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How To Create Psychological Safety In The Workplace

Afraid to air your opinions or be yourself at work? Unsure whether to say something or stay quiet about a development or issue? Unsure about the unwritten rules of the corporate world?

If the answer to these questions are largely positive, you don’t have what researchers call “psychological safety” in the workplace.

A lot of what we say or do at work does carry some risk. If your boss, who has had a mustache for years, suddenly walks into the office one fine morning clean shaven, what do you say to him? Do you say anything at all? We are afraid of risking somebody’s displeasure by saying something that may be on our minds.

But if this anxiety creates stress, it can affect performance and well-being. According to

This feeling, called “psychological safety,” has several benefits, and its presence is changing the workplace in several ways. The rise of the #MeToo movement is an example.

But how to create a psychologically safe workplace? Psychological safety depends on group norms. Unlike ground rules, norms are shared conventions and standards, and they are not necessarily documented or explained out loud. A work psychology consultant, Thom Dennis, and other experts say team leaders should set a precedent first.

• Leaders should scrutinize the way they exert power. “Part of the exploration of a good leader is to understand the drivers of their ego,” he says.
• Another feature of psychological safety is the team’s attitude to mistakes. Some Silicon Valley companies have a culture of tolerance toward mistakes.
• Showing vulnerability also might work: for instance, a leader acknowledging that he has cancer.
• Experts also say enabling people to be honest is key. Leaders should encourage team members to speak up and foster a climate of respect.

Lack of safe spaces in the workplace can be detrimental to teams. A culture of fear – even unspoken – can rob employees of their psychological well-being, motivation, and potential.

Image credi
t: BBC