5 Tips for Fostering Psychological Safety in the Workplace

By Alexandra Bishop

Employee wellbeing has become a buzzword in the workplace – but what are actual steps we can take to implement and foster that kind of environment? 

One first step is to increase psychological safety in your teams and organization. Psychology safety involves developing an environment where people feel safe speaking up with questions, ideas, and concerns without the fear of being punished. The benefits of promoting psychological safety in your workplace include increased productivity and performance, enhanced communication skills, inclusive culture, creativity, and employee wellbeing. As a manager or leader in an organization, here are a few ways you can build and promote psychological safety for your staff:

1. Practice mindful and active listening.

If a staff member is opening up regarding a concern, or reaching out to provide a new idea or point of view, try to practice listening mindfully. This means being fully present in the conversation. Avoid the urge to multitask, such as answering other messages while they’re talking or brainstorming action steps before they’re finished speaking. Additionally, listen with an open mind, and do not let biases or judgements interfere with your listening and response. Lead with curiosity instead of judgement. After you’re able to actively listen, then is the time to ask, “how can I help?” Listen to what they think would be useful in the situation, before assuming how they’d like to be supported. Give them a voice, and react mindfully. 

2. Create an atmosphere of trust, respect, and understanding.

This can be done in a variety of ways, and may take some time to fully foster this type of culture. Remind your staff that their work is important and valued. Give them autonomy over certain tasks and projects, and in turn be understanding if a small mistake is made. That is the only way they will learn! 

3. Encourage new ideas and open discussions.

One of the main components of psychological safety is that the person feels comfortable sharing their thoughts without fear of judgment. Don’t just listen to the extraverts on the team, or those who always speak up. Make sure every member feels that their thoughts are heard, whether that is encouraging them to speak more in meetings, or following up with them one on one so they feel more comfortable.

4. Elicit and review feedback.

The caveat to this tip, is do not ask for feedback if your leadership or management will not review or address it. Asking staff for feedback knowing there will be no action steps or follow up is more harmful than not asking at all. However, if your organization is able to assess concerns and brainstorm tangible solutions, then it is important to provide and review company-wide engagement surveys, anonymous feedback, and conduct one-on-one HR check-ins. These kinds of initiatives will convey to staff that the organization appreciates, welcomes, and encourages their voice to be heard, even if it’s a critique or concern.

5. Lead by example.

In addition to these approaches, it’s also imperative to lead by example. The tips mentioned above will not be as effective if leaders aren’t representing these approaches and ideas in their own work and attitudes. For example, leaders should admit and own up to their mistakes to promote open discussions and encourage staff to not feel embarrassed or abnormal for making mistakes sometimes – it’s human!  

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