How To Create Psychological Safety In Your Workplace?
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psychological safety at work, psychological safety in the workplace

How To Create Psychological Safety In Your Workplace?

Only 47% of workers globally enjoy psychological safety in the workplace. 

After COVID-19 Mental and psychological health has quickly moved up the organization’s priority lists. There is a reasonable cause why the topic of psychological safety at work is getting more popular. Humans are built to rely on each other, both personally and professionally.

But it’s also human nature to withhold opinions, be hesitant to make inquiries, and avoid challenging the boss. We all desire a sense of security and safety to share our work experiences. Here the idea of psychological safety in the workplace came into existence.

Establishing a secure and effective workplace that supports your staff’s success in their jobs should be one of your utmost priorities if you are in a managerial position. Let’s discuss various aspects of psychological safety in the workplace.

What is psychological safety?

Unfortunately, many people have negative feelings regarding their place of employment. In a 2017 Gallup survey, 3 out of 10 workers firmly believed that their ideas don’t matter at work. Additionally, the issue has become worse, especially for women, due to remote work environments, which are now much more prevalent due to the global COVID pandemic.

Psychological safety was first described as a social phenomenon that lowers interpersonal risk by Schein and Bennis in the 1960s. But Dr. Amy C. Edmondson of the Harvard Business School is the person who first used the term “psychological safety.” According to her

“A belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.”

In her initial study, Harvard researcher Amy Edmonson measured psychological safety within 51 working teams using the following set of questions:

  • Is it held against you if you make an error on your team?
  • Can you raise matters that are difficult or problematic?
  • Do team members occasionally reject those who are different from them?
  • Are risks acceptable in your workplace?
  • Is it tough to request assistance from other team members?
  • Do team members purposely work to thwart your efforts?
  • Is it acknowledged and used that you have special abilities?

We can say that the capacity to express one’s thoughts and emotions without fear of losing one’s credibility or position is known as psychological safety. In the presence of psychological safety at the workplace, team members believe they can take chances and self-evaluate without feeling disgraced by their teammates.

What does psychological safety at the workplace look like?

To highlight a few, candidates consider various criteria when looking for new future job prospects, including location, position, perks, and pay. Organizational culture is an additional feature that might be more tricky to discuss but is still very significant.

To determine the factors contributing to high-performing teams, Google studied over 180 groups for two years with a significant investment of resources. They discovered five elements that every high-performing team must have. The most crucial aspect was “Psychological safety at work.”

We can say the workplace is psychologically safe when;

  • Stakeholders are free to voice their opposition whenever a serious issue arises in a team.
  •  Members of a team push one another, have disagreements, work toward a solution, and finally take action. 
  • Teams lacking psychological safety at work won’t give disagreements their due consideration.


Benefits of psychological safety at work

Psychological safety at work can help increase creativity, experimentation, and flexibility and improve organisational health and performance. Here are some of the benefits of ensuring psychological safety in the workplace.

  • A contemporary objective is to foster “psychological safety” in the workplace, encouraging individuals to thrive without fear of consequences for errors or failures and encouraging transparency and cooperation among team members.
  • It minimizes a person’s fear of being generally acceptable and worthwhile.
  • It involves being aware of the extent of your performance, which relies on honest criticism and having confidence that management will take your own criticism into account—knowing that your thoughts and ideas matter will help you feel psychologically secure at work.


What are the 4 stages of Psychological safety in the workplace?

Timothy R. Clarke presents a conceptual framework of four “stages” of psychological safety in the workplace in his book “The Four Stages Of Psychological Safety.” Here are four stages of psychological stages in the workplace 

Stage:1 Inclusion Safety

Team leaders must promote diversity and inclusion to enhance psychological safety in the workplace. They should have a strategy to address racism, sexism, and other types of bias. This stage is significant; it helps workers to be themselves without worrying about facing the consequences of who they are.

Stage:2 Learner safety

In learner safety, employees feel comfortable communicating information with others by making statements, providing and receiving input, and trying new things. 

Stage:3 Contributor safety

Workers are at ease sharing their suggestions in a contributor safety environment.

People can be comfortable showcasing their skills in the workplace, and they must realize that their traits and skills could have an impact.

Stage:4 Challenger safety

The requirement for improvement is fulfilled by challenger safety. When you believe there is a chance for change or modification, you feel confident speaking up and challenging the current situation.

