Psychological safety is a belief that one can speak up at work without fear of being reprimanded or humiliated. It is critical to helping teams develop better relationships, make sound decisions, innovate, and execute tasks. According to Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, people may experience psychological safety at an individual level, but it is a team phenomenon. People who work closely together have similar levels of psychological safety compared to people in other teams. She calls it the shared and felt permission for candor which influences the learning behavior of the group, their performance, and thus organizational performance.

Research shows that there are significant disadvantages of not having psychological safety, e.g., adverse effects on the overall performance of the organization as well as employee well-being.

In a business environment where sharing ideas and expertise is vital to team success, creating a psychologically safe work environment is not a nice element but a must-have element. Making individuals feel safe enough to speak freely and on time is the way to deliver business results. 

How can leaders achieve this?

Given below are 4 tips to create psychological safety in your team –

  • Foster diversity, equity, and inclusion. One of your key responsibilities is to ensure that your team comprises individuals from diverse backgrounds. People will show up authentically and feel safe at work when they see others like themselves. Further, when people feel valued for their differences rather than pressured to conform to the majority’s ways, they feel free to express themselves.
  • Actively seek inputs. The most effective technique to get others to share their thoughts is to ask them to do so. Often, leaders leave participation to the initiative of team members. However, in diverse teams, people may feel safer not sharing their thoughts because of the differences in backgrounds and their effect on behavior. You must convey that their opinion matters and set the stage for them to speak up to draw people out. Your efforts will drive engagement and shared ownership of the project at hand. Listening actively and without judgment when team members share their ideas is also essential. When people see you listening with the desire to learn, their sense of safety and willingness to participate increases. 
  • Lead with curiosity. You may worry that your team’s mistakes may reflect poorly on you, and you may want to hold your team to high standards. However, there are no perfect teams or perfect plans. Things are bound to go wrong at some point or another. This is the time to check in and ask what the team learned. After all, you want your team to try out new ideas and innovate.
  • Model the behavior you want to see. When you share how you have learned from your mistakes, open up about your problems, or speak about what you believe in, it lets your team know that it’s safe to take risks and speak up. Respect, openness to feedback, and willingness to take risks are ways to promote psychological safety.

To summarize, creating a psychologically safe work environment is critical to team success, individual well-being, and organizational performance. When individuals feel safe enough to speak freely, they share their ideas and expertise, leading to better relationships, sound decisions, innovation, and task execution. As a leader, it is essential to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion, actively seek input from team members, lead with curiosity, and model the behavior you want to see. By implementing these tips, leaders can create an environment where everyone feels valued and respected, contributing to a more productive and successful team.