You will never know the capability of your team until it operates at its best psychological safety levels. But what exactly does psychological safety entail?
Psychological safety relates to employees’ wellbeing and is achieved when employees do not run the risk of being mentally harmed out of negligence, recklessness or other deliberately castigated means. Such an environment will also invest in practices that support the growth and flourishing of the workers. Closely related, although quite different, is psychological health, which refers to employees feeling accepted and respected.
Several factors lead to the general acceptance of a state of physiological safety and organizations have a responsibility to achieve the highest levels of psychological safety possible for their own good.
Where employees can tap into their strengths right from the moment they join the organization, they are willing to put in their best in skills. The opposite of this is an environment where employees are not an accurate reflection of themselves. This leads them to disengage and alienate from just about any task assigned, delaying efforts of team work.
There are several practices that an organization can engage in to promote psychological safety at the workplace.
Focus on promoting teamwork
Essentially, this requires leaders to be inclusive in all aspects. When people feel accepted in a team, they will readily give their input and contribute progressively. This, of course, calls on a leader to engage a high degree of psychology since not all matters in an organization will require everyone’s input. Importantly, they must foster team work.
Create a fear free environment
As a leader, it is easy to sound or look intimidating to the extent that employees are not comfortable to speak about some issues. However, an environment in which employees feel free to speak while observing relevant boundaries, of course, is psychologically healthy.
Dedicate your time to employees’ needs and concerns
With teams to manage and a rather busy schedule, there might be little time to give an ear to the needs of your employees, both work-related and personal. However, it has been demonstrated that organizations that have concern for the well-being of the employee in and out of the workplace promote employee’s confidence in the organization, leading to better performance.
Foster your people’s growth through learning opportunities
By nature, people will want to study more on areas that are of interest to them. The organization must play the role to promote learning opportunities for its workforce. This means being steadfast in organizing workshops, seminars and other relevant gatherings for your teams to learn and grow. Appealing to this part of human psychology promotes emotional intelligence and people will be readier and confident to handle given projects.
Google’s Project Aristotle, which was conducted in 2012, underlines the importance of psychological safety, observing that team members must feel at ease with risk taking. Key to this is the support from fellow members of the team. It is different from making a situation where people are ridiculed over failed projects. In fact, the unwillingness of team members to share information such as problems in an ongoing project, disagreements within the team and generally not wanting to speak out their mind could point to a poor psychological safety environment.
Clearly, the tools to enable an organization to achieve the highest levels of psychological safety lie right within the organization. While this is not an entirely new lesson in management, it emphasizes the role of the workforce as a key component to the success of the organization. Agreeably, the elements highlighted relate mostly to the overall appreciation of a worker and the effect this has on the task given. Thus, how the abilities of the workforce are enhanced, cultivated and encouraged determines how easy it will be for teams to succeed.
By Dr Sajad Al-Abdali