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Psychological Safety in the Workplace

The recent Predictive Index People Management Report indicated that, of those employees thinking of resigning, 63% is due to a lack of Psychological Safety in the workplace.  In another research 75% of employees believe that they are being micromanaged.

What is Psychological Safety?

According to Dr Amy Edmondson, Psychological Safety is “A shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.”

It is the belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.

Psychological safety is also regarded as a necessary foundation for an employee wellbeing strategy.  Given that employee wellbeing is believed to be top of the HR agenda for 2022, developing psychological safety in organisations becomes critical to create a sustainable performance environment.

Research has shown that when individuals do not feel psychologically safe, they do not bring their whole self to work, they withhold contribution, become less creative, less collaborative, they self-censor and self-silence.  Psychological safety has been cited as one of the top reasons that employees are resisting the return to the workplace.

Lack of psychological safety stops people from learning actively on the job to develop their capabilities and those of their team.  Over time, lack of psychological safety impacts individual health and safety and overall well-being.

With rising cases of well-being issues in the workplace, building psychological safety contributes to improved well-being and performance

As organisations focus on getting hybrid working models right, prioritising mental health, and fostering psychological safety help to ensure that you maintain the wellbeing and performance of your people in a way that is impactful and sustainable and leads to improved organisation performance.

Why Psychological Safety?

Research over the past 50 years, first by Schein and Bennis of MIT in the 1960s and, more recently, by Amy Edmondson of Harvard, have shown that in psychologically safe workplaces:

  • Employees are more engaged
  • They have a feeling of belonging regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or cultural heritage
  • They feel valuable, respected, and empowered in their well-being, no matter where they are located
  • The workplace is more innovative and competitive
  • Employees speak up when they see a problem
  • They help the organisation avoid potential failures
  • There is increased productivity
  • Time and money is saved, and critically
  • It is the No 1 factor that underpins high performance in the organisation

I don’t think I know of one leader, manager, or HR executive that does not want this for their organisation.

Why then is it taking such a while to get going?

Developing Psychological Safety in the Workplace

The problem is, you can’t just attend a course, and come out of it “Psychologically Safe”.  Nor can you attend a course and think you’re coming back to a psychologically safe workplace.

The reason is, psychological safety encompasses a number of traits, that can’t be taught, but can only be developed.  Traits such as:

  • Trust
  • Dignity
  • Respect
  • Rapport
  • Value
  • Inclusion
  • Safety
  • Empowerment
  • Innovation

None of these can be learnt, they can only be developed.

Difference between Learning and Development

So, what’s the difference between Learning and Development?  Learning is about gaining new knowledge or a new skill.  Development is about applying that knowledge or skill to drive results and grow as a person.  So, when it comes to Psychological Safety, it’s possible to build a course where people learn the knowledge and/or skill, but are not able to apply that, because they have not developed the knowledge and/or skill to be able to drive results and grow.

Learning only becomes development when it’s applied on the job.  When people go to training but don’t change their behaviour, they may have learned, but they haven’t developed.

From a leadership development perspective, research shows that the best way for leaders to convert learning into development is through coaching.

People Model Leader Behaviour

Furthermore, people follow the behaviour of their leader.  This has also been proven by research.  With Psychological Safety this becomes even more significant.  Because the ability of the team to practice and experience psychological safety is totally dependent on whether the behaviour has been modelled, in an authentic way, by their leader.

Our Psychological Safety in the Workplace Program

For this reason we have partnered up with Metaview, and created a process, based on the proven “Lean Change Management”, to help you to develop and sustain Psychological Safety in your Workplace.

It’s a multi-tiered approach, starting with leadership and working down the organisation in fairly quick succession.

We start with an Assessment to understand what the current situation is, and what the task will be to effect a transformation.  At a workshop we review the Insights gained from the assessment and make choices, or select Options, to meet your specific needs.

“Experiments” are the implementation of the Options, which are treated as Learning Experiences in order to improve what and how the different aspects of Psychological Safety are “landing”.  “Experiments” are supported by Coaching so that the characteristics, traits, and methods become “habit” and part of the “the way we do things here”.

We continue the Assess – Insights – Options – Experiments – Learn, in cycles throughout the program.  In this way Psychological Safety is developed in your organisation in a way that is appropriate to your organisation, and that is effective and sustainable.

If you would like to know more, or if you would like to have a one-on-one session with us, please click here to set a day and time for your session.

Or, if you would like to organise a “Psychological Safety in the Workplace ” Leadership Overview session for your organisation, or just find out a bit more, please email us, or call us on +27836546480, or complete the form below and we will be in touch directly.

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