Psychological safety is a relatively new term, but it is gaining popularity as researchers and practitioners alike realize the importance of psychological safety in the workplace. We live in a world where employees, rightfully so, are no longer willing to accept certain work cultures that appeared to be the norm in the past. Mental health and psychological safety go hand in hand, and it's a subject that deserves recognition. Improving these areas will help create a work culture that appreciates 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's a sense of trust and mutual respect that allows people to openly share ideas, thoughts, and feelings without fear of judgment or retribution. Psychological safety is created when everyone in the workplace feels comfortable sharing their authentic selves without the worry of being ridiculed, criticized, or attacked.
There are a few important things to note about psychological safety. First, it's not just about individual employees feeling safe. It's also about the team as a whole feeling safe. Second, psychological safety isn't just about negative emotions like fear or anxiety. It's 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 among coworkers. People need to feel that they can trust their colleagues not to judge them, ridicule them, or dismiss their ideas. Second, there must be a sense of respect among coworkers. People need to feel that they are being treated with dignity and respect and that their contributions are valued. Finally, there must be a sense of a shared goal. Coworkers need to feel that they are working together towards a common goal rather than competing against each other.
When these factors are present, employees feel safe taking risks and expressing themselves freely. This allows for creativity and innovation to thrive, 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, decreased productivity, increased employee absenteeism, and decreased 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 retribution.
2. Establish clear expectations and norms. Please make sure everyone on the team knows 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 following through on your promises.
4. Be aware of your behaviors. Be conscious of how you act and speak around your coworkers, and make an effort to be positive and supportive.
To leaders in the workplace, I recognize that the expectations might be challenging, 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 aware of your behaviors, you can help to create an atmosphere where psychological safety is the norm. And when employees feel safe in their workplace, they are more likely to be productive and creative, which is better for all parties involved. When employees feel safe speaking up and sharing their ideas, the whole team can benefit from collective intelligence and creativity. And when team members can give and receive feedback freely, they can better identify and address problems.
Creating a psychologically safe environment is not easy – it takes time and effort – but it's well worth the investment. By fostering trust and respect, leaders can help set the stage for excellent professional and personal opportunities.