How To Measure Your Teams Levels Of Psychological Safety
In trying to understand if your workplace is psychologically safe, there are key indicators to look out for.
Barbara Frederickson found that the below traits are solid indicators of psychological safety in the workplace:
While these indicators are a helpful starting point, its important to dig a bit deeper. To do that, youll need to ask questions.
Leaders who dont listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.
Ask your team, as a whole and in private one-on-ones, to on how they feel about topics around inclusivity, trust between colleagues, admitting to mistakes, being themselves, comfort to share ideas, tendency to ask questions, etc. Use one on one templates if youre having trouble coming up with questions.
You can use Officevibe to collect continuous feedback and honest insights about how your team really feels.
Express Yourself And Encourage Others To Do The Same
Help others get to know you by taking the first step toward connection. Expressing yourself can be as easy as updating your profile on your organizations social page or sharing a quick personal story during a meeting. These moments tell your team its OK to do the same and makes for a more personal, and more genuine, inclusive work environment.
Benefits Of Psychological Safety
When it comes to performance, creating a trusting environment is essential. The Harvard Business Review has shared multiple studies that describe psychological safety as an important factor in high-performing teams, and the teams who are most effective at problem solving have been shown to share two common traits:cognitive diversity and psychological safety.
Not only does psychological safety improve your teams performance, it also enhances employee engagement. When team members feel that their insights are appreciated they:
- Feel like a respected part of their team
- See the value of their work
- Feel accepted for who they are and the unique strengths they bring
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Hold Blameless Retrospectives And Incident Reviews
Take every opportunity to examine how to improve individually and as a team. That often means holding retrospectives, or post mortems, after an incident or failure. These are intended to find any systemic root causes. Be sure to replace blame with curiosity if a mistake by a team member is discovered or admitted, thank them for their honesty, and find ways to prevent it happening or mitigate the impact of it. If someone is blamed for a mistake, psychological safety of the whole team will suffer and subsequent retrospectives will be far less successful.
Every incident is a learning opportunity John Allspaw.
Try running retrospectives after big successes too its just as important to find out the causes of success, as it is for failure. You could even regularly schedule them so that they become habitual and easy.
Team Members Can Help Create More Psychological Safety At Work Too
While leaders play a role in shaping their teams culture, its also up to each team member to contribute to a psychologically safe climate at work.
A culture is simplistically defined by the way we do things around here, says Altman. We all have a role to play in how we do things at work both on our team and in our organization.
Team members can take the following steps to promote productive dialog and debate:
- Ask colleagues powerful, open-ended questions, and then listen actively and intently to understand feelings and values, as well as facts.
- Agree to share failures, recognizing that mistakes are an opportunity to learn and grow.
- Use candor, whether expressing appreciation or disappointment.
- Ask for help, and freely give help when asked.
- Embrace expertise among many, versus a single hero mentality.
- Encourage and express gratitude, which reinforces your team members sense of self.
Most importantly, positive interactions and conversations between individuals are built on trust. Give your team members the benefit of the doubt when they take a risk, ask for help, or admit a mistake. In turn, trust that they will do the same for you.
When the work environment is safe for interpersonal risk-taking, the organizational culture becomes more robust, dynamic, and innovative. Furthermore, people feel more comfortable bringing their whole selves to work.
Take Action on Psychological Safety at Work
Approach Conflict As A Collaborator Not An Adversary
We humans hate losing even more than we love winning. A perceived loss triggers attempts to reestablish fairness through competition, criticism, or disengagement, which is a form of workplace-learned helplessness. Santagata knows that true success is a win-win outcome, so when conflicts come up, he avoids triggering a fight-or-flight reaction by asking, How could we achieve a mutually desirable outcome?
Why Is Psychological Safety Important
Everytime we withhold, we rob ourselves and our colleagues of small moments of learning, Edmondson said in a 2019 Tedx talk about psychological safety. And we dont innovate. We dont come up with new ideas. We are so busy managing impressions that we dont contribute to creating a better organization.
Edmondson notes that people are likely to remain silent out of fear that they might be seen as ignorant, negative, weak, or abrasive. In the worst case scenario, a psychologically damaging workplace makes people afraid to speak up even to reveal critical, life-and-death mistakes like faulty design in a plane engine or incorrect medication dosages.
Even if a situation isnt life threatening, the daily toll of this negativity can add up. The employee doesnt clarify because they dont want to reveal their lack of knowledge. The nurse doesnt question the doctors prescription because the doctor previously made a snide remark about her competence. The new manager doesnt raise concerns about a product roll-out because hes the newest person on the team.
