Do You Feel Safe to Express Yourself at Work?
Examining Impacts of Psychological Safety in the Workplace
This article investigates the issue of psychological safety in the workplace and how it manifests and can be harmful. We’ll identify some of the ways you can spot challenges and some resources you can check into to learn more about how to create safety in your organization.
What is Psychological Safety, anyway?
Psychological safety in the workplace is a concept that is becoming increasingly important in the modern business world. It refers to creating a workplace environment in which employees feel comfortable being themselves, expressing their ideas and opinions, and taking risks.
To illustrate what psychological safety in the workplace looks like, imagine Alice, an employee at a software development company. She is in a meeting with her colleagues and is the only one to suggest a new approach to solving a problem. Her colleagues immediately discount her idea, making her feel embarrassed and uncertain of her opinion. This is an example of a workplace environment without psychological safety.
In contrast, in a psychologically safe workplace, Alice can express her ideas without fear of judgment or criticism. Her colleagues are open to her ideas and encourage her to share her thoughts. They also provide feedback in a constructive manner to help her improve her ideas.
Psychological safety is important because it leads to greater trust, creativity, and collaboration in the workplace. When employees feel safe to express themselves, they are more likely to take risks and be more creative. This, in turn, leads to better problem-solving, decision-making, and overall better results for the company.
Is your workplace “unsafe?” Here are some indicators that employees may experience:
- Fear of speaking up in meetings or sharing their ideas
- Lack of trust among colleagues
- Discomfort asking questions or seeking help
- Hesitancy to take risks or challenge the status quo
- Opinions are not valued or respected
- Inability to be authentic in the workplace.
The Upside of Creating Safe Space
When employees are able to be their authentic selves in the workplace, the organization can reap many benefits. These include increased employee engagement, collaboration, creativity, and productivity. When employees feel safe to express themselves openly, they are more likely to voice their opinions and participate in discussions. This can lead to more innovative ideas and better problem-solving. Additionally, an environment of trust and respect can lead to greater job satisfaction and a greater sense of belonging among team members. Ultimately, psychological safety in the workplace can lead to improved performance and better business results.
Creating and Maintaining Psychological Safety: A Shared Responsibility
Creating a psychologically safe workplace is the responsibility of both employers and employees. Employers should create a workplace culture that values diversity and encourages employees to feel comfortable and safe. They should also provide employees with the resources and support they need to feel secure in their roles.
Employees should also take responsibility for creating a psychologically safe workplace by being open to diverse opinions, listening to each other, being respectful, and providing constructive feedback.
To ensure psychological safety in the workplace, employers should address any issues that may be hindering it. This could mean introducing policies and procedures to prevent bullying, harassment, and discrimination. Employers should also provide training on psychological safety in the workplace and ensure that any incidents are addressed quickly and appropriately.
Best practices for creating a psychologically safe workplace include establishing clear communication channels, implementing flexible working policies, and providing feedback, both positive and constructive. Employers should also ensure that everyone has the same opportunities and access to resources, regardless of gender, race, or other factors. By implementing strategies to promote psychological safety in the workplace, employers can create a healthy culture of openness, trust, and collaboration.
“When people feel safe, they will take risks, experiment, and be creative. Safety and trust are the breeding ground for innovation.” – Barry O’Reilly
Additional Resources for Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace
- The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth by Amy Edmonson
- Psychological Safety: The Key to Unlocking Performance in Teams by Johannes Ullrich
- Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams by Amy Edmonson
- Psychological Safety: A Guide to Create Positive Workplaces by Robert B. Kaiser
- Workshops on Psychological Safety in the Workplace by the Institute for Health and Human Potential
- Lean Enterprise: How High-Performance Organizations Innovate at Scale by Barry O’Reilly
- Unlearn: Let Go of Past Success to Achieve Extraordinary Results, also by Barry O’Reilly
Now let’s re-imagine the scene we began with to illustrate a psychologically safe approach:
Alice is in a meeting with her colleagues and is the only one to suggest a new approach to solving a problem. Rather than dismissing her idea, her colleagues give her constructive feedback and encourage her to share her thoughts.
How might it be easier to attract new employees when people feel comfortable being themselves, expressing their ideas and opinions, and taking risks? How might the workplace feel more welcoming, and how might people feel more satisfied in their workday?
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