 8 steps to create psychological safety in the workplace

Establishing psychological safety in the workplace takes a remarkable amount of dedication and talent. As a leader, you are responsible for ensuring that workplace openness and vulnerability are welcomed. Here are 5 steps to create psychological safety at work.

1. Make sure that there is no stigma attached to mental health in your workplace

Recognize the significance of handling mental health issues. Give staff members various opportunities to ask questions and receive information about mental health problems. 

  • One method to discuss and de-stigmatize depression, stress, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and other mental health concerns is through webinars, online in-person workshops, and continuing talks with team members and employees. It is the best way to ensure psychological safety at work.
  • Start by encouraging self-awareness among your team members to establish psychological safety in the workplace. You can identify biases that may limit your employees’ willingness to express their opinions by becoming aware of how you prefer to think and act.


2. Start a leadership training and People Management Program

According to some research, establishing the set of leadership behaviors that improve psychological safety in the workplace can be accomplished by investing in leadership training at all company levels and for all leadership and management roles.

It’s difficult to change human behavior overnight. Nevertheless, we frequently witness businesses make this attempt by applying only focused training programs to enhance employee engagement. The first step in changing leadership behaviors within a complex system is to define a clear plan in line with the organization’s correctness and completeness and a comprehensive set of qualities necessary to accomplish it.

3. Ensure workers can give feedback on their chosen platform

To increase team members’ mental health and well-being and create trust and transparency, educating team members and managers about psychological safety in the workplace is essential. It helps in reducing team conflict. While some workers might feel comfortable speaking up at a meeting, others might want more time to consider their options. Encourage team members to communicate comments via email in addition to face-to-face meetings.

4. Avoid an authoritative leadership style

The old authoritative leadership style of command and control has been rapidly replaced by more inclusive leadership throughout the pandemic. Mckinsey held the online poll and reviewed 1,574 responses from individuals representing various geographic regions, industries, business sizes, functional specializations, and tenures between May 14 and 29, 2020.

Out of 1574, 1,223 respondents said they were in a team but did not lead it. We looked at their responses. The poll reveals that consultative and supportive leadership practices, as opposed to authoritarian leadership, are more beneficial to team members’ psychological safety.

5. Communicate with your team

It doesn’t take much, but it could involve straightforward actions like:

Managers can set up routine catch-ups to communicate with the entire team.

Setting up messenger channels for topics unrelated to business. 

Developing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to allow your staff to connect based on similar experiences. This is crucial for hybrid and remote workers who could feel alone and separated from their coworkers.

6. Pay attention to candid conversations

Understanding your reactions to changes or difficulties gives you more control over your behavior. By being aware of this, you may modify your emotional outbursts and develop the ability to respond in a way that promotes candid communication.

Overcoming established attitudes to exclude, penalize, or marginalize other team members is the aim of psychological safety. People frequently try to restore justice within their group when they detect a threat at work; this behavior is an instinctual reflex derived from the fight-or-flight reflex.

7. Maintain a respectful silence during the conversation

Contrary to popular belief, respectful silence during conversations is one of the most effective techniques. 

  • You can increase trust, capability, and performance by allowing employees to consider their problems and draw their judgments without the leader’s voice. 
  • Leaders can speak out against anything harmful, but in general, leaders should hold off on jumping in to make immediate changes. 
  • A happier staff that takes more calculated risks, raises issues earlier, sticks with the team longer, is more adaptable to change and external challenges, and ultimately improves the company’s or organization’s ideology.


8. Promote culture then individuals 

Building a culture that values teamwork over individual skill is the best way to foster psychological safety. By “team,” we refer to circumstances in which leaders can rely on their teammates, be open and vulnerable in their presence, and share their strengths and weaknesses without fear that someone will use them against them. 

However, you must hire and assess individuals based on their capacity to function as team members.

How can you measure psychological safety in the workplace?

Pulse surveys are one method for evaluating psychological safety at work. We can use them to find patterns and developments in how workers perceive thinking outside the box and speaking up. Determining whether these discussions should be confidential or not can be challenging because of two reasons;

  • Anonymity may encourage employees to be more open about their thoughts,
  • Anonymity also makes it difficult to address any obvious problems.


Wrapping Up

Psychological safety in the workplace is more crucial than ever, given the accelerating rate of change and disruption and the demand for innovative, adaptable solutions from teams at all levels. 

EmployeeConnect can also facilitate ensuring psychological safety in the workplace. This software can help you maintain all your employee records and feedback. What are you waiting for? 

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Byron Conway

Content Coordinator at EmployeeConnect