As a leader, one of your main priorities should be to create a safe and productive workplace that helps your employees thrive and succeed in their roles. Psychological safety is a key factor in creating such a workplace for your employees. Never heard of it? That’s okay, we’ve got you covered.
In this article, we’ll discuss what psychological safety is, its benefits, and how you can establish it in your workplace.
What is Psychological Safety?
The term was coined by Amy Edmondson, a Harvard Business School professor. Edmondson defines psychological safety as “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.”
Forbes simplifies the concept as employees “knowing that the things you say and do won’t be used against you — as long as you mean well.”
Benefits of Psychological Safety in the Workplace
Establishing a climate of psychological safety allows space for people to speak up and share their ideas. Imagine this: You work in an environment where you know your leader has your back, where your ideas will at least be listened to if not implemented, and where the team is open to new solutions.
What kind of innovations do you think this type of environment would lead to? How do you think this would affect the organization as a whole?
A workplace with psychological safety creates an environment that fosters innovation, teamwork, and productivity.
How to Establish Psychological Safety in the Workplace
Leaders can implement a few strategies to establish psychological safety in their organization.
Welcome Questions and Curiosity
By embracing questions and curiosity, leaders create a space in which their team feels comfortable clarifying concepts and introducing new ideas.
According to Forbes, just three out of 10 workers strongly agree that their opinions seem to count at work. Employers can improve employee retention and engagement by making an effort to listen to ideas.
Consider Breaking the Golden Rule
Yes, we mean to consider breaking “treat others as you would like to be treated.” Instead, treat others as they would like to be treated. What’s the difference?
Each team is made up of a collection of people with different personalities, communication styles, and goals. Take the time to ask individuals on your team how they prefer to be treated in terms of communication style, check-ins, feedback, and so on.
For instance, some employees may benefit from frequent check-ins whereas others may feel as if such check-ins suggest leadership doesn’t trust them to get their work done.
By understanding how your team wants to be treated as individuals, you contribute to establishing psychological safety in your workplace.
Negativity can be contagious in a workplace, especially when it comes from leadership. This can cause employees to feel uncomfortable sharing their ideas or speaking up, hesitant due to a worry that they will receive negative feedback from leadership or others.
Include Your Team in Decision Making
Consider consulting your team before making major decisions. Asking for their input can make them feel valued and included. Once a decision is made, leadership can take the time to briefly explain the reasoning behind it and how the employee’s feedback contributed to this decision. Even if the team disagrees with your choice, transparency will be appreciated.
Be Open to Feedback
As a leader, you likely provide feedback since it’s a necessary part of improving and developing your team. However, you need to be open to receiving feedback as well. Invite your team to challenge your choices or offer opinions on how you can improve.
Earn and Extend Trust
Employees in high-trust companies report 74% less stress, 40% less burnout, and 50% higher productivity.
Edmondson’s research ties trust to psychological safety: “It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.”
Prioritize Active Listening
Active listening is the practice of making a cognizant effort to pay attention and fully engage in a conversation. This can take the form of paraphrasing to show understanding, using nonverbal cues such as nodding and eye contact, as well as verbally inserting short affirmations.
Learn more about active listening and how to bring emotional intelligence into the workplace.
Interested in Improving Your Company Culture?
Building a healthy company culture, including psychological safety, is often easier said than done. That’s why we’re here to help. We align our purpose to operationalize culture with your people. For more information, check out our culture operations, here.Read on to learn how to build trust with your employees, here.