Psychological safety is a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. It can be defined as “being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career” (Source)
Many individuals worry that if they make incorrect suggestions or do not perform as per their manager’s or peers expectations, they could be laughed at or worse, ostracized in front of everyone. Some workplaces condition their employees to avoid speaking up and perform their jobs as dictated by their management. Employees here are more concerned with not appearing ignorant, intrusive, or incompetent so they don’t ask questions, offer any insights, or even admit their mistakes.
This is partly the fault of the top management who consistently emphasize excellence, results, and accountability. However they do not encourage their employees to speak up and share their thoughts. So now you have a high anxiety, low involvement workplace. Employees will eventually stop contributing new ideas and avoid raising warning flags even though it might be of utmost importance. All because, they do not feel psychologically safe.
On the other hand, there are companies that have developed a high psychological safety in their workplace. These employees are confident that they can take risk as and when required. If it is not successful, they will not be lambasted by their teammates or managers but steps will be taken to identify what could have been done better. Employees in such companies are encouraged to take risks, speak their mind, be creative without fear of being ridiculed or punished. All factors that are necessary to ensure these teams achieve groundbreaking success.
How to create a psychologically safe work environment:
At times employees may experience difficulties performing certain tasks and need guidance on how to go about it. They could even be stressed out due to excessive workload. In such cases, managers need to step up and address these concerns at the earliest.
Recognition of efforts:
Recognition goes a long way in motivating employees. When employees feel appreciated, they take extra efforts to deliver exemplary performance on a consistent basis.
Managers should delegate some of their authority and allow employees to make decisions on their own that are well within their area of expertise and scope. Thus team members feel more accountable towards their responsibilities and perform accordingly.
Work commitments should not intrude on personal commitments. Allow employees to maintain a good work-life balance by keeping flexible hours. It helps them take care of their priorities. Not only will it reduce their stress but it will also boost job satisfaction and productivity as they get to work on their own terms.
Open to feedback:
Managers need to be accessible and open to receiving and giving feedback. Eliminate all the bureaucratic procedures that discourage employees from reaching out to their managers and ask for or give feedback. More a manager is approachable, more willingness from his team members in discussing their issues with her.
Benefits of psychological safety:
Employees are more loyal towards their company when they get the right amount of psychological support at work. They are more satisfied and happy which eventually makes them more effective at what they do.
There are ‘n’ number of teams in any organisation where there is no question of each one working in isolation. Psychological safety helps ensure that that despite being of different functions, roles and designations, employees in the organisation do not feel competitive and try to outperform each other. On the contrary, such workplaces are able to develop healthy interpersonal relationships and work in collaboration towards the greater good i.e. achieving company goals.
Employees are able to see that their opinions matter as well and that they are permitted to make decisions in their areas of expertise. This is a great incentive for them to actively participate in all initiatives of their own will.
Positive work environment:
Positive work cultures have a dramatic effect on the mental well-being of their employees and contribute significantly to workplace satisfaction. It allows employees to enjoy their work and develop higher commitment towards their goals.
Companies that create a sense of psychological safety within their teams are able to experience higher levels of engagement, increased motivation to handle complex obstacles, greater learning and development opportunities, and improved performance. A psychologically safe workplace is a win-win for both companies and its employees as it helps to reduce turnover and cost and creates a productive work environment where people are happy to work.