Psychological Safety in the Workplace

Psychological Safety in the Workplace


A concept that surfaces time and time again
in studies of highly effective workplaces, is Psychological Safety. Psychological safety in the workplace is defined
by Harvard Business School professor Dr. Amy Edmondson as “a climate in which people
are comfortable being (and expressing) themselves.” She is also clear that it is not all about
being warm and fuzzy. It is about, in her words, “giving candid
feedback, openly admitting mistakes, and learning from each other”. At its core, psychological safety is about
relationships between people and the Trust that is there, or not. Various studies find that workplaces and teams
with high levels of psychological safety outperform the market norms for their industry segments,
and enjoy lower levels of turnover and higher employee engagement. Innovation is far more likely to spring from
an environment of psychological safety. With all these benefits, why aren’t all
employers on board with this concept? It likely stems from workplace culture, and
the habits and leadership styles of that culture. Workplace cultures that value obedience and
deference to authority are unlikely to be fertile ground for employees to feel safe
enough to speak up and offer opinions or perspectives that challenge accepted norms. Employees are not willing to simply ask “why”
when they fear their job is on the line, or their supervisor may retaliate and punish
them. A workplace culture of psychological safety
begins with leadership. Leaders must purposefully set the example
that asking “why” and challenging, in an appropriate manner, the status quo, is
an OK thing to do. So how is this done? Research indicates it is a combination of
factors. Leadership self-awareness is the essential
first step. Without this, all else will fail. Leaders who embrace the ability to be vulnerable
and open to direct communication and feedback from all levels of their organization, will
establish the new norms for their organizations. Next, purposeful action steps and modelling
can set the stage for a transformation of culture toward psychological safety. Depending on the passion, energy and authenticity,
it can be a slow process or a relatively quick transition. One thing is for certain, psychological safety
requires vigilance and consistent attention. One breach of trust or mishandled employee
scenario can set everything back. In our dynamic radically changing economic
times, employers who inspire the imaginations and release the energies of their workforce
are more likely to survive and possibly thrive. Purposefully creating authentic psychological
safety in the workplace culture appears to be a winning strategy for all employers. For help with your workplace culture, reach
out to Employers Council.

Comments

(1 Comment)

  • MisterTracks

    nice content

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