How to Transform Your Leadership Style by Prioritizing Psychological Safety

As a manager or boss, building and maintaining a healthy workplace should be at the top of your list of priorities. A crucial factor in nurturing a healthy workplace is ensuring that you also nurture your employees’ physical and mental health. That’s where psychological safety comes into play.

When you think about your workforce, do you think your employees feel psychologically safe? Follow along as we break down the meaning of psychological safety and its importance in relation to the workplace.

What is psychological safety?

The term ‘psychological safety’ was first coined by Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, who defined it as “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.”

Psychological safety has been an important discussion in the field of psychology and pertains to relationships, friendships, family, the workplace, and other prominent individual pillars.

Unlike mindfulness – which is the acknowledgement or awareness of one’s surroundings and presence – psychological safety is predominantly focused on being respected among others.

What is a psychologically safe workplace?

In order to feel psychologically safe at work, your employees should feel comfortable showing vulnerability toward their fellow employees and the management team.

Employees should come to work every day feeling confident that they will be safe to contribute ideas, ask questions, voice their concerns and own up to mistakes freely and without judgement.

If your employees are reluctant to share feedback, critiques, or tell you how they feel, that’s a red flag and highlights weaknesses in your organization’s culture.

How to promote psychological safety at work

Create a safe environment and have an open mindset

Discussions surrounding mental health have come a long way in recent years. However, there is still a significant stigma associated with these discussions in the workplace. This is why it’s so important to keep an open dialogue with your employees. By keeping an open mindset and offering mental health resources and education, your team will understand that you are willing to work with them and support them on issues concerning their mental health without judgement or punishment.

Lead by example

The key to being an exceptional leader is to set the standards that you want the rest of your team to follow through your own practice. It is unreasonable to expect your employees to behave in a certain way if you are unwilling to do the same. By ensuring that you and your management team are setting the appropriate standard, this will eventually become the norm company-wide.

Be transparent in team meetings

Transparency demonstrates mutual respect between leaders and employees. It levels the hierarchy and the notion of “need to know” status by engaging with staff, being honest, and not hiding information. Whether transparency is shown in team meetings, performance feedback, budgets, policies, promotions, layoffs, business direction – by opening up the lines of communication with your workforce, you’re showing them they are valued and a member of the team.

Show genuine interest in your staff

This is a simple but effective step in the journey toward a psychologically safe workplace.

Checking in on your employees is a great practice to not only get to know them on a higher level but to demonstrate your interest and concern for their emotional and psychological wellbeing. Whether or not it comes naturally to you to engage with your employees in this fashion, understand that over time, it makes team members feel more comfortable speaking up.

Promote self-awareness and empathy

It’s safe to say psychological safety has no room for egos. To take control of your organization and promote a psychologically safe workplace, start by establishing self-awareness in your leadership team (and yourself). This empowers your organization by leaving bias and other self-reflected ideas at the door to simply focus on responses and changes that matter to the people who work in your environment.

Being self-aware is a great way to be aware of and monitor emotional responses and relearn to have open discussions that lead to solutions. Empathy is also the key to gaining employee confidence and trust. A genuine, supportive leader is always empathetic and leads with these traits while keeping their egos out of the equation.

Seek questions from your employees

Take a moment at the end of your meetings to solicit questions or concerns from your employees. Giving them the opportunity to voice their thoughts and seek out questions that may not have been covered is a great way to show your team they have a spot at the table and should feel comfortable raising a hand.

Provide multiple channels for employees to share feedback

By giving your employees a few options to communicate with you or other leaders, you’re empowering them to voice their concerns in a fashion that best suits them.

Some of these options include:

  • Team meeting
  • Face-to-face meeting
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Chat
  • Surveys and anonymous feedback
  • Other online collaboration tools like

Appreciate employee feedback

It is only by fostering an environment where ideas, feedback, and criticisms are valued and welcome will an organization begin to openly (and perhaps unprompted) receive employee thoughts. Be mindful of the feedback you receive, and while not everything needs to be actionable, thank people for their contributions and show respect and appreciation for their thoughts – it goes a long way.

