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How and Why You Should Make Psychological Safety a Priority in the Workplace

Working with other people can be difficult and overwhelming at times, especially when members of the team do not communicate well. This can create an environment where departments struggle to agree on the best course of action for many projects.

Psychological safety is a concept that can be integrated into the workplace landscape easily and often results in positive outcomes. Because of the norms that are in place that make it easy to communicate with each other, the department tends to thrive.

Want to learn how your company can incorporate psychological safety into your workplace environment? Keep reading to find out how!

What is Psychological Safety?

Psychological safety refers to the belief that is shared amongst team members that the environment is safe to take interpersonal risks. This means that people are allowed and encouraged to speak up when needed and to share ideas with the rest of the team.

Studies behind psychological safety have shown that when norms are established that allow employees to voice their opinions, everyone wins. These norms create a workplace where employees feel that they are valued and have a voice. 

Why Does Psychological Safety Matter?

Psychological safety matters the most because it ensures that team members feel empowered enough to speak up when it matters. The teams form a great bond with each other that is based on this openness.

As openness becomes a greater part of the workplace landscape, the ability to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of each team member becomes stronger. When the bond is stronger, they are better able to collaborate on matters that are important to the business as a whole.

What Does Psychological Safety Mean in the Workplace?

Psychological safety in the workplace means that there is an understanding that employees are allowed to speak up about issues related to the business. Whether they are voicing their opinions on a specific issue or seeking to propose ideas, they should feel safe and comfortable doing so.

The best way to build trust within the workplace is to create an environment that is open to discussions and ideas. When employees know what to expect from their managers and supervisors, they are more likely to stick with the company for the foreseeable future.

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Psychological safety is critical to creating a prosperous business. 

Why is Psychological Safety Important in the Workplace?

When it comes to creating an atmosphere where employees are happy to come to work every day instead of always seeking a way out, psychological safety should be at the forefront. This is because employees who feel safe are less likely to feel they need to find another job.

Here are some important reasons why psychological safety is important in the workplace:

Lower Turnover Rates

A company that prides itself on building psychological safety for its employees tends to have a lower turnover rate overall. This is because they feel that they have not only a job, but somewhere they go that they have a voice.

Increase Creativity and Innovation

When teams are encouraged to communicate with each other and are seen as equals, employers often see an increase in innovative ideas. This is mostly because the workers feel a sense of ownership and are more willing to contribute their ideas.

Creates an Atmosphere of Inclusiveness

For companies who wish to create an atmosphere where diversity is encouraged and everyone is included, then psychological safety is necessary. Creating norms that include everyone allows employees to feel comfortable sharing ideas with others.

Increases Employee Happiness

When employees feel a sense of belonging and ownership within the company and their teams, they tend to be happier overall. This is because they look forward to coming to work each day in a place that hears them and includes them in the decision-making process.

Leads to Better Overall Performance and Productivity

As employees are encouraged to participate in the sharing of ideas and thoughts, more and more employees are willing to do just that. This often leads to them wanting to participate more in the day-to-day functioning of the workplace.

While this is not an exhaustive list of benefits of making psychological safety a priority, it aims to give you a better understanding of such advantages. Creating this safe environment means that everyone can work together to move the company forward.

Four Stages of Psychological Safety 

As you begin to research psychological safety and decide you want to incorporate it into your workplace, you will discover that many pieces have to fall into place. Like with most philosophies and strategies, there is much work to be done as long as you know what to do.

For psychological safety to work in your workplace, you need to have a broader understanding of how it works. This is why learning about the four stages of psychological safety will benefit you and your employees.

Check out these four stages of psychological safety that you need to know:

1. Inclusion Safety

When you look at the idea of feeling safe when it comes to inclusion, this idea goes back to the basic human need to connect with others and belong. Because of this, the first stage is where the employees feel safe in showing others who they are.

2. Learner Safety

This stage of psychological safety includes feeling free and safe to ask questions when you do not understand something. Additionally, in this stage, giving and receiving feedback is key to learning what you need to learn.

3. Contributor Safety

During this stage, you and the employees begin to feel more comfortable with sharing and collaborating with team members. This means that more and more employees are willing to contribute their ideas and thoughts.

4. Challenger Safety

This stage is often when employees feel safe enough to challenge rules and regulations that are in place. They also feel they can bring their ideas up during meetings with managers and supervisors.

