Psychological safety is a relatively new term, but it is gaining popularity as researchers and practitioners realize the importance of psychological safety in the workplace. We live in a world where employees, understandably, are no longer willing to accept certain work cultures that seemed to be the norm in the past. Mental health and psychological safety go hand in hand, and it’s a topic that deserves recognition. Improving these areas will help create a work culture that values accountability and transparency, better for society.
So what exactly is psychological safety? In short, psychological safety is a climate or atmosphere where people feel safe taking risks and expressing themselves freely. It is a sense of trust and mutual respect that allows people to openly share ideas, thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or reprisal. Psychological safety is created when everyone in the workplace feels comfortable sharing their authentic identity without fear of being ridiculed, criticized, or attacked.
There are a few important points to note about psychological safety. First, it’s not just about employees feeling safe. It’s also about the team as a whole feeling safe. Second, psychological safety is not just about negative emotions like fear or anxiety. It is also about positive emotions like joy and happiness. Third, psychological safety is necessary for creativity and innovation to flourish. Finally, psychological safety is essential for teams to be effective and productive.
Several key factors contribute to psychological safety in the workplace. First, there must be a sense of trust between colleagues. People need to feel that they can trust their colleagues not to judge them, ridicule them or reject their ideas. Second, there must be a sense of respect between colleagues. People need to feel that they are treated with dignity and respect and that their contributions are valued. Finally, there must be a sense of common purpose. Colleagues need to feel like they are working together towards a common goal rather than competing with each other.
When these factors are present, employees feel safe to take risks and express themselves freely. This allows creativity and innovation to flourish, leading to increased productivity and profitability. Conversely, when psychological safety is absent, employees may be less likely to take risks and feel uncomfortable sharing their ideas. This can lead to stagnation, lower productivity, increased employee absenteeism and lower job satisfaction.
So what can you do to create a psychologically safe work environment? Here are a few tips :
1. Promote open communication. Encourage employees to share their thoughts and feelings openly, without fear of judgment or retaliation.
2. Set clear expectations and standards. Please ensure that all team members know what is expected of them and what is considered acceptable behavior.
3. Foster a sense of trust. Build trust by being honest and fair with your employees and by keeping your promises.
4. Be aware of your behaviors. Be aware of how you act and talk around your colleagues, and make an effort to be positive and supportive.
To leaders in the workplace, I recognize that expectations can be difficult, but I believe that psychological safety can be established with continued effort. Leaders have a unique opportunity to create an environment where employees feel comfortable taking risks and speaking their minds. By setting clear expectations, fostering a sense of trust, and being mindful of your behaviors, you can help create an atmosphere where psychological safety is the norm. And when employees feel safe in their workplace, they’re more likely to be productive and creative, which is better for everyone involved. When employees feel safe to speak up and share their ideas, the whole team can benefit from collective intelligence and creativity. And when team members can freely give and receive feedback, they can better identify and resolve issues.
Creating a psychologically safe environment is not easy – it takes time and effort – but the investment is worth it. By fostering trust and respect, leaders can help set the stage for great professional and personal opportunities.