For many of us, a substantial portion of our lives are spent at work. There are many key ingredients that go into crafting a healthy workplace that supports a thriving organization. One essential component? Psychological safety.
What is psychological safety?
Psychological safety revolves around feeling secure enough to take interpersonal risks, such as:
A psychologically safe workplace is about fostering a work culture that encourages these behaviors without the fear of damaging one’s self-image, reputation, status, or career. This type of workplace promotes growth, learning, and positive change for the individual and the workplace, while positively motivating employees to engage actively and authentically at work.
Why does psychological safety at work matter?
Research shows a tangible impact of psychological safety on:
Increased engagement in training and quality assurance
Enhance job satisfaction
Improved overall performance
A lack of psychological safety also unsurprisingly directly correlates with stress, burnout, and higher job turnover rates.
How can you help build psychological safety at work?
While psychological safety is not solely reliant on personal traits, cultivating a safe and supportive work environment can still depend on your general attitude toward work. For example, you may experience a higher level of safety and satisfaction if you have a “growth mindset” - meaning you see skills as something that can be learned and improved on with effort rather than a fixed innate talent, and that mistakes are essential to learning rather than signs of inadequacy. However, even if you have these traits, a supportive workplace culture is still important for a thriving workplace.
Something else to be mindful of are the diverse cultures and backgrounds in the workplace. Certain communities, such as BIPOC, experience different social stigmas and standards compared to others. Keeping in mind how different cultures may understand and define inclusion can greatly impact your organization’s approach to psychological safety.
Building psychological safety from a leadership position:
The way that leaders approach and interact with employees sets the foundation for the team. Here are a few tips on how to build a psychologically safe workplace:
Prioritize relationship-building, equity, and inclusivity. Trust is established by being consistent, supportive, and fair.
Embrace a growth mindset when interacting with your team. Encourage initiative, effort, and improvements, and view mistakes as opportunities for collaboration and growth.
Provide clear expectations and structure.
Lead by example: share ideas, voice opinions respectfully, and own up to mistakes without self-criticism.
Exhibiting strong leadership behaviors can influence employees positively. Get to know people who report to you and build trust by being consistent, supportive, and responding with empathy. Understand when employees share their personal challenges and encourage self-care and boundaries. Learn about your team’s strengths and limitations and provide equal opportunities and reasonable accommodations that can help your team thrive.
If you’re not in a leadership role:
Many of the same suggestions still apply! As an employee, you can build a culture of greater psychological safety by:
Focus on fostering relationships with your colleague through kindness and support.
Develop a growth mindset, and treat mistakes as learning opportunities and be thoughtful about what led to them.
Model behavior you want to see by taking interpersonal risks and sharing thoughts and ideas - unless your workplace penalizes such actions. In that case, this is a good opportunity to advocate for policies and practices that support workplace psychological safety,
Building psychological safety takes time and dedication, but the payoff is invaluable. A healthier workplace that allows authenticity and active engagement is a workplace that can flourish - it’s an investment well worth making.
This article was inspired by MindBeacon.