What is Psychological Safety?
According to the Harvard Business Review, psychological safety is a “shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.”
It’s a concept that was first developed by Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School.
In psychologically safe teams, team members feel accepted and respected. Psychological safety at work has been shown to be one of the most important contributors to effective teamwork, and its absence can lead to dysfunctional conflict, dysfunctional communication, as well as inefficient information sharing in teams.
Psychological safety at work comes in two forms:
Individual level: This happens when people feel safe in their individual interactions with the team. They know they won't be punished or belittled for speaking up.
Collective level: This happens when everyone feels each other's contributions are equally valued and respected. They know their teammates will support them if they make a mistake, rather than penalizing them for it.
Why is psychological safety in the workplace important?
- Helps Employees to think out of the box
- Improves collaboration and innovation across teams
- Psychological safety makes people feel comfortable in the workplace.
- Encourages employees to work together for the well-being of each other
- Creates a space for learning and growth
- Creates a space for empathy and vulnerability
- Increases the retention rate of employees
- Improves the work performance of employees
- Enhances trust amongst the employees
- Employees will feel more motivated to speak up about their concerns and help identify potential problems in the organization
- Ultimately improving employee engagement at the workplace.
How to Create Psychological Safety At Workplace?
1. Encourage cognitive diversity
Cognitive diversity refers to differences in the way individuals approach problems and make decisions. And research demonstrates that teams with members who have different ways of perceiving the world are more innovative and creative than teams composed of members with similar backgrounds.
To promote cognitive diversity on your team, encourage hiring managers to consider candidates who possess a variety of experiences as well as diverse personalities and values when filling open positions. Also, consider implementing personality and behavioral assessments into your selection process so you can better understand each candidate's strengths and weaknesses as well as how their individual characteristics might interact with those of their colleagues.
Doing this helps in promoting psychological safety and inclusion at the workplace.
2. Encourage healthy competition
Research has shown that competition can increase productivity and performance in most cases. However, it can backfire when people start fearing failure and losing face. That’s why it’s important to promote a healthy competitive culture at your workplace.
You should encourage your employees to compete against themselves rather than others, which will enable them to focus on self-improvement.
3. Create opportunity for learning from mistakes and training
The ability to be vulnerable and admit your flaws has a tremendous impact on the success of your team. According to research, psychological safety is the single most important factor in promoting innovation and performance at work.
Psychological safety is a sense of confidence that employees feel when they are interacting with their supervisors and colleagues. From speaking up with an idea, to questioning a process, to admitting a mistake, psychologically safe employees feel confident enough to communicate ideas freely without fear of reprimand or retaliation.
Employers should encourage this type of workplace environment because it promotes the sharing of ideas and knowledge, builds trust among team members, reduces conflict and fosters innovation.
4. Encourage social interaction
Whether it's a potluck lunch or a friendly game of ping pong during breaks, make sure there are opportunities for people to get together outside the office — and not just to work on projects. Creating time for purely social interactions can help build trust and strengthen relationships.
People need to feel that they are accepted by colleagues. This includes not being left out of social interactions and other aspects of office life.
Bonus: We have a wide range of team building activities designed to help your employees build relationships, solve problems, generate new ideas and ultimately increase employee engagement.
5. Help employees achieve work-life balance
One of the key elements to keeping your employees happy at work is to help them achieve this balance. If you want your employees to work hard and produce results, you need to show them that their employer cares about them as individuals and not just their productivity. It's not easy for an employee to get this balance right on their own, especially with the competitive environment they operate in. So it's up to us, as employers and managers, to support them in getting this balance right.
Employees expect their organization to support them in a way that helps them balance their professional and personal lives.
6. Open-door policy and Employee feedback
Team leaders or managers should have weekly meetings, individual or group sessions, where they listen to feedback from employees. Anonymous surveys are also a great way to get honest feedback.
This means that every employee understands that if they ever have a question, a concern or even a suggestion, they can walk into their manager's office at any time and talk about it. We're not talking about an open-door policy where managers are obligated to see everyone who walks in — we're talking about a policy where managers are obligated to make themselves available to hear what their employees have to say.
By showing that you value input from employees at every level of the business, you're demonstrating that their voices matter. Thereby promoting psychological safety and inclusion.
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7. Provide a platform for team members to discuss confidentiality and conflict.
It's important for team leaders to provide a platform where team members can openly discuss confidentiality, conflict, and other sensitive topics. For example, some companies hold “town halls” or “all-hands meetings” to create transparency on these subjects.
Sometimes, you may want to address these topics with just your team. This is especially true if you’re a new leader in an established team. You might also see issues arising that require a smaller discussion. You can do this by creating a “team charter” or “team norms.” These documents will let you and your team members set the boundaries for topics like work-life balance, conflict resolution, and socializing at work.
8. Foster a culture of trust.
The best way to create psychological safety on your team is by fostering a culture of trust. Trust is built through effective communication, so make sure your expectations are clear and that you set up regular meetings for transparency. You can also encourage discussions about confidentiality and conflict resolution so that everyone feels comfortable speaking up about any issues that may arise.
Once you've established trust, people will be more willing to take risks and share their ideas without fear of judgment or failure.
To sum up
If you want to take your employees' psychological safety to the next level, try implementing the above tips. If you can implement these in every little act at your workplace, then your company is off to a good start to becoming a psychologically safe and engaged place to work. As a manager or team leader, it's vital that you recognize and proactively address these issues before they become real problems.
Worried about employee engagement while navigating through the future of work? Our team building experts can help.