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Building a Culture of Psychological Safety: How To Create an Emotionally Secure Work Environment

Written by Annette Cairns on .
Building a Culture of Psychological Safety

Psychological safety in the workplace has become a hot topic in recent years, and for good reason. As we spend a significant portion of our lives at work, it's essential that we feel comfortable, valued and respected in our environment. A workplace that lacks psychological safety can lead to stress, anxiety, and decreased productivity, which can ultimately impact the overall success of a business.

But what exactly is psychological safety?

It is defined as the "belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes" (Edmondson, 2018). In other words, it's about feeling safe to share your thoughts and opinions without fear of retaliation or judgment.

When psychological safety is present in the workplace, employees are more likely to feel comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions, even if they're not fully formed or polished. This, in turn, fosters a culture of creativity, innovation and collaboration, as everyone's input is valued and considered. Furthermore, when employees feel safe to speak up, they're more likely to identify issues that could potentially harm the organisation and work to find solutions to mitigate them.

On the other hand, a lack of psychological safety can have severe consequences for an organisation. When employees feel they cannot speak up without fear of retaliation or judgement, they're less likely to contribute to team meetings, brainstorming sessions, and other collaborative efforts. This can lead to missed opportunities, as valuable ideas and insights are left unshared.

Moreover, a lack of psychological safety can contribute to a toxic workplace culture, where bullying, harassment, and discrimination are allowed to thrive. This can lead to high levels of employee turnover and a negative reputation for the organisation. Additionally, employees who feel unsafe or unsupported in their workplace may experience high levels of stress, which can lead to burnout, decreased job satisfaction, and ultimately, decreased productivity.

So, what can organisations do to foster psychological safety in the workplace?

Firstly, leaders must model the behaviour they want to see from their employees. This means actively listening to their team, acknowledging their ideas and contributions, and responding with empathy and support.

Secondly, organisations should encourage open communication and dialogue, particularly when it comes to feedback. Leaders should create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing constructive criticism, without fear of retaliation or negative consequences. This means creating channels for feedback that are anonymous if necessary and responding to feedback in a way that shows a willingness to improve.

Finally, organisations should prioritise diversity and inclusivity in their workplace culture. This means valuing the contributions of all employees, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, age, or any other aspect of their identity. Leaders should actively seek out and address instances of discrimination, bias or harassment in the workplace, and work to create an environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

Psychological safety is essential for a healthy and productive workplace, and unfortunately the numerous recent situations highlighting toxic culture show that some organisations have a long way to go.

At Green Shed Talent, we specialise in leadership for high performing teams, and absolutely cover where psychological safety fits. Our approach includes workshops, coaching and online sessions that facilitate self-awareness and understanding, leading to behavioural change.

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