May 10, 2022
According to Harvard’s Amy Edmonson coined the term “psychological safety” in a 1999 journal article exploring its relationship to team learning and performance. Psychological safety means an absence of interpersonal fear. When psychological safety is present, people are able to speak up with work-relevant content”.
According to ccl.org, psychological safety at the workplace is the belief held by team members that others in the team will embarrass, reject or punish them for speaking up. Usually, people at the work place feel uncomfortable keeping their thoughts or ideas in front of their team members in fear of being humiliated or being a topic of joke. Lack of psychological safety at work has major business repercussions.
From betteruop.com, An effective team values psychological safety as much as they do physical safety and performance standards.
It is important at work place because it:
Enhances employee engagement. When team members feel safe at work, it’s easier for them to engage. This could be in a meeting, solving problems, collaborating on projects, and engaging with their customers and peers. Additionally, safe teams inspire employees to be fully present at work versus dozing off or counting the hours until the workday is over.
Inspires creativity and ideas. In order for creativity and ideas to flow organically, team members must feel safe expressing themselves. Image how many inspired ideas were never shared because a team member didn’t feel safe sharing.
Created brand ambassadors. Creating a psychologically safe workplace is one of the best ways to inspire team members to constantly brag about you. Team members can’t help but gush about how wonderful work is when they’re being treated right.
As per the recent study of The Predictive Index, team members who feel psychologically safe at the work place are less likely to leave. In the other end, why leave a company that treats you with respect and makes you feel safe and valued?
An interesting study by Naomi Eisenberger at AL. (2006), a leading social neuroscience researcher at the university of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), indicates that physical pain and social rejections share neurocognitive substrates. When researchers looked at brain images from the study, they found activity in the dorsal portion of the anterior cingulate cortex, which is the same neural region that is involved in the physical pain. This means that the feeling of excluded provoked the same sort of reaction in the brain that physical pain might cause.
Matthew Lieberman, one of Eisenberger’s fellow researchers at UCLA, hypothesizes that human beings evolved this link between social connections and physical pain within the brain because social connections to caregivers is necessary for mammals to survive. The brain does not differentiate between you being at work or in a private setting. Instead, it experiences the workplace as being first and foremost the social system.
Behaviors that create physiological safety at the workplace:
Dare to be vulnerable and show fallibility: Show your colleagues that it is OK to make mistakes by demonstrating vulnerability and directness. When you articulate that no one is perfect, you can accelerate a new culture in your team where making mistakes is appreciated and celebrated for the sake of creating more boldness and innovation. According to Edmondson, it can even be effective for leaders to apologies for not facilitating trust and safety in the past.
Be curious and humble: The great team consists of team members who are humble in face of challenges that lie ahead, and it is curious about what others brings. Situational humility combined with curiosity creates a sense of psychological safety that allows you to take risks with strangers (Edmondson, 2017).
Respond productively and forgive mistakes: It is okay to be disappointed as a leader, but the disappointment may never be so dominant that you can’t help your team members to get back on track and to solve the issue at hand. It is true that no one likes to screw up and the only thing an employee would need is a supportive leader who is there to accept and figuring out how to get back on the track back. Nothing kills psychological safety quicker than a negative reaction to an error.
Welcome questions, doubts and bad new: Asks for questions and opinions and be proactive in inviting input. When you ask your employees for opinions in group settings, they will not only feel more involved and accountable but also empowered to innovate (Slack 2019).
Empathy Training- Story Telling: Create sessions where every member of the team shares a story with team members to raise the level of interpersonal empathy. Story telling is a good method for that purpose. By sharing personal stories, you support the creation of an environment and culture where employees can bring their full selves to work. No one wants to leave their inner personality at home. Every employee wants work to be more than just labor. Building bonds is essential and telling and sharing stories with team members can help cultivate the bonds.
Psychological safety in the workplace is a far deeper concept than it actually sounds. It affects a human being as similar as physical pain affects. It may affect your self-confidence and many times it will affect your inner peace and will make you feel worthless.
You have so many thoughts and creative ideas running in your brain but all you are afraid of is being made fun of, because either you have never tried to take the initiative or you were not treated right in the first place.
Every person deserves to be respected when they are trying to express themselves because opinions vary from person to person. When we don’t value other’s perspective, we as an organization lose a very creative idea that directly affects the growth of the company.
The major role in psychological safety at the work place is played by the leader who should always make sure every team member in his/her team is a creative and idea generating mind. As Albert Einstein says: “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid"