We all have ideas and thoughts that we want out in the world but not everyone gets a choice to put our thoughts and ideas out without feeling judged or even rejected. This instance is very common in the workplace where many people of diverse backgrounds, cultures, and opinions work in harmony. Or do they?
When you go to work feeling like you can’t be your true self, express your ideas, share your thoughts, or give your opinions on work-related issues, then it could mean that you don’t feel psychologically safe in the workplace.
Psychological safety at work is a relatively new concept, coined by a Harvard Business School professor – Amy Edmondson – in the late 1990s. The idea behind psychological safety is that you feel emotionally and mentally safe at work to express your thoughts and ideologies without facing disdain or outright rejection.
So, are you psychologically safe at work? Let’s learn the signs of low psychological safety at work, the importance of being emotionally safe in the workplace, and how you can build a healthy and psychologically safe work environment.
Signs You Are NOT Psychologically Safe At Work
If you often find yourself biting back your words during a meeting even though you know that your idea is good and relevant, then it could be one of the most common signs that you do not feel psychologically safe in your workplace.
When you don’t feel safe enough to share your problems with your coworkers or managers, hesitate to share new ideas, or even ask for help – then all these could be signs that you’re NOT psychologically safe at work.
I’m not talking about your personality either. It’s not about who you are but it’s about how you feel sharing or expressing your thoughts. If you fear that your thoughts and ideas won’t be valued by your teammates or superiors, then you keep yourself from saying those thoughts out loud.
Here are some common signs that you’re not psychologically safe in the workplace;
You are not sure if your words will be well received or valued
You have progressively become quieter in sharing your thoughts and ideas
Your morale as well as the team’s morale is constantly low
There’s more competition among team members rather than cooperation
There’s been no change whatsoever in the status quo
There are no feedback sessions or meeting where others can speak freely
Others don’t often admit their mistakes and weaknesses
You feel overwhelmed by your tasks but still not feel comfortable asking for help or making adjustments
Concerns and any requests for help are heard but are never acknowledged
There are a lot of assumptions and misunderstandings in the teams
You feel like no one has your back in the team and where you stand with your coworkers
No one talks about the growth opportunities or weaknesses
All the focus is usually on the positives, never the negatives
You don’t feel represented or accepted
You hesitate or never share new ideas with the team because you feel unheard
While you need to heed these red flags, here’s what you need to understand what psychological safety at work isn’t:
Psychological safety is NOT;
A guarantee that everything you say will be met with cheers
Saying what you believe the other person needs to hear
The lack of accountability or responsibility
Tolerance to toxic actions in the workplace
Appreciating without any purpose
How Being Psychologically Safe Helps You?
Psychologically safety in the workplace helps you grow personally and professionally. It’s also an important aspect of professional and personal organization. When you feel emotionally safe in the workplace, you tend to;
Speak more freely and often
Share your views and ideas with colleagues
Share your opinions to influence decision-making
Increase work productivity and engagement
Work engagement can be considered an indirect result of psychological safety at work. When there’s work engagement, you feel more energetic, productive, and committed to your work. Did you know that in a 2017 poll, it was found that only 33% of employees are truly engaged in their work?
Would you like to work in an environment where you don’t feel safe making mistakes, learning, and being your true self?
It is believed that when you feel safe enough to ask questions, make mistakes, get more chances to learn from those mistakes, celebrate different cultures in the workplace, and listen to unique perspectives, you (and your organization) are likely to face growth, innovation, and development.
Psychological safety in the workplace can also contribute to;
Better problem-solving skills
Inclusivity and diversity
Fewer risks of impulsive behaviors
Strong sense of belonging
Creating A Psychologically Safe Work Environment
Building a psychologically safe workplace isn’t just managers’ or employees’ duties. It’s a collective responsibility and involves the whole organization. Here’s how you can create a psychologically safe workplace;
1.As Leaders, You Can;
Encourage and model attitudes you want to see in your employees
Encourage work boundaries
Allow employees to challenge the status quo
Ask employees to engage in accountability and take responsibility for their mistakes
Raise diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Allow self-promotions and give credit where it’s due
When you allow employees to voice their concerns without fearing disdain or rejection, it allows them to feel psychologically safe to come to work. Offering space and safety to do so will help you maintain a healthy balance in the workplace.
Express your appreciation for each employee’s talents and skills as this step will help create a positive relationship and even a positive work environment.
Here are other things you can do to make sure your workplace is psychologically safe;
Request feedback as often as possible
Include others in decision-making
Avoid getting defensive when you receive feedback
Actively listen to all ideas and concerns and respond to everyone, appreciatively
Admit your own mistakes openly and encourage learning from them.
Avoid dominating meetings
Encourage others to challenge the status quo
Ask others how you can help them improve their performance
Become a mentor for underrepresented employees
Avoid gossiping in the workplace, especially about your employees
Regularly check in with your employees to make sure they are not having any issues
2.As A Team Member, You Can;
To make sure you and your teammates feel comfortable sharing ideas and opinions, here’s what you can do as a team member to create a psychologically safe workplace;
Celebrate diversity, especially when someone has an “out-of-the-box” idea
Try to offer constructive feedback you see one rather than outright rejecting the idea
Encourage asking for and receiving help
Create a culture where you build each other up. For example, give credit where it’s due
Try to avoid these behaviors;
Don’t gossip or badmouth others
Don’t allow anyone to deliberately undermine others’ efforts
Don’t form alliances. Make sure others don’t feel “lonely” or “cut off” from the conversations
Psychological safety is a relatively new framework for workplace culture and since it involves everyone working together, it must include everyone too. There are always workplace issues – either between upper management and employees or between teams – but it does not mean that anyone should feel reluctant to share their ideas and thoughts with everyone else.
Psychological safety at work means that you feel comfortable enough to share your thoughts, express your ideas, and speak about your concerns without feeling rejected, unheard, or distressed.
If you’re not feeling safe in your workplace, then it is recommended that you speak to HR or someone you can trust. If you’re facing a toxic workplace situation, then speak to the management or think about changing your job.
No one should feel unsafe in a place where they spend most of their time. If you still feel depressed or anxious about work or going to work, you can reach out to a professional counselor for help.
I hope this article helped you learn more about being psychologically safe at work and how you can build a psychologically safe work environment. For more, you can write to us at email@example.com or DM us on our social media.
You can also share your experiences and thoughts about psychological safety at work in the comments below.
Take Care and Stay Safe!