top of page
Search
  • Disha Bhatia

The Heartbeat of High-Performing Teams: Discovering Psychological Safety

 

Hello and welcome, curious readers and fellow psychology enthusiasts! Hoping you’ve had a good week so far.

 

Life at work can be a rough ride with so much to deal with during the hours you give and after. Whether you lead a company or a department, work with people, or work for people, everyone’s role can get draining and demanding. Such a possibility becomes especially pronounced when:  

- The environment feels unsafe and hostile.

- Employees experience discrimination, bullying, or harassment directly or indirectly.

- There is an unspoken hesitation to truthfulness and vulnerability within the teams.

- One does not feel trusted or respected.

- There is no one to reach out to when support is most needed.


But what if we were to tell you there is a way out? A way to make organisational life better for everyone involved…! The solution to it is quite simple - ‘Psychological Safety’.

 

Psychological Safety

Essentially, psychological safety is experienced as an ability to be vulnerable, speak one’s truth, share ideas, and opinions, and take risks within an organizational setting without the fear of trouble or punishment. As described by Dr. Amy Edmondson (scholar of leadership, training, and organizational learning), “It’s felt permission for candor”.


However, this experience goes beyond an individual’s interactional ability within their team.

 

Working closely with industry specialists in assessing, understanding, and remedying organisations, leaders, and their teams, has led to the realization that there are many other ways in which psychological safety is experienced. These are:

  • Feeling appreciated and praised for the tasks delivered.

  • Having the opportunity to observe the tangible outcomes of own contributions to the organization. 

  • The employers’ creation of an environment of accountability and accepting one’s errors. 

  • Employers advancing past employees’ slip-ups (even when employees fixate on them based on personality types). 

 

Myths

Often, the concept of psychological safety is misunderstood by employees and organisations. This arises from an intent to protect oneself from necessary consequences that may follow mischief, criminal behavior, bullying, avoiding accountability, etc. It is thus imperative to understand what does not classify as psychological safety.

 

An article by Tim Clark in Forbes revealed seven such distorted perceptions that will now be discussed. 

  • Protection from Accountability

Psychological safety does not protect workers from the consequences of lurking or poor performance. As Clark mentions, ‘It is not an immunity from delivering results.’ Organisations must not shy away from holding employees accountable for their actions. This is essential for creating a genuinely secure environment where diligent employees can feel confident that they won't be unfairly implicated for the actions of others.

  • Niceness

Creating a psychologically safe environment does not translate to a lack of healthy debates and discussions or people pleasing. The absence of these habits may block the necessary means to problem solving, creativity, innovation, and eureka moments all of which are significant to the efficient running of a company. Moreover, creating an environment of pretentious warmth and niceness is counterintuitive when aiming for psychological safety. Encountering someone who doesn’t seem genuine hardly ever makes us feel safe around them, in the words of Clark, “Niceness without pure intent is counterfeit”. 

  • Coddling

To build psychological safety is to build an environment characterised by respect, autonomy, and independence. While one may be given a safety net to fall on, the aim is to build a space where they’re supported to lift themselves. One must not be taught to become a dependent and helpless victim, rather, the focus is on contributing towards building employee strength and self-efficacy. 

  • Democratic Decision-Making

While psychological safety aims to reduce a sense of power difference, it does not take away the authorities and responsibilities attached to a role. A safe environment is not where an employee can veto or vote and create outcomes. Rather, it is a situation wherein they can offer their opinions and voice genuine agreements and disagreements without fearing retribution. 

  • Unmerited Autonomy

An organisation’s effort to build psychological safety does not equate to blind trust or non-management. Trust, like in any other situation, can only be built over time. The aim is to build an environment where one is allowed to grow and build autonomy without being micromanaged. 

  • Political Correctness

An environment with psychological safety cannot be annotated with political correctness. The idea of political correctness is to highlight the diversity and distinctiveness of people while promoting respect or sensitivity towards them often for a political goal. Psychological safety involves elements of respect and sensitivity towards all people and avoidance of elements that would disrespect any aspect of their being. Its intent, however, is grounded in kind treatment toward all humans irrespective of their differentiators. 

  • Verbal Comfort

It is with caution that organsations must classify themselves as psychologically safe or striving towards it. The sense of safety doesn’t stem from simply stating and repeating time and again that it is a safe space. This sense is something that is felt, experienced, and perceived from the actions of teams and leaders. 

 

Significance Of Psychological Safety

It is imperative to understand the dimensions that do and don’t characterize psychological safety considering the fact that the concept is relevant across all industries and business models. Globalisation has brought about extremely competitive environments wherein a synergy among an organization’s workers is a direct determinant of their success within such a market. A famous study named Project Aristotle which was conducted at Google revealed that psychological safety contributes to the creation of a synergy by making- employees feel that their contributions are valuable, a diverse range of opinions available to decision-makers, and the possibility for work teams to share and learn from each other’s errors.





Fostering Psychological Safety At Your Workplace

Fostering psychological safety requires the integration of four important stages within teams (mentioned in the picture below). It is imperative to understand that incorporating a particular stage is not a one-time achievement. Rather, building psychological safety is a continuous journey wherein one stage builds on the development of the one before it. Also, these stages must be revisited and rebuilt in a timely manner to suit the present state of the organisation or the team. 




 

What Can Be Done?

At the Leadership level:

  • Leading by example and setting expectations

  • Supporting growth and learning

  • Nurturing a positive team culture

  • Emphasising continuous improvement and development

At the Organisational level:

  • Transparency in communication and leadership

  • Prioritizing employee empowerment and support

  • Creating an environment of inclusivity and well-being

  • Investing in building an adaptable and resilience workforce

At the Employee level:

  • Open and secure communication within the teams

  • Active participation and feedback

  • Being inclusive and emotionally available towards teammates 

  • Aligning individual efforts with team purpose


If your organisation wants to take on the journey towards psychological safety and resilience, we can help you! 

 

References:


 

Get in touch with us:



Instagram: @resilientworkforce 


94 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page