Traditionally, workplace safety referred to measures taken against physical danger such as defective machinery or site hazards. However, when it comes to modern employee experiences, the risks extend to include the need for psychological safety.
Psychological safety refers to a state where employees may safely share their ideas or opinions without fear of censure or severe repercussions. High psychological safety may reduce the risks of employee turnover rates, which contributes to overall organisational health.
Organisational leaders may implement various policies and practices to create a workplace culture conducive to psychological safety. And most of these strategies stem from leading by example daily, across organisational scenarios.
Embrace the Art of Active Listening
Active listening plays a crucial role in establishing psychological safety at the workplace. Organisational leaders who practise active listening display a genuine interest in employees’ perspectives, encouraging transparency and open communication. Through active listening, leaders should pay attention to nonverbal cues, which provide a great deal of information on an employee’s moods and intentions.
Some key factors that drive active listening include:
– Withholding judgement and listening with impartiality. Leaders need to pay attention to the details of a conversation or feedback and genuinely understand the main points communicated.
– Displaying engagement – tune away from devices and other distractions to give the speaker 100% attention. Occasional nods or words of acknowledgement such as “I see” or “got it” will show interest and respect for the conversation. Similarly, avoid negative body language such as crossing the arms or flashing a gloomy facial expression.
–Encouraging speakers to go on with patience and statements like “tell me more.” These will give employees the confidence to share their thoughts without holding back on potentially significant details. Clear, candid, and mutually respectful communication can help build dynamic teamwork that improves an organisation’s overall productivity.
Rechannel Blame to Solutions
Psychological safety at the workplace requires the elimination of blame. Blaming employees for mistakes doesn’t promote a culture of inclusivity, learning, and development but rather a cycle of fault-finding. Problems are bound to arise with the complex nature of a workplace, but organisational leaders should focus on creating solutions.
Instead of harping on how and why a mistake occurred, employees should guide the involved parties to do things better and prevent similar errors in the future. More importantly, the first step towards dissolving a blame culture at work is maintaining polite, fair, and collaborative relationships among employees throughout the work year.
Eliminate Negativity at the Workplace
Psychological safety should shield employees from toxic relationships and experiences that prevent them from achieving their best performance. Therefore, organisational leaders should prioritise identifying negativity at work and advocating against it.
For example, leaders may openly address workplace gossips and rumours during meetings to encourage transparency or check in on employees with erratic behaviour or who seem withdrawn from the rest of the team. Subtle behavioural changes may suggest an employee’s intentions of quitting for “greener pastures.”
Additionally, while organisations need to follow the rules and SOPs that keep systems in place – it shouldn’t be rigid to a fault, which stifles creativity and instills fear. Constantly revise policies and practices to ensure they retain practical value – there should never be rules for rules’ sake.
A negative workplace fails to thrive as employees lack the emotional support and acceptance to feel comfortable and inspired to fulfill their roles.
Psychological safety at the workplace is a two-way street. Employers should openly speak with workers to understand the challenges and concerns faced in their respective roles. There should never be an “ice palace mentality” where managers and supervisors0 find themselves segregated and far displaced from their team.
Leaders can lighten the mood and start the ball rolling by encouraging employees to challenge their decisions and status quo with better ideas. Make it clear that it’s okay to commit mistakes as long as there’s a valuable lesson derived from the experience.
Feedback gives employees a voice – to speak out loud and proud and to feel safe while expressing their thoughts. Through consistent feedback, organisations can tap on multiple perspectives and strengths to form quality decisions.
Involve Employees in Decision-Making
The helicopter or power-hungry boss may clash with the modern workforce that seeks empowerment. According to McKinsey, five essential actions drive employee empowerment and delegated decision-making.
Most of the recommended actions centre on clarity – defining organisational strategy, roles, and responsibilities from the beginning. Once set in place, leaders can entrust employees with more significant decisions and having peace of mind that processes will progress smoothly.
Additionally, employers should give recognition where it is due. For example, if John from marketing proposed a policy change that amounted to increased revenue – he should receive mention for his contributions.
The way individuals intend to express themselves may not align with how they are perceived. Such a mismatch boils down to the lack of self-awareness. These clashes often result in miscommunications and conflicts at the workplace, which results in a toxic culture.
Soundwave workshops help participants recognise their diverse voices and methods to express them at the right place at the right time. Mindful communication can significantly improve team dynamics and drive the organisation forward.
Christopher Edgar, author of Inner Productivity: A Mindful Path to Efficiency and Enjoyment in Your Work, shared, “being aware of your inner state—your thoughts and emotions—and learning how to manage and self-regulate the mental “chatter” that interferes with optimal performance, is the greatest challenge for leaders.”
Leaders should serve as role models in self-awareness by reacting responsibly and logically to every situation despite the challenge.
Additionally, leaders may consider sponsoring wellness activities for employees, such as meditational retreats that restore energy and create mindfulness.
Psychological safety at the workplace is an ongoing process that requires employers to evaluate worker sentiments constantly and meet evolving demands. Healthy communication lies at its core, and leaders should initiate the first dialogue.
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