How Am I Doing? The Importance of Psychological Safety in the Workplace

We have spoken before about the importance of core values in a workplace and we’d like to bring up another factor that is just as important: environment. Remember in high school biology class when learning about the central nervous system and the “fight or flight” response the body has to fear? There’s no reason for employees to be taming down either of these responses at work.

Psychological safety in the workplace is a key differentiator for effective teams. Click To Tweet

More and more, HR leaders are finding psychological safety in the workplace is a key differentiator for effective teams. What steps can you and your management team take to ensure that your employees feel not only empowered in their roles but also feel a safety to strive for the professional growth they’d like to achieve?

Create a Safe Place for Feedback

“Feedback” can be a scary word. Depending on an employee’s past, one may feel it’s directly correlated with criticism. Your goal should be to make sure that whenever the word “feedback,” is used, the person’s brain doesn’t react like they’re being chased by a lion (or the “flight” reaction). Although feedback may be given on an ongoing basis, there must be set times employees can expect to receive feedback. For some companies, this may only be on a quarterly or annual basis, while other companies may find that managers have the bandwidth to give monthly or even weekly reviews of performance and the feedback that accompanies them.

Although feedback may be given on an ongoing basis, there must be set times employees can expect to receive feedback.

Regardless of when the feedback is being delivered, many companies are finding that delivering feedback face-to-face is received in a more positive manner than if feedback is delivered via email.  This allows both you and your employee the opportunity to interact with one another and have an upfront discussion of feedback and the goals it informs. Keep in mind that if you have employees that are working remotely, while face-to-face feedback may not be an option, video meetings certainly are a possibility.

Build an Organized Workload Management

Nothing quite makes an employee feel as if their footing in an environment is shaky when there isn’t much organization or structure. Taking the time to organize a workflow amongst your team has many benefits for the psychological safety of your employees.

When taking the time to enforce these workflows, keep in mind at which points the team may have to reevaluate the efficiency. Putting a system in place decreases stress as well as builds employee trust and loyalty, as it eases the day-to-day lives of your team members and keeps things efficient.

Create a Work-Life Balance

Psychological safety in the workplace means not only feeling a level of comfort in the workplace, but also a separation between work life and home life.

Speaking of the building of loyalty and trust, what better way to do so than by proving to your employees that their time is valuable? Show your employees that you, too, have interests and activities that preoccupy you outside of the office. There are many opportunities to do this, from starting a casual conversation in the office café space to setting a structure around a type of desk curfew (for example, requiring employees to head out for the day by a specific time). Psychological safety in the workplace means not only feeling a level of comfort in the workplace, but also a separation between work life and home life.

All in all, the ability to create psychological safety in the workplace has in large part, something to do with frequent assessments of how well things are or are not working for you or your team and the ability to adapt accordingly. Take a look at Google’s Project Oxygen, a research project headed up by Google’s People Ops team to look into whether or not management matters at all. We’ll save you some time by spoiling things for you and letting you know that yes, it does. Earlier on we spoke about the importance of feedback but didn’t mention one factor that Google’s Project Oxygen brought to light: it goes both ways.

Part of psychological safety is opening up the floor for employees to give feedback to you. Click To Tweet

While it’s important that you help your employees grow by delivering consistent and constructive, actionable feedback, a large part of creating a psychologically safe workplace is opening up the floor for your employees to give feedback to you. So often are we worrying about whether or not we’re managing correctly, that we sometimes forget to ask the people who know best — those whom we’re managing. What are you doing to ensure that you are being critiqued just as honestly as your employees?

Make the time to organize your team’s workload, encourage them to create a work-life balance, and create a safe space when delivering feedback. And don’t forget to allow critique of your own management skills as part of the ever-evolving assessment of your team.

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