Psychological Safety: Creating a Safe Space

The term psychological safety is often thrown around when experts refer to an excelling team or an innovative organization. Creating psychological safety can allow your employees to become more creative, collaborative, and comfortable in their working environment. But what does it mean to have psychological safety, and how can we accomplish this?

Psychological safety refers to a shared belief that a space and/or a team is a safe place to take interpersonal risks without fear of judgment or repercussion. This means a member of the team feels safe bringing new ideas to the table, offering feedback, or taking part in a discussion with their superiors. Whilet psychological safety begins with empathy and active listening, it is not just about being nice. Rather, psychologically safe environments offer space for constructive feedback in place of criticism, curiosity in place of judgment, and openly admitting mistakes in place of defensive behaviors. This goes for the employee and the employer. When individuals come to the table with mutual respect and understanding, creativity and innovation thrive.

Studies show that an organization fostering psychological safety is far more likely to succeed. Employees have higher rates of satisfaction, creativity, productivity, and innovation. Doors are opened and collaboration builds an environment that leads to organizational success that may otherwise be impossible. When individuals feel emotionally and mentally secure, they are more likely to bring new ideas to the table. They take risks to make themselves and their organization more competitive and productive.

When trying to decide if your organization offers your employees psychological safety, you should evaluate a few things. Know if your employees feel comfortable speaking up in meetings with their peers and superiors; if they are comfortable providing feedback to each other and management; and lastly, know how management approaches failure. If you feel your employees are uncomfortable bringing up new ideas or that failure is approached with judgement rather than curiosity and support, it may be time to take a look at how to strengthen the psychological safety of your organization.

Here are a few steps to help foster a sense of psychological safety in your office. Lead by example. Begin with your own behavior: offer constructive feedback rather than judgement; approach all employees with empathy; and practice active listening. Active listening is a skill that should be taught to all your employees. Creating an environment where individuals approach conversations with the goal to understand each other can create collaboration and creativity beyond expectations. Foster an open and curious mindset in your office and bring this to everything your team does. Encourage teams to talk to each other, provide feedback and openly receive feedback – fostering a sense of learning and progress. Lastly, approach every situation from a place of mutual respect and empathy. Demand the same from every member of your organization. Each employee is human and should be treated with respect, sensitivity, and encouragement.

While the steps may be simple, creating a sense of psychological safety in your organization is a journey; one that is often overlooked. When individuals feel criticized, they bring little to the table; when they’re given the space to share their ideas and give voice to their creativity, innovation thrives. No matter your organization, ensuring your employees feel respected and heard is the key to creating productivity, satisfaction, and success.

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