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The key to creating psychological safety at work

The key to creating psychological safety at work

Before you can build a candid conversation culture or a highly collaborative team, you need to build psychological safety. 

In our guide, we’ll show you how you can create a psychologically safe workplace that boosts employee satisfaction and productivity. 

What is psychological safety?

According to Harvard Business School professor Dr Amy Edmonson, psychological safety is “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.”

Workplaces with strong psychological safety have less fear of taking (educated) risks, making mistakes when trying something new, engaging in candid conversation, and sharing their opinions with their colleagues and superiors. 

Why do you need psychological safety?

Psychological safety is important for a number of reasons. According to Accenture, a high level of psychological safety can result in:

  • 27% reduction in turnover
  • 76% more engagement
  • 50% more productivity
  • 74% less stress
  • 29% more life satisfaction
  • 57% more collaboration
  • 26% greater skills preparedness

Employees are also 67% more likely to apply any newly learned skills on the job. 

How can you build psychological safety?

So clearly, psychological safety is something every workplace should aim for. But unfortunately, just 26% of leaders actually create psychological safety in their teams

So how can you build a psychologically safe workplace? Here’s a few tips to get started. 

Provide opportunities for employees to express their thoughts

Ask for input and show encouragement for those employees who do speak up. It’s also important to act on suggestions (where feasible and appropriate), to show employees that their contributions matter. 

Build better self-awareness

Before we can best communicate with others, we need to have a solid understanding of ourselves. Self-awareness will allow you to understand your emotions and express them in a healthy way. This means you can be more vulnerable with your team and others in the workplace – allowing them to do the same. 

Self-awareness also allows for better conflict management. This means that you will be less likely to react instead of responding, so that you may be able to create a less hostile atmosphere. 

Use visualisation

According to Per Hugander, a strategic advisor who specializes in helping executives reach their goals (including the development of psyschological safety), one tactic that you can use is visualisation.

Imagine a recent situation where you’ve been successful at perspective taking, speaking candidly, or creating an atmosphere where others were able to engage fully. 

Now, visualise an upcoming situation and detail step by step how you would create a suitable atmosphere for discussing complex topics and decisions. 

Celebrate failure

While this won’t be possible in all scenarios, shift towards viewing failure as an opportunity to learn, rather than a reason for criticism or punishment. Ask employees what lessons they’ve taken away from things that didn’t work quite as they should have.

It can also help to speak honestly about your own failures. If employees see you engaging in this behaviour, they will be far more likely to do the same. 

Want to establish psychological safety? Start with our Communicating with EQ course!

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