Psychological Safety in the Workplace

Top 10 Ways to Create Psychological Safety in the Workplace

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The only way to better your performance as a team is by engaging every member, from the intern to the CEO and the board. Unfortunately, many employees fail to voice their ideas and thoughts, even when they feel and know something is seriously wrong. Why? Because they are afraid of the negative consequences of speaking up, creating a lack of psychological safety in the workplace.

Interestingly, a great team is not made up of people with high IQs, or those with many degrees – but rather, highly engaged people who feel safe and secure to air out their views, questions, concerns, mistakes, and ideas without fear of blowback afterward. 

Team members will only engage if they feel safe and if their contributions are recognized and appreciated. 

What is psychological safety?

The concept of psychological safety was first brought to light by Amy Edmonson, an organization behavioral scientist and researcher from the Harvard Business school. The scholar defined psychological safety as a belief of having a safe environment for interpersonal risk-taking.

How do you create Psychological safety in the work place?

As an employer or team leader,  it is your duty to make sure that your employees/members feel psychologically safe at work.

1. Promote healthy conflict

Conflict can either be constructive or destructive. The former occurs when there is openness and ideas or contributions from every member are taken into account.

 If you can effectively manage conflict among your team, it will not only strengthen relationships among members, but also act as a catalyst for growth, innovation, and better solutions.

How do we promote healthy conflict? By focusing on the issue and not the person. 

For instance, instead of saying “You said you’ll finish this work by today”, you can put it this way “This project really needs to be completed by the end of the day, how do we make this happen?”  This way, the discussion isn’t personal, and the team member will be less defensive.

2. Appreciation goes a long way

If you want all team members to voice their concerns, ideas, thoughts, or questions, then you must make them feel appreciated. 

Learn to appreciate every contribution from your employees, even when their ideas do not provide the solution you need for your company or project.

As you brainstorm, try not to judge people on their opinions but rather, thank them for their contribution.

Remember, you don’t need to act on every idea or thought from members, but a simple “Thank You” goes a long way in ensuring they speak up every time they have an idea that is potentially viable.

3. Give your employees/team members a voice

You’ve heard of employers or team leaders placing draconian rules on members and limiting communication. Listen to them.

As a result, employees feel insecure and just can’t speak up their minds for fear of “breaking the rules”. Once this happens, the performance of the team starts to slide as they can’t interact and engage freely with one another.

Let members feel that their ideas, thoughts, concerns, and questions are welcomed at any time. Once they have the voice, keep them using it by always giving them your ears and responding to their contributions. This way, psychological safety will emerge naturally.

4. Earn and extend trust

Blaming someone for something that has already happened does not provide a solution to your problems, but rather, worsens the situation. 

Instead of asking “what happened?”, or “why did this happen”, ask the members on how you come up with a solution for the problem at hand. This way, you’ll not only build trust among your team but also save the time and energy used arguing and blaming others.

5. Involve the team in decision making

It’s natural for many people to shy away from sharing their ideas, thoughts, or concerns for fear of being laughed at or ignored by their colleagues. 

As a team leader, you are tasked with making critical decisions that directly affect the performance of the organization or team – you have the final say. However, this doesn’t mean you should lock your team out when making decisions. 

Someone might have a great idea that could help better the performance of the team and the organization at large. Thus, you have to get views from as many sources as possible to come up with an informed decision.

Involving the members sharpens their decision-making skills and cultivates the future team leaders.

6. Create a culture of curiosity

As a team leader, you have to inspire curiosity in your team. One way of doing this is by openly sharing information with your team and asking for questions. Give your team members a chance and permission to explore their curiosities.

Curiosity helps you to create psychological safety and provides learning opportunities among teams.

The primary influencers of curiosity are space, freedom, opportunities, and resources. If you can provide these four, then your team members will feel safe to engage and interact.

7. Promote self-awareness

People who are self-aware can see themselves objectively and clearly through introspection and reflection.

Self-awareness promotes proactivity, boosts acceptance, and encourages self-development. It also improves communication in the workplace while enhancing self-confidence – which in turn, improves productivity.

For instance, as a team leader, you need to view things from other people’s perspectives – not just your own. This can be achieved by asking opinions and ideas from others. Other ways of increasing self-awareness include;

  • Practice active listening
  • Gaining a different perspective
  • Creating time and space
  • Practicing mindfulness

8. Acknowledge your mistakes

No one is perfect, we all make mistakes in one way or another. But, are you bold enough to acknowledge your mistakes and ask for help from your team or other people around you?  

Through mistakes, we learn new things and become more innovative. Asking for help gives your team the courage to speak up and seek solutions whenever a problem or mistake arises. 

While we do not encourage mistakes in the workplace, making employees feel like they will be penalized for the same does not create psychological safety in the workplace. Therefore, use failures as a learning tool.

9. Develop mental toughness among your employees

Mental toughness can be described as the ability to be resilient to stressors – and this is what is needed the most to create psychological safety in the workplace. The journey to success is a tough one, with many obstacles that are absolutely out of our control. 

Likewise, working in a team has its challenges – rejection, doubt, conflict and tension, misunderstandings, lack of trust, you name them. Nevertheless, the team must work together to achieve organizational goals – which means, creating psychological safety at the workplace is very important. 

Mental toughness starts by developing a strong, positive mindset. After that, try to find intrinsic motivation which will give you the desire to keep moving.

As a manager, if you succeed in helping your employees develop mental toughness, they will be able to respond positively to challenges, see opportunities where others see problems, deal with adversity with confidence and enjoy great well being. 

The best thing about mental toughness; the benefits extend from the workplace to their personal lives.

10. Measure psychological safety

After creating psychological safety in the workplace, you need to measure it to know whether you achieved your goal. You should never assume that you have the best environment for your teams.

There are various strategies you can use to measure psychological safety.

The assessment helps you identify areas of weaknesses and how to improve them. And of course, you will need to involve everyone. Leave no team member behind.

Bottom Line

Psychological safety is vital for an organization’s or teams’ performance. It promotes a culture of inclusion, where everyone feels safe sharing their ideas, thoughts, concerns, and questions. 

Psychological safety is a must for creating an effective, innovative, and engaged team in the workplace – and with the above tips, you’ll be able to create a safe environment. Alternatively, professionals like the New Jersey employment experts, can offer advice on how to create psychological safety in the workplace.

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2 thoughts on “Top 10 Ways to Create Psychological Safety in the Workplace

  1. Cedric Noronha says:

    Very good post. Highly informative. Keep up the good work.

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