Psychological Safety – Positive Responses to Challenges

One significant aspect of psychological safety at the workplace involves dealing with challenges in a positive manner. An essential step for most organisational leaders would be transforming a blame culture into a solution-focused system. 

While it is impossible to avoid challenges and oversights 100% from an organisational perspective, there are effective ways of assessing the situation. And it is from a varied mindset that leaders can gain clarity of mind to put their best foot forward while keeping teams united. 

It is common for individuals to reject responsibility or blame the next person when a situation goes south. Humans have developed natural instincts to protect his/her personal interest and well-being above all else. However, the most effective teams work and communicate well together under the protection of psychological safety.

Define Problems 

An unexpected issue may cause widespread panic and helplessness across the organisation, threatening worker morale and engagement levels. Organisational leaders should provide support and consolation by identifying the root cause of the problem and approaching it with their team in a practical manner. 

Transparent and consistent communication is a must for teams to sort through pain points and project feasible solutions. A vaguely defined problem/issue may result in poor communication, conflict, and individuals working in silos. 

A critical step in defining problems involves asking lots of questions. Leaders need to provide employees with a conducive environment to speak up freely without worrying about repercussions or judgement. 

Additionally, leaders need to discover effective ways to express or formulate a situation in a way that makes it clear and accessible to others. Soundwave workshops can help leaders identify various voices and implementing them in the right scenarios for optimal results. 

Place Things into Perspective 

Perspective is everything when it comes down to problem-solving. Leaders need to clearly define job roles, responsibilities, and tasks while encouraging a dynamic and flexible work environment. Employees need to know how to react to a crisis when it strikes and have the initiative to offer assistance to co-workers when necessary. 

For example, in some companies, marketing leaders may blame sales for not following up on MQLs (marketing qualified leads) as the reason for poor revenue. A positive workplace scenario would involve both departments (sales and marketing) discussing lead strategy, identifying problems, and collaborating towards the organisation’s success. 

Stay Empathetic 

Empathy is a highly sought-after quality in modern leadership. Empathetic leaders will keep their teams engaged, motivated, and inspired to go the extra mile. The pandemic resulted in a wave of societal and economic changes that saw a rising demand for empathy at the workplace. 

It’s essential to identify a creed for any organisation: change is constant. However, navigating change may prove overwhelming for some employees, mainly when it occurs at an unprecedented rate. Leaders need to help employees steer the ship through the choppiest waters with continuous transformation – whether it’s through checking in or providing adequate training and development opportunities. 

Leaders should display that they understand the challenges and concerns faced by employees – through non-verbal body language. Smiles, eye contact, and nods during an open discussion show genuine interest and attention in an employee’s POV, the first step in facing the issue together. 

Break Down Each Challenge

Organisational challenges can be extremely overwhelming when encountered in their complete entirety. Instead, leaders should work closely with each employee to break the issue into bite-sized bits for easier management and settlement. 

Additionally, leaders should promote a strength-based workplace that identifies unique traits and characteristics for driven performance. The CliftonStrengths (Clifton StrengthsFinder) is a personality assessment tool that recognises 34 types of strengths in an individual. 

These strengths fall under four categories (known as domains): strategic thinking, relationship building, influencing, and executing. Leaders should aim for a balanced number of individuals adept in each domain to maintain an effective organisation. 

For example, employees skilled in communication (influencing domain) and adaptability (relationship building domain) are highly suited in handling PR challenges and may benefit from specialised crisis management training. 

Engage in the Waiting Game 

Timing is critical in problem-solving – sometimes, the art of doing nothing may seem more onerous than simply reacting, but it might be the ideal response. 

Consider an analogy. Picture a small fire in an isolated spot on the first floor of an apartment building started by a toppled lantern. There’s little need for an individual holding onto a glass of water on the tenth floor to rush and put it out. 

Similarly, when disaster strikes, organisations should avoid jumping into the fray. Leaders should first consider the resources in hand (the glass of water) and the urgency of the matter (distance from the flame). Poor planning and preparation would result in wasted efforts and unnecessary spending. 


The practice should also apply to implementing change across the organisation. Leaders should identify the latest industry trends, conversations among other leaders and make necessary changes at the most opportune moments. Contextual timing is everything, and it’s essential to “read the room” to understand what others feel about a given situation before acting. 

Additionally, leaders should ask themselves a few crucial questions before settling for change. These include: who will be affected by the change, what are the involved costs, and how long will it take for a complete rollout. 

Aim for a Solution-focused Approach

Ultimately, every successful organisation should promote a solution-focused culture. People engagement and empowerment should remain a priority at all times. If employees tend to shift blame, avoid issues, or prefer working alone, it’s time to re-evaluate the organisational system. A solution-focused approach focuses on progression and lessons learned that will further organisational goals. 

With modern digital technology and the latest stacks available in the market, leaders should choose to automate processes where possible. Automation can help streamline repetitive processes (such as data entry) and help employees focus on more value-added tasks like seeking creative solutions for a novel problem.  

Psychological safety is necessary for the long-term sustainability of the modern workplace. The most effective way of achieving psychological safety is by diverting focus away from problems and onto solutions. Goal development through quality communication is key, and perhaps most importantly, future opportunities should outweigh past setbacks. 

StrengthsAsia has helped many individuals and corporate clients empower leaders throughout the region by enabling breakthrough experiences for both leaders and followers. If you wish to learn more about the Strengths Leadership Program, please reach out to us here.

A devotee at the altar of language and a celebrant of expression. Laurenzo has written for various SMEs, MNCs, startups and international brands over the last three years. He specializes in topics of psychology, lifestyle, employee management, and digital trends.

Maalikka is the latest addition to StrengthsAsia’s team of marketing and content extraordinaries. As an avid reader, writer and learner, she’s always on the lookout for new information online or interesting conversations to inspire her. Her other passions include gaming, Netflix and cats.

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