What is psychological safety at work and why is it important?
Experts in tech Ana Nikabadze, Tamuna Kartvelishvili and Nino Vashakmadze, discussed psychological safety in the workplace, touching on what it is, its importance, and some strategies to achieve it.
What is workplace psychological safety?
— Organizational behavioral scientist Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, defined psychological safety as “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking” and it refers to the ability to speak up in a work environment without the fear of being humiliated or penalized. Edmondson highlights that psychological safety focuses on conditions within the team itself. The word “team” in “team psychological safety” is very important, because “this is a group level phenomenon — it shapes the learning behavior of the group and in turn it affects team performance and therefore organizational performance.”
Team members give life to ideas and products, so their motivation, comfort, and well-being are of great importance.
Leading companies such as Google and Microsoft have already identified psychological safety as the key element for team potential. Why? Because it leads to innovation and effectiveness. These companies want their people to challenge the status quo without fear or risk, to offer their opinions, and not to bow to those with positional authority. People who feel free to do so are the ones who innovate and create competitive advantage.
The importance of psychological safety
— When psychological safety is limited or lacking in the workplace, people suffer. It results in a reduction in innovation and productivity, and performance decreases. At the company level, this can translate into significant costs, including the departure of highly skilled employees, low engagement, poor employer brand performance, etc.
Teams that have a sense of psychological safety are more likely to:
- Share ideas and concerns: Team members feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas, knowing that their input will be respected and valued.
- Collaborate more effectively: When team members feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to work together, share feedback and knowledge, and take risks.
- Have a higher level of trust: Psychological safety fosters trust within the team, as team members feel that they can rely on each other.
- Be more innovative: Teams with psychological safety are more willing to experiment and try new approaches, leading to greater innovation and creativity.
Teams without psychological safety may:
- Struggle to communicate effectively: Team members may hesitate to share their ideas or concerns, which can lead to misunderstandings.
- Have a culture of blame and fear: When team members do not feel psychologically safe, they may be more likely to blame others or to cover up their mistakes, rather than acknowledging and addressing them.
- Experience lower productivity: Teams that do not feel psychologically safe may be less efficient and productive due to a lack of collaboration, communication, and creativity.
- Suffer from higher levels of stress and burnout: Without psychological safety, team members may feel unsupported and stressed, leading to decreased well-being.
In summary, psychological safety is a crucial component of team effectiveness because it fosters open communication, trust, and collaboration. It leads to increased creativity, innovation, and productivity, as well as improved wellbeing for team members.
5 strategies to create psychological safety
— Leaders can develop a culture of psychological safety by creating the right climate, mindsets, and behaviors within their teams. Active listening, open communication, empowering team members, enabling and encouraging everyone within the team — these are some of the components of psychological safety. Let’s consider some detail concerning how we can create an environment of psychological safety.
Our thanks to our partner site wearecommunity.io.