Create a Psychologically Safe Environment in Your Company

We spend a lot of time discussing the practical issues of worker safety as well as creating a culture of safety via cooperation, behavior modification, organizational compliance software, and training. Building a team that is open to discussing errors, close calls, and novel concepts necessitates a different type of safety—one in which workers feel freely accepted, included, and protected from humiliation, rejection, or the worry that their position would be jeopardized. Bring on the psychological security.


The idea that committing mistakes won’t result in punishment is the foundation of psychological safety, according to the executive coach, Stanford University Instructor, and Founder Laura Delizonna, Ph.D., wrote on high-performance teams in an article for the Harvard Business Review (HBR). Workers will be in a better position to engage with management rather than feel as though organizational leaders are their enemies if they are provided with a forum for free speech and a platform to share their innovative ideas for workplace solutions. Additionally, collaboration increases the likelihood of a win-win solution.


Delizonna quoted Paul Santagata, Google’s Head of Industry, in the HBR piece, saying that trust is essential for a team to function. After conducting a two-year study on team performance, Santagata discovered that the psychological safety of the teams that outperformed all others was a consistent factor, according to Delizonna.


Another commercial argument for psychological safety has to do with workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI. While it is true that every significant effort has certain objectives of its own, psychological safety and DEI also share some harmonizing aspects that might positively influence the culture of your workplace. Talking about psychological safety is a good idea at any time, but in June, when the LGBTQIA+ and Black communities commemorate Emancipation Day or Juneteenth, and the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, it might have a particularly strong effect. Regardless of when you start, remember that the primary objective of any psychological safety-based initiative should be to establish a work environment where all employees feel respected, accepted, and both physically and emotionally safe.


The Advantages of Psychological Security


The advantages of psychological safety are comparable to those that strong safety cultures inside enterprises can provide. Everyone pursues their daily sense of responsibility for safety in an environment with a strong safety culture, and everyone collaborates to recognize and address unsafe working circumstances and behaviors. The emphasis is still on the workers when it comes to psychological safety, but it does it in a way that encourages an atmosphere free from fear of reprisal or worry for voicing opinions, taking chances, or simply being authentic.


Furthermore, psychological safety, as Delizonna pointed out, fosters good feelings of confidence, respect, and trust—emotions that can add humor, inspire creativity, and result in solutions. All of these can raise worker involvement and lead to enhanced productivity, security, and commercial results.


Developing Psychological Safety and Inclusion in Four Ways


Activate your listening skills.


Establishing an atmosphere that is welcoming and encourages psychological safety requires active listening. Researcher Amy Edmondson, the Novartis Professor of leadership and management at Harvard Business School and author of The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth, explained to the National Safety Council’s Safety+Health that listening effectively requires a commitment to learning as much as you can from colleagues. This entails listening intently to the worries and suggestions of the workforce. Edmondson advised striking up a discussion by demonstrating your curiosity and wanting to learn. She explained that by taking this method, people feel more at ease and are encouraged to voice their ideas in a secure manner.


Seeing active listening as a chance to learn is the main lesson to be learned from it. Make it your goal to comprehend the opinions, ideas, and viewpoints of people. This will demonstrate your attention and encourage staff to speak more freely about their ideas. For ideas on how to do this, consider these discussion starters:


What is effective for you?


What should be made better, in your opinion?


What, in your opinion, is missing?


Additionally, there are many other ways to engage in listening, such as one-on-one meetings, led seminars, and anonymous staff surveys. It is important to remember that the purpose of this is to learn what other people think; therefore, now is not the time to argue against the rationale behind safety precautions and standards. Get ready to absorb whatever you’re learning, good and bad, as well as neutral.


Ensure that the people in charge of your organization are devoted, caring, and inclusive.


A recent study conducted by the management consulting company McKinsey & Company (McKinsey) showed that psychological safety is negatively impacted by an authoritarian, command-and-control leadership style. Fortunately, a McKinsey Global Survey performed in May 2020—during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic—revealed a growing trend away from authoritative leadership. The McKinsey consultants and Edmondson were among the professionals who developed and analyzed the survey results. They concluded that supportive and consultative leadership styles foster psychological safety by emphasizing pleasant team environments.


