The Importance of Psychological Safety in the Workplace

Author - Erika Armanino

Date published:

Sam Spoors, Founder and Managing Director at Talentheads, explores the importance of psychological safety in the workplace.

In the dynamic landscape of modern workplaces, where innovation is prized and collaboration is key, an often overlooked but crucial factor stands out: Psychological Safety.

Psychological safety is a high performing team’s superpower, the invisible force that underpins a team’s ability to take risks, share ideas, and ultimately thrive.  Most importantly having psychological safety within your team means that when you recruit, you retain!

Where did all this come from?

The term psychological safety was popularised by a Harvard Business School professor, Amy Edmundson.  It refers to the standards within environments to ensure that no one will be shamed, humiliated or feel punished for speaking up with ideas, questions, or concerns.  Team members should not feel vulnerable, they should feel confident in taking risks, growing from their mistakes and feel able to express themselves authentically, without fear of retribution or ridicule.

Google recently led the Project Aristotle study and they found that the number one predictor for team effectiveness is psychological safety!

The impact of Psychological Safety in teams

  1. Increases innovation.  Team members feel safe and are more likely to experiment with new approaches and think outside of the box to drive progress.
  2. Enhancing collaboration.  When people feel safe they are much more likely to collaborate openly and transparently, leading to building better communication and stronger relationships.
  3. Higher engagement. Employees who feel psychologically safe are more likely to be more engaged and committed. They feel able to contribute, knowing their ideas and concerns are valued and respected.
  4. Improving problem solving. Team members feel able to ask for help, admit mistakes willingly, leading to faster problem solving and better decision making.

The BIG ONE, RETENTION! Happy people make happy teams. Happy teams succeed and thrive. People who are succeeding, thriving and feel valued in their job stay in that business – they look for internal growth not an external new jobs!

How do you get this Superpower?

Creating a psychologically safe workplace is one of the most important things you can do for your business and your people, like all the good stuff, it’s going to take a little bit of effort from everyone and ongoing commitment to achieve.

Top tips:

  1. Know your people.  Take the time to get to know them, ensure they feel totally safe, and feel able to respectfully share anything that they need to say to you, knowing you are always going to respect and listen to what they have to say, even if you don’t agree.
  2. Create space, set meeting rhythms to give space to those voices.  Ensure that you have those daily huddles, weekly one to ones and monthly team meetings embedded making sure there is a forum available for those hugely important team voices and that collaborative thinking can flourish.
  3. Wellbeing or Mental Health First AiderMake sure you have a designated and trained lead within your team so that your people feel supported, and that those people take this responsibility seriously and actively promote wellbeing in the workplace.
  4. Lead by example. Model vulnerability, open communication and active listening.  If leaders do this then their teams feel they can do the same.
  5. Encourage feedback, both positive and negative, as long as it is constructive it is welcome and embraced.  Make certain people know that actually it is really important to you that you hear their voice when making business decisions.
  6. Celebrate mistakes, they are learning opportunities not failures!
  7. Promote inclusivity.  All voices should be heard and valued within your team.  Actively seek out diverse perspectives and create opportunities for those more introverted team members to share their opinions.
  8. Set the ground rules. Let people know your expectations for open and respectful communication within your teams. Tell them that psychological safety is super important to the success of your business and so any threats to that will not be tolerated.

So, in this fast paced, competitive and often stressful modern business arena, psychological safety is not just something to aspire to, or “nice to have” in your organisation, it is a strategic imperative!

Now, time to prioritise…, is a lack of psychological safety a risk to your business?

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