We’ve all put in new practices to keep our people physically safe and now we need to address psychological safety too.  We can do this buy assessing and changing our culture and practices.

Psychological safety exists in an environment where moderate risk taking is encouraged, where people can try things, make mistakes and learn from those experiences.  Being able to speak freely without fear of how they will be treated allows for critical discussion to hone the best ideas.

People learn early on in their life when it is and isn’t safe to speak up.  We can develop a fear of looking incompetent if we think we’re going to be laughed at, shouted at or humiliated.  When people are scared, not only will they stop contributing but they won’t be performing at their best in any aspect of their role.

Many people are operating a lower level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs* than they were before the pandemic and resilience levels are low.  Naturally, such times bring greater fear, so how can we help people to feel safe and what are the benefits of doing so?

Creating a safe place to speak is critical to encourage people to share their ideas and opinions.  Actively seeking feedback from your people is a better strategy than letting them come to you.  This can be done via surveys, focus groups and in regular team meetings and 1:1s.

Make sure everyone has a voice, particularly any dissenters.  Boundaries must be in place for respectful debate which will develop people’s skills of raising their points of view in a professional way.

There will be some people who you can always rely on to share their opinion.  Make sure you also actively invite the quieter members of your teams to share their views too.  Be aware of how you respond to people when they share their views.  Have the mindset of wanting to encourage more ideas in a way that is constructive.  Ask questions about the idea and invite others to comment.

When people feel safe and give their best, there is better cohesion, higher engagement and increased productivity.

Create an environment where trust and respect are part of how you work and everyone’s behaviour allows them to contribute deferentially.

*Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a model comprising basic needs, psychological needs and self-fulfilment needs.