Asking these questions will help create a positive team environment.


Do members of the team respect one another’s contributions?


Does each team member have a say in how the group does its tasks, which is the primary factor that determines a team’s psychological safety according to a McKinsey report?


In these areas, are leaders consultative and supportive?


Regarding consultation, do leaders:


Ask their team for advice.


Think about their team’s opinions on matters that concern them.


Additionally, in terms of support, do leaders:


Show consideration and encouragement for their groups as well as for every worker individually.


Additionally, McKinsey advised keeping an eye out for “challenging leadership,” which pushes staff members to reevaluate presumptions about their jobs and how to carry them out in order for them to reach their full potential and surpass expectations.


In terms of leadership, the bottom line is this: Here are five steps that you should prioritize:


Adopt a consultative and helpful stance to foster a positive team environment.


Teams should be challenged to perform well and think creatively while solving problems.


Realize that the actions that will ultimately foster inclusivity and respect are modeled by company leadership since this will help you build an atmosphere where psychological safety exists.


Encourage the growth of leaders at every organizational level in order to improve psychological safety.


Invest in leadership development activities that put leaders’ preexisting ideas, presumptions, and emotions to the test. These exercises have the potential to produce positive, long-lasting mental shifts that can promote self-awareness and accelerate development and performance.


You should observe an improvement in employees’ perceptions of leaders’ inclusivity if you concentrate on modeling helpful and consultative leadership behaviors. Developing a steady stream of two-way communication among staff members is another effective strategy for encouraging their mutual regard and curiosity. Additionally, it offers leaders a priceless chance to own up to their weaknesses in a humble and healthy way, enabling them to resolve disagreements in a cooperative and understanding way.


Be sincere.


Everything we’ve talked about up to this point needs to take place in a genuine manner. Finding psychological safety is not a matter of “checking the box.” Additionally, keep in mind that the purpose of these encounters is to highlight one another’s values and to further the idea that people should feel comfortable being who they truly are. This will help employees reach their full potential and foster an inclusive and safe work environment. Make an effort to convey to your staff that you appreciate independent, creative thought more than following the crowd. Remember that every employee has a different background and experience, so be prepared to modify your communication approach to ensure that no one feels excluded from the workplace and that everyone is comfortable sharing their thoughts.


Create an Environment of Deep Respect


This entails appreciating everyone’s viewpoints, whether or not you agree with them. Jim Barnett, the CEO, and cofounder of the employee-engagement platform Glint, stated in a Forbes article that it’s equally crucial to maintain an open, honest, and non-defensive feedback loop in order to gain respect.


Establish a culture of trust where leaders initiate candid conversations to encourage participation and develop safety procedures.


Face disagreements head-on with the intention of using them as an opportunity to learn more about what other people perceive as a problem, demonstrate empathy for their viewpoints, engage in active listening, and determine fair means of intervening to bring about a desirable (win-win) conclusion.


To avoid any drama and work toward a sound solution, eliminate the terms blame and criticism from your language and instead concentrate on explaining the facts that pertain to the underlying issue honestly.


Encourage leaders and staff to take pride in their risk-taking and have frank conversations so that everyone feels comfortable owning up to some of the inevitable setbacks.  No one is flawless, but a team may overcome obstacles and establish procedures and policies to steer clear of future problems by working through issues in an open and non-confrontational manner.


By taking these actions, you’ll set yourself up for success in developing trust, which will promote respect within your company and create an environment where psychological safety may thrive.


With all of the discussion around psychological safety, now is an excellent time to share


At KPA, we understand that discussing these ideas requires self-reflection. Our organization strives to uphold its basic values, and we sincerely appreciate one another. There’s always space for growth, and through our inclusion initiatives, we aspire to keep making progress and creating a work environment that values and respects everyone’s experience, knowledge, and wisdom. We would be delighted to talk with you about how your company promotes respect and trust in the workplace.

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