How to Make Psychological Safety a Priority in the Workplace

When you decide to make psychological safety a priority in your company, it is important to get buy-in starting from the top. This is because if upper management understands its importance and embraces it, other employees tend to feel safer.

In addition to upper management, supervisors and lower management need to also make psychological safety a priority as well. This will send a message to employees that everyone in the organization is taking the priority of this topic seriously.

Here are some helpful tips about creating and making psychological safety a priority in the workplace:

1. First, examine your leadership style

If you have been in management for some time, you may be comfortable with the decisions you make. This can sometimes create stagnancy when you handle situations, especially with employees.

Taking the time to examine your leadership style will help give you insight into the way you interact with others. Knowing this will help you understand where you need to make changes.

Once you have done this, it is important to share your reflections with your employees as well as other managers. Doing this will not only show them that you are approachable, but it may also encourage them to do the same.

2. Be engaged in your management position

One of the most important ways you can help to create a psychological safety atmosphere in your workplace is to keep yourself in the present. This means that you should pay attention to the details of your work and also your employees when you speak to them.

Being present often includes participating in active and reflective listening so that others know that you are listening. During meetings, training, and other activities, employees must know that you are there.

3. Constantly search for feedback

You must meet with your employees face-to-face from time to time to ensure that everyone is on the same page. This not only helps make sure things are running smoothly but also helps you as a leader to know you are being effective.

You should encourage your employees to let you know how they learn and work best so that you can help them fit better in their jobs. It also provides you with the opportunity to connect with them on another level.

4. Take time to connect with your employees

To create a psychologically safe environment, you should also include questions about how the employees are doing in their jobs. Doing this will show them that you care about their well-being and their desire to have a better work-life balance.

When you are attempting to create an atmosphere that is conducive to being psychologically safe, you need to include getting to know your employees on a personal level. This does not mean you have to hang out with them outside of the workplace, but that you get to know who they are and what is important to them.

5. Have an open-door policy

To make sure that psychological safety is a priority in the workplace, you must let employees know that they can talk to you anytime. This means having an open-door policy that allows them to pop in for a conversation if needed.

While many employers say they make themselves available, they often have their employees set up appointments with them. This translates to others that you are willing to listen but that you will do it on your own time.

6. Foster an environment conducive to open communication

When communication is encouraged in the workplace, it leaves the door open for open and honest communication. This should be the case not just between you and your employees but all departments and other leaders as well.

As you are communicating with others, especially your employees, you need to be sure that you are not the only one talking. To foster a psychologically safe environment, you need to create an atmosphere that shows that you and other members of managed care.

7. Keep negativity to a minimum

There is nothing worse within a company than people who are constantly negative to everyone about everything. People like this are never pleased and look for opportunities to bring others down.

Make it well known what your expectations are and that negativity is not allowed within the company. When you hear negative things being said to or about others, be sure that you talk with those employees right away.

8. Encourage creativity and innovation

In addition to making it clear that open communication, connection, and sharing are a big part of the company culture, it is also vital that you encourage employees to bring ideas to the table. Giving them a voice can go a long way to making sure they feel as though they belong.

The advantage of encouraging employees to bring innovative ideas to the workplace is that there are always fresh ideas that are needed to move the company forward. To do this, be sure to ask employees their thoughts on certain situations that come up from time to time.

9. Decision-making should include all

Anytime you have to make major decisions for the company, ask yourself if it is something that should only be done with senior management or would other employees benefit. Keep in mind that when you include employees in decision-making, they feel a strong sense of belonging.

When your employees feel as though they have a voice in decision-making, they are more likely to stay with the company. This is typically because they feel valued and that their opinions matter.

10. Encourage various types of communication methods

While there is something to be said about having fewer systems in place for various things, there is nothing wrong with providing various types of communication methods. This just means that you are giving no excuses for lack of communication.

Whether you prefer email communication, phone, or video conferencing, providing the different types can show employees that you care. This is because you are letting them know that they can choose how they want to communicate.

A group of women sit around a table and talk.
Part of psychological safety is encouraging communication between yourself and your employees. 

Ready to Make Psychological Safety a Priority in Your Workplace?

Now that you know what psychological safety is, why it is important, and the steps you can take to create a safe workplace, you should be ready to get started. Before you get to the point where employees are losing interest in their work, you should consider making psychological safety a priority.

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