Psychological Safety explained

We come across many different business buzzwords and the one that continuously pops up, particularly since the pandemic, is Psychological Safety and the need to create a culture of psychological safety. So, what does that look like in a business?

Psychological safety at work refers to the ability to express yourself without fear of repercussions for your self-image, position, or job. It can be characterised as a shared understanding that the team, or organisation, is a safe place to take calculated risks.

In simple terms, it is about creating an environment where people feel comfortable showing up as themselves and sharing their thoughts and opinions on things. It is about people feeling safe to admit a mistake when something goes wrong, rather than hide or look to others for blame.

Leaders need to set the tone by encouraging supportive and open discussions. This might take time if it is a shift in how you have always done things. Employees can feel reluctant to speak their minds for fear of being excluded or reprimanded. In this case, leaders need to work harder to empower people to share their ideas and approaches, which over time will lead to greater growth, creativity, and innovation.

A two-year study conducted by Google on team performance revealed that the highest-performing teams had one thing in common, which was psychological safety. The teams conducted mild risk-taking, they had true openness between people and an innovative approach.

If employees feel psychologically safe, they will be comfortable exchanging information and asking questions, as well as providing and receiving feedback. There will be no fear of harassment or being bullied since the culture of psychological safety at work will encourage the free sharing of knowledge and opinion.

Here are our top tips for creating a culture of psychological safety:

1. Know people on a personal level

A psychologically safe workplace begins with a feeling of belonging. Connecting with your employees is not just talking about work or checking on a specific project’s progress, it is also about checking in with each other.

2. Never blame, always explain

If an employee makes a mistake, explain why it is wrong and make sure that they understand why they are wrong but never blame them. Transparent communication will produce better results than simply blaming employees for their faults.

3. Seek and be open to feedback

Make sure that employees feel safe in voicing their opinions to you and that you are open to listening to feedback, whether it is positive or negative.

4. Give praise and recognition where it is due

Recognise and appreciate people when they have done a good job. This helps to engender a sense of pride which will drive people to perform to the best of their abilities in the future. A ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ goes a long way.

Promoting psychological safety at work is not just letting employees voice their thoughts, it is also nurturing a culture in which mistakes are owned, corrected, and learned from. Leaders foster a trusting environment where everyone at any and all levels is encouraged to share ideas that help the organisation go faster.

If you need any support with improving the culture of psychological safety in your organisation, we can help. Get in touch to find out more.

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