What is Psychological Safety?
Psychological safety is when all members of an organisation feel able to speak up, share concerns and ideas. When individuals feel safe they are more likely to discuss how they are feeling and flag areas to address.
Assessing Psychological Safety
There are many measures of psychological safety but they consistently include items such as the following from Amy Edmondson:
If you make a mistake on this team, it is often held against you –
Members of this team are able to bring up problems and tough issues +
People on this team sometimes reject others for being different –
It is safe to take a risk on this team +
It is difficult to ask other members of this team for help –
No one on this team would deliberately act in a way that undermines my efforts +
Working with members of this team, my unique skills and talents are valued and utilized +
If you answer yes to all the questions marked by a +sign and no to those marked with a –sign then you are probably working in a team with high levels of psychological safety.
This is important because recent research findings and other forms of evidence have found that psychological safety in teams is related to work satisfaction, patient safety, productivity, and a whole range of other positive outcomes.
Creating Psychological Safety
As a leader part of your role is to create a psychologically safe culture. Some of the ways to do this include:
Include Your Team in Decision-Making
When making decisions, consult your team by asking for their feedback, thoughts and input. This will help build psychological safety and help them to feel included. When you have made a decision, be transparent and explain the reasons behind it, including the ways you considered their input.
When blame is present, this eradicates curiosity and learning. Try replacing ‘who’ with the word ‘why’, fostering curiosity about what led to decisions being made. When shame is present, individuals usually withdraw and so sharing what they are thinking, or feeling might be too risky in the future. Avoiding blame also helps to foster connection and trust in you.
Provide multiple ways for workers to be able to communicate with you, including in-person, anonymously, and online. See ‘Boosting Workforce Morale’ for more suggestions.
Own Your Mistakes
As a leader, how you behave will influence your team’s behaviour. It might feel frightening for employees to make an error. You can set the tone by modelling to them that we all make mistakes and how individually and collectively these can be learning opportunities. This will support them to recognise and share their own mistakes, knowing there won’t be retribution for it.
When staff feel safe at work they are more likely to stay and remain engaged and motivated in their role.