What is Psychological Safety and why is it so important?  .

#Help & Advice

As the war on talent continues companies that can attract and retain the best talent all have one thing in common, psychological safety, but what is it and why is it so important?

Dr Amy Edmonson of the Harvard Business Review who originally coined the phrase ‘psychological safety’ shares that psychological safety is the belief that you won't be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. In the workplace, it gives employees the confidence to speak their mind without the fear that their teammates will embarrass or reject them, and it creates an environment which fosters creativity. Psychological safety has a huge impact on how employees feel on Sunday night before returning to work on Monday morning.

Organisations which lack psychological safety will find employees less likely to share ideas or voice concerns for fear of embarrassment or rejection and it can lead to increased turnover and lower employee engagement.

Whereas those companies who create a safe space for employees to share ideas and bring their authentic selves to work will be rewarded with increased employee engagement, better team collaboration and a more creative workforce.  
So now we know why it is important, what can we do to create psychological safety in the workplace?  **

  • It all starts with transparency. If you are a business leader or manager you need to be utterly clear and transparent with your team in order to build trust. Employees want to know the vision of the company, any challenges the business is facing and have a clear understanding of the company goals.
  • Ask for feedback and reassure team members that their opinions and ideas are important and will be listened to. Be proactive and ask people for their opinions, then be respectful when they speak up. Be mindful that everyone processes information differently and while the extroverts in the team may be quick to volunteer their thoughts and ideas, the introverts may need more time to think about the question or process the information, so give people options of ways they can communicate.
  • Encourage people to take calculated risks and reassure them it ok if they don’t succeed or make mistakes.
  • Own up to any mistakes you have made as a leader and share what you have learnt from that. Then ask your team to share anything they have tried which hasn’t worked out as expected, and what they have learnt from it.
  • Show value and appreciation of ideas. Establish an environment where all ideas are welcome by respecting the voice and opinions of others. Thank people for sharing their thoughts, you don’t have to act on all ideas put forward, but the more you acknowledge people for sharing their thoughts the more likely others will be to contribute.
  • Get to know your employees, ask if they are ok. Show you care about them as people, and you will build trust which will give people the confidence to contribute.
  • Follow through on your commitments and be precise with your expectations and information. To build trust your team need to know they can rely on you so set clear expectations and adhere to your commitments.
  • Explain reasons for change and allow people time to process the change.
  • Where possible, include your team in decision making. This will make them feel valued and you will get less resistance to change.
  • Champion your team. People thrive with regular positive praise and recognition, instead of criticising things that have gone wrong, praise the things which have gone right.

Davina Cooke

Director Executive Search