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Psychological Safety Builds Trust And Boosts Performance

Psychological Safety can now be considered a fundamental element to high-performing teams. It illustrates the belief that no one will be punished or looked down on in any way when asking for help, raising ideas, or questions. In other words, Psychological Safety enables employees to feel safe and comfortable under their own skin at their workplace.


What Would Your Team Look Like With and Without Psychological Safety


A team that has a low level of psychological safety will be filled with fear, leaving them trying to protect themselves. When employees perceive that it is not safe to speak up and interact, they will retreat and be hesitant to open up to their team, resulting in a lack of communication


On the other hand, when a team is working in an environment with good psychological safety, they will have the confidence to express themselves. Employees are going to feel a high level of respect and encouragement, allowing them to become an active part of the team.


Psychological Safety at work

4 Stages of Psychological Safety


According to Dr. Timothy Clark, employees can only make valuable contributions freely after they have gone through the following stages:


  • Stage 1 – Inclusion Safety: Inclusion safety satisfies a foundational need for connection and belonging. At this point, employees feel safe to be their authentic selves. They feel seen for who they are with unique attributes and characteristics.


  • Stage 2 – Learner Safety: People feel the urge to learn and develop themselves during this stage. The surrounding environment gives them space and safety to experiment. They can ask questions, take feedback, interchange information, and make revisions.


  • Stage 3 – Contributor Safety: It’s the stage where people can start to make a difference. They feel safe to make valuable contributions and connected enough to devote their skills, knowledge, and effort to the team.


  • Stage 4 – Challenger Safety: When employees reach this stage, they are willing to make things even better. They are confident to take risks with smart calculations and are open to change for new creations and innovations. 


Build Trust

5 Ways to Create Psychological Safety at Work


1. Give Appreciation


If employees sense that you’re not giving credit for their work, or their opinions are not heard, they will most likely shut down.

To start being present during meetings, you can practice active engagement. This includes making eye contact and shutting down the laptop. People are prone to get distracted by calls, emails, or text messages. But these small signals of disengagement can affect the team’s psychological safety in a negative way.


Another thing is to practice active listening since engagement also means listening to others. Ask further questions to fully understand other people’s ideas or opinions. Through actively connecting, you craft an environment where people are encouraged and accepted to speak up.


2. Avoid Blaming and Being Negatively Critical


It’s easy to blame someone after they have made a mistake. We can get carried away by our temper and feelings, lashing out hurtful words just to temporarily ease the stress. But to construct and maintain psychological safety at work, we need to focus on solutions.


Instead of asking “what happened and why?” It’s better to ask “How can we make sure this goes better next time?”

Make sure you give emphasis on collaborative language. Give statements that direct responsibilities as a group effort, rather than separating out an individual for the blame.


3. Promote Self-Awareness.


People bring their genuine selves to the workplace. They have unique personalities, preferences, and working patterns. The leader can build self-awareness among the team by being vulnerable first and sharing their preferences. Afterward, they can encourage team members to do the same.


Feel safe to speak up 


4. Be Precise with Expectations and Commitments


Expectations differ from person to person. That’s why leaders need to make it clear by transferring this abstract term into specific words and letting it be known. The commitment level of every person also differs, depending on one’s own ambition, devotion, capabilities, and other supporting factors. Knowing about the differences and communicating them can help leaders avoid unwanted consequences later on.


You can ask employees what tasks they’ve been doing and why it didn’t work out as expected. Engage with employees to find out what they’ve learned from those experiences. We need to help team members to recognize that they have valuable contributions. That way, they will feel more comfortable taking risks.


5. Embrace Productive Conflicts


You can promote dialogue and productive debating. This can work to resolve conflicts productively. Leaders need to set the environment for the team to raise concerns and expectations regarding psychological safety.


Along with your team, discuss the following questions:

How will team members communicate their opinions about something that’s not working?

How can feedback be shared with teammates in a respectful manner?

What are our conflicting perspectives?


6. Include Your Team in the Decision-Making Process


During the decision-making process, consult your team members. Ask them to share their recommendations, thoughts, and feedback. Not only will this help them feel included in things that are important, but it will also enhance psychological safety and lead to better teamwork.


After a decision is made, leaders can explain the reasons behind the decision. Let them know how their feedback contributes to the final decision and why other considerations were made. Even if the employees don’t have the same opinions, they’ll appreciate the honesty and cooperative approach. 


Psychologically Safety

In Conclusion


People need to feel comfortable speaking up. They want to feel safe when they are going to ask naive questions and disagree with the usual order. This will give employees room to create ideas that actually make a difference.


Psychological safety also doesn’t indicate that everybody has to be nice all the time. It means that we all embrace the conflict and make use of it. We also need to know how to debate in a healthy way when conflicts arise. People can confidently voice their thoughts, knowing that the team has their backs.


Emma Trinh About the author

Being a Marketing Management Graduate, I view myself more as a humanitarian enthusiast. You are more likely to find me journaling, speculating the streets, or conversing with a good friend. That's where the messages I want to convey come from. Through writing and digital assistance, I strive for connection with our community.




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