Deliver accurate information, set expectations, and follow through on commitments

Building on psychological safety in the workplace means building on trustworthiness. Be conscious of what information you share, set clear and realistic expectations, and ensure you follow through and communicate progress on these items.

Mistakes happen, and it’s okay

Mistakes happen at all levels, but what’s important is that they are fundamental to the development and growth of individuals and organizations as a whole. Create a culture where mistakes are okay and own up to your own mistakes. And remember, mistakes don’t mean failure, and they shouldn’t lead to punishment, particularly in a culture that prioritizes psychological safety.

Create a sense of belonging

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs identifies love and belonging as the third most important necessity for humans below safety and physiological needs. Belonging is therefore considered a crucial factor when it comes to establishing relationships in and outside of the workplace.

Start by fostering an inclusive, diverse, transparent environment for employees to share and celebrate their similarities and differences.

Read more: Leadership Tips on How to Foster Community in Hybrid Environments

Support your employees and recognize their hard work

The majority of conflict or unhappiness in the workplace stems from poor workplace culture. One of the most significant ways you as a leader can boost morale and increase productivity is to ensure that your employees know they are valued and create a positive work environment. To do this, you should always try to focus on the good and give praise and recognition to your staff to ensure morale levels stay high and your team feels motivated at work.

Be open to constructive feedback and encourage active listening

Another key element of psychological safety in the workplace is ensuring that your employees feel listened to. This will help make them feel valued and that their contributions matter to the team. You can do this by listening actively and demonstrating that you and the management team are open to feedback or constructive criticism.

Leave your cell phone at the door during meetings, repeat what was said to show that you are trying to understand their perspective and ask questions to encourage them to share more. If certain teammates rarely speak up during meetings, show them that their contributions are important by actively asking for their opinion.

You can also have an open-door policy and show your employees that you’re listening by taking their feedback to heart. Show that you are willing to come to a solution that works for everyone by compromising or, if necessary, by implementing the feedback provided.

Top ten benefits of psychological safety in the workplace

  1. Improved health, safety, and security
  2. Better employee engagement and wellbeing
  3. Greater collaboration and knowledge sharing
  4. Increase in problem solving and innovation
  5. Stronger workplace diversity and inclusion
  6. Lower employee turnover
  7. Higher performing teams
  8. Employees who are more adaptable to change
  9. Improved reputation
  10. Happiness

Doing your best to make sure that your team feels psychologically safe has a wealth of benefits. Not only will you have the assurance and satisfaction that your employees feel safe and happy coming to work, but your bottom line will thank you, as well. Don’t wait for morale to dip before you act – instead, try being proactive in promoting psychological safety on a daily basis.

Promoting psychological safety boosts productivity, reduces employee turnaround, builds healthy workplace morale and fosters an environment of unwavering trust and loyalty in your workplace. It also helps foster a collaborative workspace where your team will feel free to share ideas and work together on projects to achieve their fullest potential.

Employees will also be more likely to take the initiative and complete tasks to the very best of their ability if they feel that their psychological safety is being respected and acknowledged.

If your organization is experiencing roadblocks implementing these values and need professional investigation or mediation services to handle a conflict or prevent conflicts from occurring, consulting with a neutral third party will help to resolve distracting, challenging situations and empower all participants involved to settle on an agreeable solution that propels your organization forward.

At Global Mindful Solutions, we have established processes that aim to provide insightful, comprehensive solutions with a compassionate and unbiased approach. This allows everyone involved to focus on getting back to work and continue making a positive contribution to their organization while leading a fulfilling role in their careers.

Contact Global Mindful Solutions to get started with neutral, knowledgeable, and effective mediation, facilitation, and restoration services.

Contact

613-869-9130 | info@globalmindfulsolutions.com

343 Preston Street, Suite 1100, Ottawa, ON, K1S 1N4

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