Top Five Ways to Create Psychological Safety at Work

- Leadership

by Sam at Management 3.0

Everyone’s talking about the importance of psychological safety. Not that it’s something new, but in today’s post pandemic world where employee healthcare is top of mind and leaders are trying to prioritize employee well-being, companies are thinking about what it takes to make people not only feel motivated and engaged, but safe.

What is psychological safety?

First, let’s start with what psychological safety is:

A psychologically safe workplace is defined as one that promotes employees’ psychological well-being and actively works to prevent harm to employee psychological health due to negligent, reckless or intentional acts.

In short, psychological safety is about making people feel that they can make mistakes without being reprimanded, that they’re free to fail and that they have security.

What does it take to make people feel psychologically safe?

#1: Promote self awareness to create psychological safety

The more in touch people are with their emotions, the better they can understand what they’re feeling and articulate it. If people aren’t feeling safe they can communicate that to their colleagues and managers and tell them what needs to change. There are many ways to build self-awareness such as taking a 360 degree feedback assessment, usually facilitated by a coach, asking yourself how you feel regularly and tapping into your emotions. The more emotionally intelligent your employees are, the more cohesive the office will be.

#2: Encourage “Failure” to increase psychological safety at work

Companies should not only not make people feel bad if they don’t succeed at something but they should push people to experiment and fail. With every failure comes a lesson learned and new ways to reiterate. Failure can also lead to new projects and initiatives that hadn’t been thought about before. But most importantly, when people feel that it’s OK if things don’t go perfectly, they feel better and happy to take on new challenges without the fear that they’re going to lose their jobs, get yelled at or have to deal with repercussions.

#3: Be Open to Feedback to create psychological safety in the workplace

Leaders especially have to make it clear that they are not above the fold and can’t let ego get in the way. When employees feel confident and comfortable giving feedback to everyone on the team, including the higher-ups it creates a culture of trust, engagement and motivation. The more receptive people are to understanding what they can do better, the more authentic everyone feels they can be and the more they feel that they can challenge others in an honest and genuine way.

Also: Listen to our podcast episode with Gitte Klitgaard on psychological safety in teams.

#4: Avoid Blame for more psychological safety

One of the biggest ways to kill trust is to blame people. Leaders and everyone in a company need to take ownership for their actions whether things go well or not. When we blame people it can lead to disengagement, demotivation and an overall feeling of negativity within the organization. Being able to take ownership and admit when something went wrong is a key skill for managers and leaders when creating strong companies and makes people feel safe and at ease that even those in high-up positions aren’t above making and owning their mistakes.

#5: Include the team in Decision Making

When people feel like they’re part of the decision making process they feel invested in the project and the company on a whole. When making decisions, try as much as possible to include people. Get ideas, insights and feedback while the project is moving not once it’s already in place. This allows people to have a stronger connection to what’s going on, which helps build confidence and ultimately create an enjoyable atmosphere for people to work.

What are some ways your company builds psychological safety?

Photo credit: Matthew Waring via Unsplash

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