The working world has always been a complex space, however in recent years with the rise of a global pandemic, the working world has further become a place of anxiety, stress and especially fear. The question on employers’ lips is, how can companies create an environment that supports and helps its employees? The answer to this is simple: an environment that supports it employees is one that encourages psychological safety.
What is Psychological Safety?
Psychological Safety in the workplace refers to the belief that it is safe to speak up, it allows employees to express their thoughts, opinions, and ideas freely, without fear of being shamed, criticised, judged or experiencing negative consequences. It is a healthy culture that promotes employee well-being, respect, job satisfaction as well as feelings of acceptance.
Why Do We Need It?
Creating a psychologically safe work environment is essential because it fosters open communication, trust, and collaboration among employees. Furthermore, it improves engagement, performance and wellbeing, fosters inclusivity, decreases staff turnover, improves creativity and innovation as well as creates pride in the business. When employees feel safe it also leads to greater engagement and a sense of belonging, which ultimately leads to better job performance and retention.
Psychological Safety in the workplace also allows for employees to pick up their hand when they need help. In an environment with psychological safety, employees are able to recognise their needs, and it empowers them to be both accountable for fulfilling their needs but also brave enough to ask for help when they are unable to fulfil the need. In a world where mental health is still a taboo, the ability to ask for help as well as accept help holds immense gravitas.
Without psychological safety, a business culture can become distrustful, conflicting, and have break-downs in communication. Resulting in high turnover, burnout and job dissatisfaction.
What To Do?
So, what steps can businesses put in place in order to bring about psychological safety in the workplace?
Step 1: Encourage Self-Awareness
The first step in encouraging psychological safety is by “Starting on the self”. Individuals need to be able to self-reflect and recognise their own beliefs and opinions that may inhibit others in the team. Learning to self-reflect allows individuals to recognise and stop their own harmful behaviours and biases, it creates a safer environment for others and teaches people to take on criticism.
Some helpful tools for self-reflecting include: Journaling, Meditation, Team Review Meetings, Team Mood/Health Check Boards, as well as keeping a ‘box of suggestions’ outside of your office.
Step 2: Get More Information
The second step requires the business to find out what is inhibiting psychological safety in the workspace. This can be done by doing regular surveys, reviews and focus groups, as well as through having occasional staff meetings where employees can suggest improvements.
Step 3: Build on Strengths
Once the data gathering is complete and has been analysed, the business can then address the gaps as well as create an environment that focuses on the strengths of their employees, rather than their weaknesses. Businesses are more likely to reach their full potential by using individual’s strengths as employees feel more motivated, develop increased confidence and develop the ability to learn from their mistakes.
Step 4: Train, Train, and Train
The fourth step in encouraging psychological safety in the workplace is training everyone to understand what is expected in the business. Programs for training and development provide staff with the abilities and information required for effective communication, feedback, and conflict resolution. Employees who participate in training programs may also learn the values, culture, coping skills and resilience that will help them cope with the strain and stress of the workplace. Moreover, training can also focus on health and wellness in order for employees to know their signs and where they can seek help.