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The Key Ingredient To Effective Workplaces: Psychological Safety

Becky L
Becky L
  • Updated

Whether you're a team member or the person in charge, everyone wants their workplace to thrive. But sometimes, fear gets in the way – the fear of looking foolish, making a mistake, or rocking the boat. That's where psychological safety comes in. Creating a space where that fear vanishes unlocks huge potential for both individual and company-wide success.

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What is Psychological Safety?

Psychological safety, as defined by Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, is "a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking." In essence, it means everyone feels that they can bring their whole, authentic selves to work without fear of negative consequences for speaking up.

Why Psychological Safety Matters

The benefits of psychological safety can't be overstated. It is a key driver of:

  • Stronger Performance: A Google study found psychological safety to be the top factor in determining whether a team was successful. Psychologically safe teams are more likely to outperform those lacking this safety.
  • Increased Innovation: When people feel free to take risks and experiment, they open the door to breakthroughs they wouldn't have found by simply sticking to the same routines.
  • Reduced Conflict: Teams with psychological safety resolve differences through open communication rather than tension and resentment.
  • Greater Learning and Development: When mistakes are an opportunity for growth (not punishment) the whole team learns and adapts faster.
  • Enhanced Employee Well-being and Retention: A psychologically safe environment reduces the stress and anxiety of working on a team, leading to happier and more committed employees.

How to Foster Psychological Safety

Psychological safety doesn't happen magically. Leaders play a vital role, but it must extend to every member of the team. Here's how to cultivate a safe and open workplace:

Lead with Humility and Vulnerability
Leaders set the tone. Admit your own mistakes, showcase a hunger for learning, and be open to feedback from your team.

Create an Inclusive Atmosphere
Ensure every voice is heard and valued, regardless of job title or background.

Frame Mistakes as Learning Moments
Mistakes are inevitable, so don't use them as weapons. Focus on how to analyze what went wrong and improve.

Encourage Constructive Candor
Normalize giving and receiving feedback respectfully. This creates a culture of openness, even when it involves tough critique.

Emphasize Collaboration
Build a sense of 'we' by focusing on shared goals. Reward collective rather than individual successes whenever possible.

Actively Solicit Feedback
Regularly ask your team how they're feeling, what they need, and where things could improve from a safety standpoint. Make addressing their concerns a priority.

 

It's Never Too Late

Building psychological safety takes time and effort, but it's a worthwhile investment that unlocks huge benefits for both employees and organizations. Whether you're starting from scratch or trying to boost an existing culture, these small steps, taken consistently, can lead to extraordinary results.

 

Remember, psychological safety is about enabling your team to be their best selves and do their best work.

 

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