Did you ever have an experience in the workplace that didn’t sit right with you? If so, did you feel comfortable speaking up? Perhaps you had an idea about how to improve something within your organization. Did you feel confident sharing it or did you think “why bother” and keep it to yourself? Turns out, the level of psychological safety within your office often dictates the answer to these questions and the overall culture of an organization.
As I mentioned in past articles, I have recently completed a certification from Cornell University on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The course, taught by Professor Nishii, tackles the issue of employee engagement and its three components. So far, we’ve examined psychological availability and psychological meaningfulness. This month, we’ll look at the third component: psychological safety.
What Is Psychological Safety?
Organizational psychologist William Kahn, author of the 1990 study “Physical Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement at Work”, defined psychological safety as “being able to employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences to self-image, status and career”. Harvard Business School professor, Amy Edmondson, brought the idea to the masses and described it as, “a climate where people feel safe enough to take interpersonal risks by speaking up and sharing concerns, questions or ideas.” The ultimate goal is a feeling of belonging and feeling heard. And it’s something every organization should prioritize.
Why Is Psychological Safety Important?
There are few things more frustrating for team members than having an idea, suggestion or question, but not feeling able to share it or feel like anyone is listening. It not only leads to disengagement, but lowered morale, productivity and ultimately, higher turnover. On the flipside, high levels of psychological safety have shown to improve decision-making and team dynamics. When people aren’t constantly concerned about saying “the wrong thing”, organizations see greater innovation and creativity.
According to Dr. Timothy Clark in his book “The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation”, the stages are as follows:
- Stage 1 – Inclusion Safety: a feeling of connecting and belonging
- Stage 2 – Learner Safety: feeling safe to learn, ask questions and experiment
- Stage 3 – Contributor Safety: feeling safe to make a valuable contribution using your skills and gifts
- Stage 4 – Challenger Safety: feeling safe enough to challenge the status quo when you see an opportunity for change or improvement
How would you rate the level of psychological safety within your organization? Do team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas, questions and concerns or is there room for improvement? That’s where Leah M Joppy and Associates can step in and help. We can look at your current practices and help you craft new and innovative ways to communicate, problem-solve and engage with team members. This is particularly valuable for those who work from home and may feel more isolated and less engaged with day-to-day office life.
Let’s help create engagement in your organization via high levels of psychological safety. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org today.