What is psychological safety?
Psychological safety is the ability to share your thoughts, and ideas as well as challenge the status quo without the fear of being punished, belittled, or humiliated by other team members.
What causes low psychological safety in the workplace?
Low psychological safety is experienced when
- There are high penalties for taking risks
- One is humiliated or belittled for making mistakes
- When only one ‘star employee’ or only the ideas of the leaders/manager are considered taken seriously and the voice of others is not considered important
What is a psychologically safe workplace?
A workplace that has a culture where employees are encouraged to share ideas and take risks. It is a workplace where there is an explicit understanding that the managers and team members are supportive when a mistake is made.
Most importantly a psychologically safe workplace is where employees feel safe to engage in healthy debate, disagree and ask difficult questions.
What are some of the most tangible and notable positive impacts of a psychologically safe workplace?
Many organizations are actively talking about diversity in the workplace. An organization will only benefit from diversity when the voice of minority groups are heard and their ideas are implemented. This can only be achieved when these diverse employees experience psychological safety at the workplace.
Here employees will be more open to sharing ground-level challenges, areas for product/service improvement and practical ways to solve them. This in turn will help companies keep their products/services relevant.
What are some of the biggest repercussions of not being a psychologically safe workplace?
We often see how a lack of psychological safety can lead to a loss of good talent from the company or the workforce. The more dangerous repercussion is the underutilization of existing talent in the organization.
If an employee does not feel like their work/opinions matter they are likely to only deliver the bare minimum and rather than be an intrapreneur (someone who innovates like an entrepreneur but within a larger company).
What are the stages of establishing a psychologically safe workplace?
For leaders working on creating a psychologically safe workplace, it is useful to read The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation by Dr. Timothy Clark. In the book the defines the stages as,
Inclusion Safety – Where an individual’s basic human need to connect and belong is met. In this stage, the employee feels accepted for who they are (their individual identity).
Learner Safety – In this stage, the employee feels safe to participate in the learning process (integral to any company). This is seen when an employee asks questions, gives and receives feedback, and is encouraged to learn from mistakes.
Contributor Safety – In this stage, the employee feels safe to contribute their unique skills and abilities to the team’s/organisation’s goals.
Challenger Safety – In this stage, the employee feels safe to speak up about areas and needs for improvement, debate, and challenge the status quo.
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