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Psychological Safety at Work: How to Create Security

Creating a psychologically safe workplace means fostering an environment where people feel comfortable voicing their opinions without fear of punishment or being judged. When your employees feel unsafe at work, it can have dire repercussions on an organization’s productivity.

In this post, we’ll discuss how emotional security is fundamental to high-performance in an organization.

 What is Psychological Safety at Work?

Psychological safety refers to an individual’s ability to act without fear of any negative consequences to their career, self-image, or status. In the workplace, psychological safety can be defined as a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.

Although a safe working environment needs to be felt individually, it takes HR’s initiative to create an enabling and psychologically safe workplace.

For example, imagine a situation in which workers worry that they will be punished for every little mistake or undesired result their actions produce and how it would affect productivity? Employees must feel secure, accepted, respected. That means being safe to learn and contribute, safe to challenge the status quo, and safe to innovate. A psychologically safe workforce will make sure your organization achieves its objectives.

 Why is Psychological Safety in the Workplace Important?

Psychological safety in the workplace helps companies retain top and skilled talent. When workers feel secure in their workplace, they tend to give you their best. They also are more likely to stay loyal to the company, thus helping to improve the organization’s retention rate.

Further, it encourages workers to share their candid and diverse thoughts and opinions to make problem-solving easier. An open workplace allows workers to ask questions to feed their curiosity. It also allows them the freedom to learn more about the job, boosting performance. Consideration of diverse perspectives in the decision-making process helps managers to make the best possible decisions.

Workers in a psychologically safe work environment are more likely to enjoy making valuable contributions to improve the workplace. Few would want to be left out when everybody is busy making valuable contributions and getting noticed, appreciated, or rewarded at work.

 How to Create a Psychologically Safe Workplace 

So, how can you create a psychologically safe workplace? Follow our tips to encourage psychological safety in the workplace?

Lead by example 

People in leadership positions have a lot to do in ensuring psychologically safe workplaces. HR professionals and CEOs must model behaviors that promote an open workspace.

How? They must be open to diverse opinions, approachable, and regularly practice building trust. Further, they can nip negativity in the bud, acknowledge team wins, and include employees in the decision-making process. When leaders model such behaviors, it quickly becomes a norm and company culture.

By cultivating positivity and acceptance in the workplace, leaders can create an environment in which employees feel safe.

Create an atmosphere of positive engagement

Psychological safety is enhanced when a company has a positive engagement and feedback culture between superiors and their subordinates and among teammates. It can be improved when those in leadership positions show interest when interacting with employees.

This starts with established regular contact and talking about employee development and objectives. Many businesses are increasingly forgoing annual performance reviews in favor of continuous performance management. That means holding more regular check-ins to track progress toward goals. Performance management software can be a big help in managing these ongoing conversations.

Further, leaders can use body language to foster a safer environment. Making eye contact, showing positive facial expressions, ignoring minor distractions, nodding during conversations, and seeking further clarification on issues until one fully understands other people’s views, can go a long way to help.

Employees who perceive that they are not given the necessary audience whenever they share their opinions and thoughts end up keeping to themselves. This office culture will ultimately stifle innovation.

Avoid blame games

Mistakes happen. It is best to view mistakes as opportunities for employees to perfect their skills. The most innovative companies in the world let their workers explore ideas and their creativity while making mistakes.

Employers must create an enabling environment that allows workers to explore new ideas and ways of doing things. It is best for failures at the workplace to be accepted collectively and seen as learning points for all. Ideally, workers, subordinates, and superiors must cheer each other up through tough times and celebrate successes as a group.

Be conscious of enhancing appropriate behaviors

Leaders in the workplace can create an atmosphere that engenders mutual respect and behaviors that promote psychologically safe environments through special behavioral training for workers or behavioral assessments. Adopting a business-wide growth mindset can help set a business up for success.

This can help employees to build self-awareness and support each other in order to achieve collective goals. It is advisable to discourage the formation of unhealthy factions within teams. Instead, promote support for all teammates and workers, not a select few.

Leaders can also seek workers’ views on their ideal working environment and behavioral changes they would want to see across all levels—this way, the leader can take appropriate action to reduce interpersonal risk.

Build a culture of inclusion

Leaders and superiors should make it a point to involve their teams as much as possible in the decision-making process in order to promote psychological safety at work. Managers can ask for perspectives, input, and feedback from workers.

