When we don’t feel comfortable voicing our opinions in fear of being judged, we tend to keep our thoughts to ourselves. When this happens in the workplace, the result is a team in which not everyone feels psychologically safe to ask questions, pitch ideas, or admit mistakes. This highlights the value of psychological safety in the workplace. When employees don’t feel safe speaking up, teams suffer from misalignment, miscommunication, and a lack of cohesiveness. Here are ways to create psychological safety in the workplace to foster effective teamwork:
Being physically present for meetings and conversations with team members is one thing: being invested in the interaction is another. When meeting with employees, make eye contact and be engaging. Demonstrate a genuine interest by actively listening. Ask questions to show you’re paying attention.
And most importantly, ask the team if they have any questions, ideas, opinions, or concerns. Expect that some team members will be quick to react; these are individuals with more confidence. Increase psychological safety by asking individual team members for their thoughts; if done right, this shouldn’t make them feel like they’ve been put on the spot. Instead, it should make them think you’re giving them the opportunity because you value their input.
Authenticity and transparency matter. One of the most critical factors contributing to psychological safety in the workplace is trust. By being transparent with expectations, information, and reasons for any changes, employees learn to rely on leadership to make the hard decisions.
Provide ways for employees to share feedback
Not all employees will be comfortable speaking up in a meeting. This has more to do with their personalities rather than a fear of the repercussions of voicing their opinions. You can encourage team members to share their questions or concerns by using multiple channels such as email or online collaboration tools. You may also create a platform that guarantees their feedback is received anonymously. You can also make it clear to team members that they can approach you for private discussions.
Praise good ideas and challenging questions
By acknowledging ideas, insights, and thought-provoking questions, you promote positive and honest conversations. Admitting that you can’t always answer the most challenging questions also humanizes you. It also opens an opportunity for collaboration as you and your team find the answer together. Ask your team for their opinions and engage in dialogue. Praising good ideas also empowers others to share their views.
Support your team
Champion your employees by supporting their development, both personally and professionally. To do that, you should be engaged and understand their daily activities. When something goes wrong, don’t be the first to assume someone is at fault and lay blame. Focus on your language and use “we” when figuring out the root of problems and how to ensure the mistake is not repeated in the future.
Have you had a challenging time establishing psychological safety in your workplace, particularly amid the global pandemic? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to continue the conversation.