace. In an effort to create an inclusive work environment, people leaders can impact the culture positively, so all individuals feel as though they are seen, valued, and heard. A supportive manager or supervisor recognizes the individual strengths and challenges of their team members and provides them with the resources, encouragement, and feedback they need to succeed. By fostering open communication, offering recognition for achievements, and promoting work-life integration, people leaders can create an environment where employees feel valued, motivated, and psychologically safe.
  • Managing stress and workload. One of the primary stressors in the workplace is the pressure to meet deadlines, achieve targets, and manage competing priorities. A supportive supervisor who understands the importance of managing workflows and helps employees set realistic goals, prioritize tasks, and delegate responsibilities when necessary. By fostering a culture of collaboration and flexibility, managers can reduce the risk of burnout and promote healthier work-life integration or balance among their team members.
  • Promoting psychological safety. Psychological safety refers to the belief that one can speak up, take risks, and express opinions without fear of negative consequences. People leaders who prioritize psychological safety create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, concerns, and challenges openly. By actively listening to their team members, providing constructive feedback, and addressing conflicts or issues promptly, supervisors can build trust and mutual respect within the team, ultimately fostering better mental health outcomes.
  • Addressing toxic behavior. Unfortunately, not all people leaders prioritize the well-being of their employees, and toxic behavior in the workplace can have severe consequences for mental health. Micromanagement, favoritism, lack of communication, exclusion in the form of microaggressions related to identity, and bullying are just a few examples of behaviors that can erode employee morale and contribute to stress, anxiety, and depression. It is essential for organizations to address toxic behavior promptly through training, support, and, if necessary, disciplinary action to ensure a healthy work environment for all employees.
  • The role of leadership training. Developing effective leadership skills is essential for bosses to support their employees’ mental health effectively. Leadership training programs can help bosses cultivate empathy, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution skills, and stress management techniques. By investing in the professional development of their leaders, organizations can empower bosses to create positive work environments that promote employee well-being and productivity.

The relationship between managers and employees is a critical factor in determining overall workplace satisfaction and mental health. A supportive people leader who prioritizes communication, recognition, and psychological safety can foster a positive work environment where employees feel valued, motivated, and resilient. Conversely, toxic behavior from managers can contribute to stress, anxiety, and burnout among employees, leading to decreased productivity and increased turnover. By recognizing the importance of the leader-employee relationship and investing in leadership development, organizations can create healthier workplaces and promote the well-being of their employees.

Tips to have a positive impact on employees’ well-being:

  • Provide comprehensive education for people leaders on how to supervise a diverse group of people focused on inclusive leadership.
  • Embrace the principles of inclusive culture and commit, daily, to creating a space where folks can bring their full selves to work and not be met with resistance.
  • Use “working with me” documents to gather information about how individuals prefer to work.
  • Set up one-on-ones that aren’t strictly focused on business but also cultivate psychological safety so folks feel comfortable to share their experiences. 

Victoria Verlezza, Ph.D. is employee experience manager at Fuss & O’Neill, Inc. Contact her at

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