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Tips For Fostering Psychological Safety In Your Workplace
Its crucial to prioritize high psychological safety to create a high-performing team.
As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Team cultures reflect the actions and reactions of their leaders. Leaders who fail to establish and support psychologically safe team environments can cause irreparable negative consequences and damage to the organization.
Creating a psychologically safe work environment starts with coaching focused on behavior change. This starts with each team member and spreads throughout the organization.
Changing cultural norms requires progressive learning by everyone in the company. A coach to guide these processes at the individual level ensures that behavior changes are being taught correctly. It’s reinforced in real-time through experiential learning.
To establish and maintain a psychologically safe work climate, leaders must consistently model inclusive behaviors in order to build out new team norms over time.
Here are six ways you can foster psychological safety in your workplace.
What Does Psychological Safety At The Workplace Look Like
To highlight a few, candidates consider various criteria when looking for new future job prospects, including location, position, perks, and pay. Organizational culture is an additional feature that might be more tricky to discuss but is still very significant.
To determine the factors contributing to high-performing teams, groups for two years with a significant investment of resources. They discovered five elements that every high-performing team must have. The most crucial aspect was Psychological safety at work.
We can say the workplace is psychologically safe when
- Stakeholders are free to voice their opposition whenever a serious issue arises in a team.
- Members of a team push one another, have disagreements, work toward a solution, and finally take action.
- Teams lacking psychological safety at work wont give disagreements their due consideration.
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Define Team Values And Behaviours
Team members must know whats expected of them, and what the common values held by the team are. Its important to translate values, such as commitment, into behaviours, such as following through on promises. This ensures that a common set of expectations is shared across the team, and team members can depend on and trust each other.
By running a values and behaviours workshop or similar, and distilling the values that are held most dear by the team, behaviour boundaries are agreed, team cohesion improves, and the values of the team align with those of the organisation.
Meet Each Others Needs
When interacting with your team members, be conscious of their preferences. Too often, managers make decisions without consulting their direct reports. Figure out what your employees want in terms of communication style, one-on-one meeting frequency, and feedback. Show that you care by asking what they need and actually taking action based on what they share.
Keep in mind that asking for input once is not enough. Follow up to ensure employee needs are constantly being met. Employee needs may change, depending on what theyre working on at the moment. Although it seems relatively easy to check in with your employees and create a more positive work experience, a live Aptitude Research webinar poll showed that 50% of respondents organizations dont have a strategy in place to improve the employee experience. Worse, 10% of companies said they dont have plans to improve the employee experience at all.
Willis Towers Watson found that employees look for a meaningful and personal connection with their employer. In their study, only 39% of respondents in the study felt understood in the workplace. Take the time to discover what motivates and creates a safe space for each of your employees. This can include receiving acknowledgement for hard work, sharing their voice in meetings, or getting professional growth opportunitiestheres no one-size-fits-all.
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Empower From A Place Of Privilege
If youre someone who isnt underrepresented in your community, make efforts to leverage your privilege toempower underrepresented colleagues.
Examples of this include highlighting team members accomplishments among others. Recommend underrepresented team members for high visibility assignments and projects. Sustained visible support is equally important. For example, volunteer to sponsor an employee resource group. Attend the events hosted by employee resource groups whether or not you are a sponsor. This shows actual interest and appreciation that can help build trust.
Creating an environment of psychological safety takes self-awareness and a commitment to learning new behaviors. But the tradeoff is more than worth it and necessary.
Beyond the obvious advantages of avoiding groupthink and creating an efficient team, dedicated resources will help. This helps to establishing the behaviors that lend themselves to psychological safety. By doing you, you’ll retain talented female teammates who deserve to have their seats at the table.
Long-term,your entire organization will benefit.
Be Precise With Information Expectations And Commitments
To build psychological safety, your team members need to trust you and your word, so be mindful about the information you share as well as the expectations and commitments you set. Be accurate. Be realistic. And, be thoughtful. Setting clear expectations and adhering to your commitments will help employees trust you and be more open with you.
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Ensure Workers Can Give Feedback On Their Chosen Platform
To increase team members mental health and well-being and create trust and transparency, educating team members and managers about psychological safety in the workplace is essential. It helps in reducing team conflict. While some workers might feel comfortable speaking up at a meeting, others might want more time to consider their options. Encourage team members to communicate comments via email in addition to face-to-face meetings.
