How to create psychological safety at the workplace?

According to a Google research, psychological safety is one of the elements to create high performing teams

Essentially, it is the act of speaking one’s mind without fear. They do not fear being judged, looked down upon, or rejected for expressing their opinions. It is about creating an environment of empowerment for employees at the workplace. Experts also believe that it is also a state where employees do not have a fear of even taking an action on their own, without any fear. This state of mind is called psychological safety.

The significance of psychological safety can be better understood by an internal research which was done by Google a few years back. As per the research, psychological safety actually led to building high performing teams. Psychological safety emerged to be one of the key ingredients of building a high performing team. More than 200 interviews were conducted with 180 teams at Google. 

Apart from psychological safety, other elements which helped in building a high performing team were dependability; structure and clarity; meaning of work and impact of work. Post this research the people operations team at Google came up with a tool called ‘Teams’ which had certain new norms. It was noticed that teams which adopted these new norms got 6% better rating on psychological safety and 10% on structure and clarity.

There are certain things which organisations can keep in mind to build psychological safety at workplaces.

Speaking up should be encouraged

In team meetings or brainstorming sessions, all employees should be encouraged to share their ideas and thoughts. This will help to get more innovative ideas and suggestions which is anyway beneficial for the company. Moreover, people will feel free to share their thoughts on projects. 

Creating a listening culture

To ensure employees receive feedback from their managers, leaders must practice active listening. When it comes to feedback, leaders should behave more like mentors and coaches so that employees can learn and grow.  

Welcome diverse opinions

As an organisation, we have to be more inclusive to different and out of the box ideas. In fact, more than that, first as an organisation we should accept and hire people from diverse backgrounds so that differentiated opinions can surface. And as differentiated opinions are surfaced, we need to recognise and respect them.

Empower employees to take business calls

Creating a certain degree of autonomy and empowerment in employees is important. At times, there are certain decisions which can be taken at the employee level. If there is no psychological safety, employees will not take those calls. This generally delays the process. So managers should encourage employees to take calls at times when there is no one else available.

Encourage risk taking attitude

More than just encouraging employees to take risks, handle their failures in a more nourishing attitude. Before Edison invented the bulb, he failed 1000 times. But, as he said, he didn’t fail 1000 times; instead, he found 1000 ways that didn’t work. This is what the attitude needs to be at the workplace. Managers will have to play the role of a mentor and encourage people to reflect from their mistakes.

Rewarding and appreciating employees

Rewarding positive behaviours and even appreciating or celebrating failures can create a sense of motivation and appreciation which can further boost employees to give more encouraging ideas for business growth.

Innovative ideas mostly come from young and junior level employees. If we talk about companies such as 3M and Google, who are known for their innovative products, they have been successful in creating psychological safety in the workplace.

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Kartikay Kashyap is a former journalist and a feature writer who carries more than 3 years of experience in covering HR and employer-employee relationship issues amongst the corporate in India for digital and print media. Currently, he is part of the content and marketing team at Advantage Club as a senior content writer.