How to promote Psychological Safety at the Workplace

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If, as an employee, I do not feel comfortable and safe at my workplace, around my team, with my colleagues and seniors, to simply just ask questions or put my views forward without thinking twice, I am definitely a part of a psychologically unsafe work place. I would go to the extent of calling myself a mere puppet. If I do not get the freedom to speak my mind or get answers to my questions, where is my scope to grow and learn while letting my creative feathers spread out? Worth a thought?

The belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up and raising your views, concerns, ideas and most importantly, questions. Your workplace being a platform for you to pour your heart out without any hesitation. The freedom to think and solve problems in a unique and creative way at work. Yes, that’s what Psychological Safety is all about.

At a psychologically safe work place, it is a shared belief held by members of a team that others on the team will not embarrass, reject or punish them for speaking up.

There are broadly 4 stages that go into a workplace being Psychologically safe:

1.    Inclusion Safety: inclusion safety satisfies the basic human need to connect and belong. In this stage, one feels safe to be himself/herself and is accepted for who he/she is, including one’s unique attributes.    

2.    Learner Safety: this particular stage satisfies the need to learn and grow. One feels safe to exchange learnings by asking questions, giving and receiving feedback, experimenting and making mistakes. A very important stage this, knowing that its o to make mistakes and learn from them.

3.    Contributor Safety: this stage satisfies the need to make a difference, a place where you feel safe to use your skills and abilities to make a meaningful contribution to the organization.

4.    Challenger Safety: this is the stage which satisfies the need to make things better. The safety to speak up and challenge the status.

You think your workplace is a psychologically safe place for employees? If not, I would suggest you look at the repercussions it could have on the organization. And just in case you feel the need to make your organization or team, a psychologically safe place by the time you finish reading this, there are a few ways to create this environment, and pretty simple ones.

Here goes:

1.    To start with, make psychological safety an explicit priority. And how do you do that you ask? Well, talk about the importance of creating psychological safety at work.

2.    Next comes the environment to be created where everyone is facilitated to speak up by showing genuine curiosity and empathy in the workplace.

3.    Establishing norms for how failure is handled is something that follows next. Make sure experimentation and risk taking is not punished in any way. In fact, make sure it does not go unnoticed.

4.    Lastly, and importantly, embrace productive conflict because nothing bad ever came out of it. Conflict is not always negative.

Lack of psychological safety is a recipe for disaster. It breeds fear, aversion to risk and low engagement of employees. Ultimately, it leads to low performance which can never be good for any organization. So, foster an environment for respect, trust, autonomy and enablement.


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