Creating Psychological Safety at Work
What Is Psychological Safety and why Is It Important?
When we are not feeling emotionally safe in a situation, we might feel afraid to say what’s on our minds because we think it might offend someone else. Or if we criticise a certain piece of work or an idea put forward, others might make us feel bad about it for them to avoid confronting their own vulnerability.
Psychological safety is a term used in workplaces to ensure that individuals feel that they can speak up, as well as having the space and comfort to do so. This includes the knowledge that others will support you and that they will not judge you for your thoughts, feelings, or actions.
The concept of Psychological Safety has moved up the agenda in the last 18 months because of the impact of the pandemic and the introduction of new ways of working; hybrid and remote working in particular. We can all relate to the challenges of clear and open communication when working in hybrid or remote team environments. Leaders have had to adopt new skills and communication norms to be able to overcome these new challenges, ensuring teams and employees continue to feel free to communicate positively and honestly; the risk of not doing so being that vital contribution and ideas are not offered or generated which could significantly benefit the performance of the organisation.
Psychological safety and diversity also go hand in hand. Diversity in the workplace refers to an organisation’s efforts at hiring, retaining, promoting, rewarding, and supporting people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. The goal is to create a workplace where everyone feels like they have the freedom and support needed to attain their full potential as well as be inclusive towards others who are different from them. A strong working culture that promote inclusion and diversity will also impact on the opportunity for continuous improvement and innovation and design thinking - all of which have become increasingly critical for the growth and sustainability of any organisation.
How creating psychological safety can help boost productivity & innovation
Psychological safety is foundational when it comes to creating a positive and productive work environment. For example, showing your employees how you have achieved something before in the past can help them feel less afraid of taking risks and making mistakes.
A psychologically safe work environment has many benefits. It can help boost employee engagement, productivity, and innovation. It can lead to increased creativity through 'safe' brainstorming, and the generation of new ideas that employees may not have expressed before because they were afraid of being judged or criticised.
What are the benefits of creating psychological safety at work?
It is all about the people. People are what make organisations successful or not, so it’s important for organisations to ensure that their employees feel valued and validated. Organisations must also take their responsibility seriously.
At the heart of creating psychological safety at work is a positive emotional vulnerability culture. This is one that empowers employees to express and share their emotions, feelings, and thoughts with their colleagues. It is a social environment where it can be safe to show emotions without judgment.
Having a positive organisational culture helps to build a sense of belonging in the workplace. It also creates trust between employees and organisations and improves employee morale. You’ll find your team suffers less burnout, develops better inter-departmental relationships, and that your business benefits from greater transparency.
Purpose: Your strategic anchor to psychological safety
Psychological safety is the feeling of belonging or connectedness to a group of people. It’s a state of mind, with elements such as trust and acceptance that is not threatened by others in the working environment. Purpose is your strategic anchor to psychological safety.
Clive Wilson, Primeast consultant is author of ‘Designing the Purposeful Organization’. In this book, he presents an approach to implementing a more enlightened and authentic leadership style that aligns people’s strengths to the delivery of a compelling future. This is fundamental to creating a psychologically safe working environment.
The book examines the eight-point framework, PrimeFocus™, which can be used to align people and purpose, moving beyond the boundaries of transactional leadership to release talent, creativity, and employee engagement:
Purpose is the force that keeps all of life growing, creating, and thriving. Where an organisation is purposeful, there exists collective energy to create and grow, to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems.
Vision is the articulation of where an organisation wants to get to within an agreed timescale.
Engagement with purpose and vision develops energy to ensure sustainable growth.
The structure should be designed to support the purpose of the business. This encompassed both physical and non-physical structures such as processes, policies, and systems.
Character and culture
Important for the organisation, its teams, and individual employees, culture defines how things are done and how people conduct themselves and behave towards others.
Wilson promotes the alignment of results to purpose. This removes over-emphasising transactional objectives and inspires creativity and alignment with purpose.
Wilson defines a successful team as one that has a shared sense of success that takes account of, but which is more powerful than, the personal successes of all its members.
Liberating talent within an organisation will engender a heightened sense of purpose and deliver better individual and collective performance.
Is your leadership promoting psychological safety at work?
Organisations that create an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing themselves and talking about their emotions can benefit in a variety of ways. These benefits include increased productivity, an improved sense of purpose or meaning at work, and happier employees.
A good environment that is conducive for the creativity and productivity of your employees will help boost their morale, motivation, and engagement. This will lead to a stronger team that helps you produce better products. Leadership plays a key role in creating psychological safety in the workplace. How is yours faring?
To learn how the Leadership Circle™ can be used to develop the skills your organisation needs to deliver impactful leadership, click here.
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