It’s easy to think of our work environment as being somewhat out of our control. Typically management provides us with the tools we need, and in several organizations, they also provide us with the where and when we do our work as well. However, when speaking about the actual experience we have day in and day out, it is much more than these things. Things like having a cafeteria, bringing pets into work, and fun collaboration spaces are all hallmarks of an evolving workplace where the focus is on creating a positive experience for our team. Again, these are things that we look to others to create for us, which leaves us feeling less in control of the experience we have. That said, there is one key element that is more important than any of these factors and fortunately, it’s something that we can all contribute to: psychological safety.
The concept of psychological safety was first introduced by Amy Edmondson and has typically been the focus of how teams work together. The concept focuses on the feeling of freedom to be our authentic selves and our ability to share our opinions openly and honestly without fear of repercussion. In a study done by Google, they found that psychological safety was the one key element that distinguished the best teams from the rest.
Interestingly, there hasn’t been much focus on psychological safety as it relates to the broader employee experience. It reasons that organizations emphasizing psychological safety would likely create a better experience for their workforce by removing the added stress and worry about whether or not our ideas will be judged in a critical manner. More importantly, as employees, we can directly influence the level of psychological safety that exists within our peer group and with those that work for us.
Think about it…when others share ideas is your first reaction to point out why something won’t work? Even worse, do we attribute a bad idea to the person and leave them feeling as though they are less competent? Or maybe you just take a passive approach and don’t offer any feedback at all when your co-workers share their opinion.
To create a psychologically safe environment, focus on reinforcing the positive aspects of your co-worker’s contributions. Rather than trying to treat everyone the way you want to be treated, instead, focus on treating them the way THEY want to be treated. On top of that, leverage opportunities to demonstrate vulnerability by admitting mistakes and when you may not have the right answer. Doing this will model for others that it is okay to be wrong and that there won’t be repercussions when others may not agree with your perspective. In turn, this will drive a greater sense of belonging for all employees which is sure to drive a positive employee experience for you and the rest of the team.