Psychological safety also demands the recognition of the rights of the LGBTQ community and people of color. As we celebrate Pride and Juneteenth, we should remember that the people whose rights we celebrate would not be truly free unless discrimination against them ends. Creating a psychologically safe workplace where they can express their true selves is a key step in finally eradicating decades of bias and prejudice.
However, fostering psychological safety is doubly challenging, especially with the pandemic giving rise to hybrid workplaces. Company leaders are faced with the constant dilemma of creating a vibrant work culture that balances remote work with in-office activities. The Great Resignation that America is witnessing further adds to the pressure. Employees expect better working conditions if they are to stay with a company. These conditions include feeling psychologically safe in the workplace.
While we have been discussing the impact of psychological safety in this blog, we have yet to provide concrete examples of how to achieve it. In this article, we provide 7 psychological safety examples that can, hopefully, inspire your organization to create your own. When creating your own programs, always remember that the goal is to create a safe place that values authenticity and protects vulnerability.
7 Psychological Safety Examples to Follow
- Regularly check in with employees to ask how they are doing.
In a hybrid work environment, it’s easy to overlook certain employees, especially if you don’t see each other all the time. As leaders, your role is to show genuine care for how your team members are doing. Holding regular 1:1 conversations to ask how they’re doing on a personal and professional level nurtures your relationship with each other. It provides the foundation where they can feel safe to approach you for other serious matters.
Take it a notch further. Check in with employees across the organization’s “pyramid”. This sends a strong signal to the workforce about how the company’s leadership cares for the well-being of their employees.
Along the process, build empathy. Be aware of what your employees are going through and find ways to support them.
- Encourage support and affinity groups.
People feel safer when they are connected with others who share the same experiences and beliefs. Encouraging affinity groups may seem counterintuitive when we are promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In reality, however, having affinity groups encourages inclusivity. It creates a support system that keeps employees feeling psychologically safe.
Promote employee connections by encouraging affinity groups and allowing them to advance their diversity objectives. Examples of these groups are LGBTQ+, Veterans group, People with Disabilities, Indigenous People, and Anti-Racism groups. Just make sure to have a venue where their concerns can be heard and their suggestions deliberated.
Affinity groups create a sense of belonging amongst employees. Psychological safety is best exemplified when employees know that they can have an inner trusted circle.
- Shape company culture by rewarding behaviors that strengthens it.
Company culture is important in achieving psychological safety in the workplace. However, culture is not designed by an executive team. Rather, it is shaped by the overall conduct of a company’s employees.
You can ensure your company develops the culture you want by rewarding the behaviors that strengthen it and not tolerating those that undermine it. Do you want to create a culture of inclusivity? Recognize the HR team for hiring a diverse talent pool. This reinforces their behavior of preventing bias when selecting candidates. Meanwhile, have a strict zero-tolerance for bullying and discrimination. Make sure reports are acted on quickly. This discourages racism and prejudices.
Do you want a culture that’s conducive to innovation? Encourage people to commit mistakes so long as they learn from them. Discourage complacency and lack of creativity.
While company leaders can’t dictate company culture, they can certainly influence it. Company culture is formed when leaders demonstrate it. Then, it’s solidified through rewards and repetition.
- Equip leaders to handle employee concerns.
Psychological safety involves encouraging employees to voice out their opinions and report their concerns. Leaders are encouraged to create safe spaces where employees can air these out. However, what happens when the leader is ill-equipped to handle the situation, especially if they disagree with the concern?
Help leaders create psychological safety by providing them with training and coaching. Teach them how to effectively call out bad behavior in a constructive manner. Whether employees only complain or provide innovative solutions, it is the leader who creates the environment where these employees speak their truths.
- Deploy multiple ways to receive direct feedback.
Direct feedback is important in establishing psychological safety. However, different employees have different preferences when it comes to providing it. Some are comfortable sharing feedback directly during a meeting. Others are more reserved and prefer to think it over before sending an email. Still, some prefer a private audience after the meeting.
Make sure your company caters to all the possible ways employees can provide feedback. These can be in the form of emails, feedback forms, or 1:1 personal discussions. In case of sensitive issues, respect the employee’s privacy. Allow for anonymous reporting also.
A strong feedback system that acts on what it receives encourages employees to constantly speak up.
- Stick to commitments and set clear expectations
Employees need to know they can trust your word. You can do this by setting clear expectations and sticking to commitments. When creating expectations, make sure they are realistic and accurate. Nothing erodes trust faster than unrealistic and unclear goals that may make employees feel like they are set up to fail.
When you provide a clear and attainable goal, employees will see you as an ally who’s there to help them succeed. This will help them trust you more and be confident in voicing their opinions. Clear expectations also help build transparency—another critical component to establishing trust in the workplace.
- Build self-awareness
We all have our personal biases. Knowing and understanding these will help us communicate on a more rational level and help avoid purely emotional responses. When we hear something contradictory, self-awareness helps us get our emotions under control so we can respond constructively.
Developing self-awareness is not just for the leader, but also for the rest of the team. Help your team members become more aware of their own prejudices and bias. Once they know these, they can accept them and start improving.
There are various tools available online that will help you and your team understand their personalities better. Make it part of your HR training strategy to help employees gain better self-awareness.
Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace
The psychological safety examples given above are just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless ways different organizations are promoting psychological safety in their workplaces. These practices are different for every company because most of these are hinged on company culture.
Leaders help shape these cultures and are crucial in creating psychologically safe workplaces. Each day, they must demonstrate values that promote psychological safety. With their commitment, employees can feel safe to be their authentic selves.