Psychological Safety At Work: Everything You Need To Know

The ability to share one’s belief without fear, doubt, and distress in the workplace is what psychological safety takes care of. It can be tackled by building a safe space where the employees are not hesitant in voicing their opinions. A check on psychological safety helps elevate the overall employee performance and the company’s outcome. 

Reasons Why Psychological Safety Matters

A workplace where every voice matters and is welcomed is what all of us expect. Here are a few reasons why psychological safety matters.

  • Enhances Participation

An employee is more likely to contribute to team meetings and company events when they are aloof from the fear of being judged. An inclusive environment, practicing participatory Management, is bound to encourage the members to speak up with confidence, thereby encouraging them to be proactive. 

  • Inclusive Culture

Safe Psychology lets organizations build a diverse culture, giving opportunities to people from all sorts of backgrounds, without discriminating on any grounds. As a result, the transposition of knowledge and innovative ideas is elevated. 

  • Leads to Innovation

It is proven that our fear of being judged hampers our choice to take the big opportunities that come our way. The loss is not just on the individual level; the company, too, is distancing itself from creative and comprehensive ideas. 

  • Health is Our Biggest Asset

Psychological safety is key for the well-being of the employees. A healthy mind, over the mentally stressed employee helps yield greater results for the company. A safe space at the workplace makes way for optimized performance.

  • Respect and Referrals

One way to make the employees feel respected is by adopting the norms of psychological safety. An employee will voluntarily be the ambassador for the company due to its work culture, especially because of feeling psychologically safe, a prerequisite for elevated performance. 

  • Important for Decreasing the Withdrawal Rate

A workplace devoid of a toxic culture is a top priority for the employees and is more significant than the annual pay. According to a study, if psychological safety is in place, people are less likely to leave the organization.

  • Increase in Team Output

A team of employees with high productivity, less turnover rate, opinionated and creative, is bound to elevate the overall output and produce better results than a team that does not recognize psychological safety as one of the pillars for development and quality performance. This is reflected by Google’s Project Aristotle.

The Stages of Psychological Safety

Dr. Timothy Clark, in his book ‘The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation’, has stated that the stages one would be required to clear to make the best out of Psychological safety. 

  • Inclusion Safety

Inclusion Safety fulfills the fundamental human requirement of getting a sense of belonging. Under this state, you accept yourself for who you are and acknowledge your unique characteristics. 

  • Learner Safety

Learner safety lets you learn and develop. You take the initiative by raising questions, taking a risk, experimenting with new things, getting feedback, and learning from mistakes made. 

  • Contributor Safety

Here, you feel confident enough to make a difference by your actions. There is a sense of strong belief in your ability to get the task done and contribute. 

  • Challenger Safety 

This stage involves the self-belief to change the status quo. You are firm in making better changes and leading the organization to the path of development and growth. 

Ways to Ensure Psychological Safety

  • Considerate Engagement

How the team leaders engage with the employees is a primary determinant of the prevalence of psychological safety. The approach should be genuine and thoughtful. 

  • Build Trust

The employees need to feel they are trusted to make them feel more comfortable while keeping their opinions on the table. As a leader, it is wise to let them process through the challenge in front of them without rushing into things. 

  • Lead with Affinity

Listen to the employees, give scrutinized feedback, shower authentic respect and trust them. Do not be a mindless leader by only assigning the work. An employee needs to be offered the above-stated things to foster a psychologically safe environment.  

  • Leave the Ego Behind

Most leaders are not open to feedback and constructive ideas from their subordinates, which is one way to sway you away from the path of adopting psychological safety at your workplace. Healthy communication is applicable for both the leaders as well as the employees. In short, be open to feedback. 

  • Drop the Blame Game

An employer is not to be expected to do things perfectly. Understand that perfection doesn’t exist. If there is an error in the final submission, tackle the issue with a collaborative effort and promote team spirit. 

  • Encourage Informal Conversations

Yes, informal practices in a formal setting such as the office are a great way to develop a sound and psychologically safe space. Pay attention to which employees feel left behind and plan a one-to-one meeting to make them feel like a part of the team. Going the extra mile will be worth it. 

  • Acknowledge the Efforts

A simple act of praising or recognizing the employees’ efforts can have a huge impact. Leaving them feeling unheard or not appreciative can make the employees doubt their potential, causing degradation in output and adversely affecting their mental health. 

  • Analyze Performance

After every project, hold a meeting to reflect back on things the team could have done better, by giving each member a chance to speak up. Record the opinions and implement them in the next project. 

This is a feasible way to improve and create a sense of individuality in each member.

  • Form an Inclusive Environment

Empower the workers to speak openly about their concerns. Being heard is not enough; taking action is when the employee will feel truly heard. Render support to your team in matters where personal help is required. Be it organizing a casual meeting at the end of the month or disclosing an open forum, create a platform where the team can be casual and open about their experience. 

Everyday activities to ensure Psychological safety

  1. Check-in with the team members on a personal level, and the team members should pose the same concern for each other. 
  1. Encourage each other to share what’s causing them stress and how you can help. Make things easier for each other. 
  1. Self-awareness and reflection daily is a good way to recognize what is causing the cluster and will help you organize your work for the day.
  1. Share and learn. More often than not, we are all going through the same stress of work. Talking about it as a team, will make things better. 
  1. Also, encourage and acknowledge when a colleague has improved or is doing great. The validation from leaders and co-workers builds immense confidence. 

The need for executing the norms of psychological safety is felt on a larger scale than ever before, especially with the ongoing pandemic. A workplace detached from the fear of negative consequences, being judged, or embodying the fear of seeking help is bound to scale upwards on the growth ladder. Only a handful of companies recognize the importance of psychological safety, which needs to be changed. 

A workplace that radiates positivity from within and cares for its employees is more likely to get better outcomes, referrals, and fewer turnovers. Psychological safety might as well be considered among the principal points in boosting a company’s growth rate.  

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