Safety in a workplace comes in different kinds. Mental, physical, psychological, financial, and emotional. Although many organizations put great emphasis on physical wellness as a way of ensuring workplace productivity, they somehow neglect the impact of psychological safety in a work environment.
Safe and productive work environments are characterized by psychological safety. Employees must feel safe to speak their minds to inspire new ideas, innovation, and creativity. If you’re a boss or an HR manager, you must evaluate whether your employees feel psychologically safe in your organization! This article explores psychological safety in a workplace and the several reasons to check whether it’s present in your company. Let’s take a deep dive into it!
What is Psychological Safety in a Workplace?
It refers to a feeling and belief that one can share opinions and thoughts without fearing ridicule or misjudgment. Providing a psychologically safe work environment doesn’t mean that you’re offering freedom for employees to talk back at you, but it is a vital component of a professional workplace. It can boost employee morale and job satisfaction.
Unfortunately, a Gallup study found that only three out of ten employees felt that their views matter in an organization. A place where employees don’t feel threatened to give their opinions or express their views about crucial matters offers them a sense of belonging. Moreso, they feel valued and respected despite their differences, like backgrounds or level of education. This creates an environment where they perceive that it’s normal to make mistakes, and this increases their accountability.
The term “psychological safety” was coined by Dr. Amy Edmondson, a researcher and Novartis professor of leadership and management at the Harvard Business School. She asserts that employees feel psychologically safe when they believe there is room for interpersonal risk-taking. When teams believe that they can freely speak up without losing status or jobs, this points to psychological safety.
After Edmondson’s research, Google also conducted a study, “Project Aristotle,” where it discovered that psychological safety was the major attribute of high-performing teams. It generally allows teams to take moderate risks and speak out where necessary without fear.
Psychological safety in an organization may seem trivial to some bosses, but it impacts every area of an organization, including its bottom line. So, why should you evaluate your organization’s psychological safety status?
7 Reasons to Assess Your Workplace Psychological Safety Status
Like mental wellness, psychological safety is more important now than ever before generally because;
Its Absence Increases Employee Disengagement
When employees feel that there is a platform to speak their minds, they can use it to brainstorm new ideas and bring desirable change to an organization. However, the absence of this feeling only cuts them off from company work, which triggers disengagement.
Psychological safety is an explicit determinant of employee engagement. When employees feel safe to speak, it creates a platform for effective collaboration, problem-solving, and team bonding. This makes employees become more absorbed in their work, rather than thinking about their emotional state and possible solutions.
Affects Employee Performance & Productivity
As earlier said, psychological safety is a major attribute of high-performing teams. Employees are more motivated to express themselves and try out new ways of accomplishing tasks. However, when employees feel scared to utter their thoughts, they reserve even the vital ideas that would have brought innovation to a company.
If your team’s performance and productivity are steadily worsening, this is an ideal time to check your company’s psychological safety status. Disengaged employees will only wake up to do their job, without looking for ways to improve their performance or help the company become better.
Can Lead to Higher Employee Attrition
Modern employees want to be heard or feel that they matter to an organization. That’s why recognition and appreciation are obvious features of any corporate business and the absence of these triggers employees to leave.
When a company loses more employees in a short period of time or when employees are ever leaving the company, this points to employee attrition. High employee attrition isn’t good for an organization since it increases recruitment costs and impacts organizational success.
Lower employee attrition rates, on the other hand, offer room for steady growth, and innovation. If employees are ever leaving your organization, it might point to the lack of psychological safety.
Affects Company Image
Employees help companies to grow and stand out in the marketplace. However, how can a company stand out with a bad reputation? Apart from ethical issues, the lack of psychological safety in a workplace can impact an organization’s image. That’s because employees will always convey their work experiences to the outside world.
Psychological safety highly represents a workplace’s climate. When employees have no fear of being rejected or sidelined because of their views, this offers a positive work environment.
Impacts Employee Well-being
Employees’ happiness and satisfaction at a job must come from within. The mere fact of seeing your employees smiling and coordinating may not mean that they feel safe. In fact, there are many employees who only focus on getting a day’s work done to get some breathing space outside the company.
When employees aren’t free to speak up, it impacts them mentally. In the long run, they will start exhibiting high levels of irritability, and depression, which makes them leave their jobs.
Can Affect Work Culture
When some employees are free to express and share their opinions while others feel threatened, this impacts an organization’s work culture. A balanced and transparent work culture allows employees to grow along with the company. Physiological safety in a workplace creates an atmosphere where employees adhere to work guidelines wholeheartedly.
A healthy work culture characterized by psychological safety also turns employees into company advocates.
Can Lead to Unwanted Legal & Financial Consequences
Safety is a basic human need, according to Maslow’s hierarchy and this means that companies that fail to provide psychologically safe work environments may end up with lawsuits. For example in high-risk workplaces like hospitals. When employees lack the empowerment to speak up, this can lead to many mistakes that can cost a hospital heavily.
Patients are more likely to become victims of the workforce’s blunders. More so, it prevents the administration from ascertaining the exact root cause and the perfect solution. However, when doctors and other employees feel psychologically safe to speak out, this increases accountability and improves problem-solving.
Creating a Psychologically Safe Work Environment
It can be challenging to create a psychologically safe environment for a workforce, especially with a hybrid work culture. However, it’s possible. Taking diversity and inclusion into account can enable managers to foster psychological safety in an organization.
It not only caters to employees’ mental wellness and stress management but also provides a conducive work environment. All you have to do is offer freedom for all employees to share opinions and thoughts. You can also encourage employees to share their views about workplace policies.
We live in an era where mental health is more important than ever. When employees feel mentally, psychologically, and physically safe in a work environment, it promotes their overall well-being and work experiences.
If you highly prioritize physical safety, it’s time to think about psychological safety because this too matters to employees and can impact company success. This article presents several reasons why you must assess your workplace's psychological safety status because it will prevent many unwanted occurrences like high employee attrition rates.