Earn And Extend Trust
Edmondsons definitive research also connects trust to psychological safety: It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.
Interestingly, trust is identified in as a key requirement for the perfect team. But its not enough to acknowledge that trust is criticalyou need to build it, keep it, and be an example for others. Here are some practical tips to build trust in the workplace.
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S And 15 Work Practices To Enhance Psychological Safety
Semco Style practically equips leaders with a framework to lead, manage and inspire distributed teams and create an employee friendly culture characterized by psychological safety.
In our recent article Psychological Safety: Leading remote teams in a distributed world we outlined the history and importance of Psychological Safety as a primary focus for leaders of remote and distributed teams. It highlighted three concepts that are at the core of a psychologically safe work culture:
When these concepts form the foundation of the culture in the team, department or organization, fertile ground is created for Psychological Safety to flourish. Enhancing Psychological Safety is an active process that can be explained up in 5 steps and to make these steps practical, we will also explore some proven work practices from Semco Style. To guide us, we will use a graph of psychological safety vs. team performance.
Bring Your Whole Self To Work
When we say bring your whole self to work, we mean bring your complete, unique and authentic self into the office. You should not need to change your personality to be good at your job or to be respected in it. So long as youre being professional, you should truly be yourself at work. Building self-awareness about yourself and the way you operate is a key component to bringing your whole self to work. Think about how you work best, how you best communicate, and how youd like to be recognized. This awareness and authenticity is going to encourage your team members to be themselves as well, and will create more transparency across the board.
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Step : Inclusion And Acceptance
The goal here is to become more transparent, inclusive and respectful of every persons legitimate feelings and concerns. This will require the ability to show vulnerability and have some critical dilemma conversations. It is about finding common ground, shared interests, dreams and objectives.
Three proven work practices:
What Is Psychological Safety And How Does It Help Your Team
Psychological safety is a shared feeling that its OK to be open and honest in a group setting. Amy Edmondson, a Harvard Business School professor who coined the term, describes a psychologically safe workplace culture as one where people are not full of fear, and not trying to cover their tracks to avoid being embarrassed or pushed. In other words, the act of speaking up and learning from mistakes is encouraged, even celebrated.
Its important for leaders to realize, however, that psychological safety isnt the result of being nice. Quite the opposite, actually. Edmondson says that its dependent on there being a certain level of healthy conflict in the workplace. Psychological safety is about candor, about making it possible for productive disagreement and free exchange of ideas, she writes in an article for Quartz.
This is something Jake Herway, senior managing adviser at research firm Gallup, can attest to. Herway describes working with an organization that reached a standstill in the middle of an important transition. It was clear to me that no one in the department felt safe defending or actively pursuing a new idea, an opinion, or a criticism, he writes. The environment wasnt negative but it was unproductive once real work began.
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Let Your Team See You Understand
When your people know you care enough to understand and consider their point of view they experience psychological safety.
Demonstrate understanding by recapping whats been said. Use language like, What I heard you say is ______. Is that correct? This shows you want to understand their perspective. It also gives your team members an opportunity to clarify if you misunderstood something they said.
You can also show understanding with body language. Nod your head during discussions to acknowledge what an employee is saying. Lean forward to show engagement. Be aware of your facial expressions. If you look tired, bored, or unhappy, your employees will notice. While you might not mean anything by it, employees may internalize the message youre sending with your face: I dont like this idea.
Schedule More Frequent One
With remote teams, we dont have those serendipitous encounters, says Rebecca Morgan, a Silicon Valley management development consultant with over 40 years of experience. We dont have as many opportunities to just say, Hows it going? The manager has to be more proactive.Morgan recommends being more intentional about having one-on-one meetings with team members, and increasing the number of meetings, if necessary. Even if the chats are shorter, having that consistent check-in creates more opportunities for feedback or voicing concerns.
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Break The Golden Rule
Dont treat other people the way you want to be treated theyre not you. As George Bernard Shaw said, Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.
An effective leader gets to know their team members on a deep and personal level, and recognises that people change over time. Use this knowledge to work with your team members in the way they prefer. Its perfectly ok to ask your team members how they like to be managed, or ask them to write a personal charter or personal README file. Some people prefer frequent and short meetings with their leader, whilst others may prefer longer sessions less frequently. Some people prefer to work intensely for short periods, whilst others may work more steadily over longer periods.
Recognise that there is no right way but there are individual preferences and strengths. Work with them and maximise them, and resist the temptation to assume that your preference is the right one.