Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace

By a show of hands, who here feels safe telling their boss they messed up? Anyone? Bueller? I thought so. Welcome to the world of psychological safety, or as some call it, the elusive unicorn of the workplace.

I can’t help you spot an actual unicorn, but I can help you create a workplace where your team feels safe, valued, and ready to take on the world—or at least the next big project.

Did you know that teams with high psychological safety see a whopping 27% increase in productivity and a 76% higher engagement rate? That’s right, folks. When people feel safe to speak up, make mistakes, and be themselves at work, magic happens. Well, it’s not magic—more like happier employees and better business results; some might call that magic.

But here’s the reality check: 53% of workers are unhappy at work, 58% of employees trust a stranger more than their own manager, and a jaw-dropping 76% of employees go home every day feeling like their organization doesn’t care about them. Oh, and let’s not forget that 79% of employees who quit cite a lack of appreciation. So basically, it’s looking worse than the faces of my family after they ate my attempt at grandma’s chicken casserole. I’ll never be as good. Ever.

So, how do we turn this sinking ship around?

4 Ways Leaders Can Create Psychological Safety In The Workplace:

Create a Positive Team Culture:

A positive team culture is the bedrock of psychological safety. It’s about fostering an environment where every team member feels valued, respected, and heard. Imagine if every meeting felt like a group hug—minus the awkwardness of actually hugging. HR, HR, HR!

To achieve this, encourage open communication and celebrate diversity of thought. Create spaces for regular team check-ins where everyone can voice their ideas, concerns, and feedback. Make it a point to recognize and celebrate each team member’s unique contributions.

Build Strong Manager/Employee Relationships:

Trust between managers and employees is crucial. If your team trusts you as far as they can throw you, then we’ve got a problem— unless Ryan Crouser works for you. Trust, transparency, and mutual respect build strong relationships.

To make this happen, managers must get to know their team members beyond their job titles. Your best friend here is your regular one-on-one meeting. Listen actively, show genuine interest in their development, and provide consistent, constructive feedback. Be approachable and let your team know you’ve got their back.

Invest in Leadership Skills and Development:

Great leaders aren’t born; they’re made. Investing in your team members’ leadership skills not only prepares them for future roles but also fosters an environment of continuous growth and improvement.
To make this happen, offer leadership training programs, workshops, and mentorship opportunities. Encourage your team to take ownership of their personal and professional development. When employees see you invest in their growth, they’ll be more likely to invest in the team’s success.

Support Employees in Failing:

Forward Fear of failure is a massive barrier to psychological safety. If your team is too scared to make mistakes, they’ll never take the risks needed for innovation and growth. Embrace the concept of “failing forward.”

To make this happen, create a culture where mistakes are seen as learning opportunities. When something goes wrong, focus on what can be learned rather than placing blame. Share stories of past failures and the lessons learned from them. Encourage experimentation and celebrate the effort, not just the outcome.

And there you have it! Creating psychological safety isn’t about wrapping your team in bubble wrap; it’s about building an environment where they feel empowered to speak up, take risks, and grow together. A psychologically safe workplace isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have for a thriving, productive, and engaged team. So go ahead, take these steps, and watch your team transform from cautious caterpillars to bold butterflies.

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