Creating a culture of inclusion is of the utmost importance. Leaders should also try to communicate leadership decisions to team members as and when necessary.

Businesses might also reduce the effect of unconscious bias in the workplace and create more objective processes through automation.

Support team members

Leaders should be approachable to their team members and vice versa. As leaders and subordinates know, they have everybody on their side; it raises team spirit. Team leaders should ensure that their teams’ commendable efforts are visible to senior leadership and appropriately rewarded.

Promote a healthy approach to conflict

Enhancing psychological safety at work does not mean that there will be no conflicts and that you have to mollycoddle subordinates all the time. Instead, it involves creating an environment where disputes are well managed and seen by all as ways that lead to better outcomes and decisions.

In short, people do not need to agree with every opinion or criticism thrown at them just for being nice. There is the need for engagement rules to provide a framework with which workers share differing perspectives, and constructive criticisms, without affecting mutual respect and empathy.

Regularly measure psychological safety in the workplace

One of the best ways to enhance psychological safety at work is to set a baseline and periodically track your progress. As a manager or team leader, it is important to examine your progress to see how well efforts are translating into a positive work environment.

If you’re serious about creating psychological safety, then you can use HR software to help. With report and analytics functions, you can make sure employees are being treated fairly and equally. Employees will also value the transparency of the employee portal, where they are able to access all of their relevant data.

 Creating Safety in a Remote Work Environment

Teams working from home are not resistant to the risks associated with a lack of psychological safety. While working from home may be more flexible, remote working can reduce productivity, a sense of security, and collaboration. Here is how employers can handle it:

Create a personal relationship with employees

Knowing people on a personal level engenders trust and builds a sense of warmth around teams. Therefore, it is essential for teams working from home to get to know each other beyond the tasks that connect them professionally.

Groups can start by organizing virtual happy hours to increase casual interaction between members. Managers can also schedule frequent one-on-one check-ins with their employees, especially in times of uncertainty and when they see employees are facing challenges.

Decentralize the team

When virtual meetings get too big, employees can feel that their voices are lost in the fray.

In order to combat this, managers should divide their teams into subgroups. After large meetings, each team can go into a breakout room in order to test ideas and build stronger connections among each other. That will not only help to encourage all members’ active participation but also lead to a more empowered workforce.

Make expectations clear

With the lack of physical presence, it can be difficult for subordinates to have a clearer picture of how their superiors want them to execute tasks, creating uncertainty, reduced job efficiency, and security working from home. Hence, it would be best for team leaders to make all expectations and instructions clear so team members can deliver them with more confidence.

Leverage technology that enhances communication and productivity

Teams working from home require effective technology to create the collaboration and positivity needed for psychological safety. Nowadays, there are several technologies employers can use to increase workplace motivation, enhance communication, and help managers develop a highly productive team.

Human capital management systems such as Factorial can come in handy for business owners who genuinely want to create an open and safe working environment. It connects company leadership with staff and allows for flexible check-ins/outs whether they are working on/off-site or working remotely.

With analytic tools, Factorial will enable employers to measure company productivity and improve psychological safety with its HR management features.  Further, employees can perform self-assessments and get reliable feedback from managers, peers, and direct reports.

Improve Psychological Safety in the Workplace with Technology

In short, technology helps businesses to create a community of workers wherein every worker is privy to the latest news through an internal communication system.

Do you want to integrate communication with slack, streamline the implementation of remote work, and strengthen your company culture? Factorial is an ideal tool and the go-to for HR professionals, managers, and business leaders. It helps build psychological safety at work whether the team is working on-site or remotely.

References

  1. Kahn, William A. (1990-12-01). “Psychological Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement at Work.” Academy of Management Journal. 33 (4): 692–724. doi:10.2307/256287ISSN 0001-4273JSTOR 256287.
  2. Edmondson, Amy (1 June 1999). “Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams” (PDF). Administrative Science Quarterly. 44 (2): 350–383. doi:10.2307/2666999JSTOR 2666999.
  3. Clark, Timothy R (March 2020). The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation. Berrett-Koehler. ISBN 9781523087686. Clark, Timothy R (March 2020). The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation. Berrett-Koehler. ISBN 9781523087686.
  4. https://www.ahrq.gov/sites/default/files/wysiwyg/evidencenow/tools-and-materials/psychological-safety.pdfhttps://ideas-in-action.lbl.gov/topics/psychological-safety

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