How to nurture psychological safety in the workplace

You can nurture a psychologically safe workplace through promoting open communication, transparency, supportive leadership, and more! Check out our tips for helping your team feel comfortable at work

Company Culture
Wellbeing at Work

⋅ min read

Hybrid work arrangements are here to stay. Your team members could be working from the office, from home or transitioning between the two. However, how can you be sure that they’re feeling safe when they’re working from different locations all the time? According to this article by Deloitte, remote work has led to “degraded trust in the workplace due to a lack of interpersonal interaction between workers and managers, which is crucial in bolstering professional relationships”. 

So, how do you foster an optimal working environment where team members can voice their opinions comfortably and always feel included? Especially when it’s difficult for your team to meet face-to-face on a daily basis, nurturing psychological safety in your workplace is super important to creating a high-performing team. 

What is psychological safety?

Psychological safety is the belief employees have that enables them to take interpersonal risks in their workplace. This includes speaking up without fear or risk of punishment or humiliation. 

Simply put, do your team members feel safe enough to talk freely and be vulnerable with each other, especially when hybrid working is standing in the way of physical interactions? 

Why does psychological safety matter in the workplace?

Doing so can foster diversity, inclusion, and belong (DEIB) and drive team performance. The issue is that people are afraid of expressing their true feelings for fear of repercussions (such as punishment or humiliation), and that’s nothing out of the ordinary. Here’s where active and positive employee engagement comes into play to build the shared belief that taking risks is welcome in your team. 

In other words, nurturing psychological safety is the key behind happy and  high-performing teams. This is especially true according to Project Aristotle, a Google study. 

Here are some key pointers we picked out from Project Aristotle. 

  • Psychological safety was most important in building successful teams. 
  • Team members who feel safe are twice more efficient and productive. 

5 ways you can nurture psychological safety in your company

Nurturing psychological safety cannot be done in a day. It takes time and patience, but the results can be great when you succeed. Here are 5 ways to get you started. 

  1. Communication is key 

Start by establishing an open and respectful communication culture, taking both introverts and extroverts into consideration. For example, extroverts may feel at ease with large-group discussions, while introverts may prefer one-on-one conversations. 

In such cases, you may consider providing a variety of methods where team members can share their opinions, such as an anonymous suggestion box or online survey. With hybrid working, online polls via Slack, SurveyMonkey or StrawPoll may be useful. 

  1. Be transparent 

Transparency builds trust. We mean trust not only between your team members, but between managers/leaders as well. One way is not to hide any information from your team. For example, if there is a decision to restructure the business, let go of team members, or implement changes in pay, be upfront with your team members. 

It’s much worse if they hear it first from a peer in another team, or worse, from someone who works in another company. Keep in mind that in order for this to work, you must be honest about the exact changes that will affect them, and provide as much information as you can. Ensure that all team members including those on leave are on the same video call before doing your announcement, so that no one feels left out and in the dark about the new changes. 

  1. Set clear expectations 

Make your expectations known to all your team members. You could talk to them both individually and as a group, depending on their roles. When we talk about expectations, it’s not just about work expectations (although it’s a must to let your employees know what they have to get done at work, their KPI, etc.). It’s also about letting your team know about your expectations on self-awareness. 

Sharing your work style, how you prefer to communicate, and the ways you’d like to see recognition can encourage your team members to do the same. This way, each team member is aware of their colleagues’ preference for working and communicating, leading to a harmonious work environment for every member. 

  1. Never blame and shame 

People make mistakes. And it’s often easier to blame someone when things go wrong. Instead of pointing fingers at the person responsible, consider reframing failures into opportunities for learning in a collaborative manner. 

For instance, you could ask “what should we do to make sure we avoid this problem in the future?” or “what can we change in our SOPs?”. You may consider onboarding on collaborative websites like Notion and Slack that allow different members to edit cards according to their progress so that every employee is kept in the loop for work updates.  

  1. Be a supportive and consultative leader 

Take the lead. Set an example for your team members to follow. Just like with self-introductions, the leaders/managers go first. For instance, you could start by sharing about your challenges during hybrid work arrangements, how you felt, and how you solved those challenges. Remember, being candid and showing empathy is crucial. 

Wherever possible, try to include your team members in the decision-making process, so that they’ll feel that they had a say in a project outcome. Furthermore, getting out of your confined room more often builds rapport between yourself and your employees. A simple ‘how’s your morning?’ or a smiley face emoji could help get the ball rolling. 

At the end of the day, you want to create a psychologically safe workplace. Not only does it help your business flourish, your employees will thank you for doing so too. These 5 tips will get you on the right track. But remember, a psychologically safe workplace can be easily broken if you take the wrong step. So, make sure you keep a watchful eye on the dynamics in your team, and catch issues as soon as they arise.

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