Psycologically Safe Workplace

Building A Psychologically Safe Workplace | Ted Talk by Amy Edmondson

How many times have you had that one brilliant idea or suggestion that could have improved the product or service but you choose to keep quiet because of the fear of being judged? Teams often feel the need to share their opinions and more than often, they refuse to do so. There can be so many reasons for it. It could come from one’s own insecurities, less empathetic leadership, or unwillingness to participate.  So how do we build a psycologically safe workplace and why is it necessary? 

High-performing teams thrive in an environment of trust and psychological safety. When organizations prioritize making the workplace a safe and happy place for employees, not only do the employees’ performance shoot up but so do the profits. A perfect win-win. 

Psychological safety is being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status, or career. It can be defined as a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking In psychologically safe teams, team members feel accepted and respected. It is also the most studied enabling condition in group dynamics and team learning research.

As leaders, it is therefore important to prioritize and provide psychological safety at work for every employee. Employees need to understand that failing is ok and that they are always given a space to explore, learn, execute, fail and re-learn with every project they take up. It is important that they feel safe to open up about their issues and talk about them openly without the fear of being judged. 

Here is an interesting video by Amy Edmondson, professor of leadership and management at the Harvard business school where she talks about how some people across all walks of life do not speak up when required and how leaders can ensure an environment that can offer them a safe place to voice their opinions so that a psycologically safe workplace can be created.

She suggests three simple things that leaders can do so that employees speak up when needed. 

  1. Frame the work as a learning problem and not an execution problem. Start considering the work as an interesting game where everything is starting from scratch and in order to win the game, everyone must contribute. That creates the rationale for speaking up.
  2. Second, acknowledge your own mistakes. This goes for leaders and teams alike. Give space for making mistakes and create an environment that does not punish or them but rather allows you to learn from them.
  3. Third, model curiosity. Create a space for allowing questions and discussions without being judged or feared.

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