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Why Psychological Safety Should Be a Top Priority for Every Leader

By Numly - Leadership Coaching Group
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According to Harvard Business Review, psychological safety in the workplace refers to the freedom to speak and participate without the innate fear of being dismissed. It’s driven by an accepting culture that allows employees to speak up and innovate as needed.

But who is responsible for a safe culture?

The answer is leaders. The right leader will not only build a safe space for themselves but also for the team and nurture the confidence and credence that the workplace is psychologically safe. As per McKinsey, this scenario is defined by a positive team climate, which results from less authoritative and more supportive leadership styles.

What Does Psychological Safety at the Workplace Look Like?

  • Speaking Safety

Employees feeling comfortable speaking up in team meetings about what they believe should be done qualifies as an example of feeling safe while speaking. According to one study, 14% of people are uncomfortable asking or speaking about certain topics. With the right leadership, this workplace issue can be alleviated.

  • Feedback Security

Do employees convey to their managers about the toxic work environment, or do they try to complain to upper management about the same? If a workplace is to be considered psychologically safe, feedback mechanisms must function in both directions. A safe space is all about having the confidence to give feedback without fear of being judged or, worse, punished.

  • Risk-Taking Safety

Being able to take risks without worrying about what might go wrong is the true definition of a psychologically safe space. This safety is critical in developing productive teams that do not operate in silos. 

  • Team Safety

Employees leave bad teams and managers rather than organizations. Feeling safe as part of a team is just as important as progressing along the right career path. This team safety results from forming teams that are led by compassionate and empathetic leaders.

How Can Leaders Make Psychological Safety a Priority?

Now that we’ve understood what psychological safety can look like and what role leaders play in realizing it, here are some ways that leaders or organizations can prioritize psychological safety.

  • Show and Make Them Believe That Leaders Understand

Leaders must become vocal and practice open communication so that employees are drawn to them in times of distress or difficulty. This loop of certainty is an excellent way to demonstrate that leaders are available for both professional and personal concerns.

  • Pay Close Attention to Every Team Member

As previously stated, employees do not react or speak if they do not feel at ease within the team. This task of determining the characteristics of each team member is all about people skills, which a leader must practice and get hold of with time. It is critical to pay close attention to who is hiding behind their shell and how to break that shell open to foster a safe environment for the quiet contributors.

  • Appreciate, Encourage, and Allow Vulnerability

In a survey, 65% of respondents agreed that they would have worked harder if their efforts had been appreciated or noticed by the management. Leaders must pay close attention to recognizing excellent work and not allowing mistakes to hamper productivity. Being vulnerable in front of the team should be acceptable if a leader wants to create a psychologically safe space.

Benefits of Preaching Psychological Safety

  • Employee Engagement Skyrockets

According to Gallup’s findings, only 21% of employees are engaged at work. This statistic serves as a reminder to all organizations that they are working with people who can quit at any time or work the bare minimum to get by.

Therefore, there must be an undivided focus on providing a safe environment that is good for the overall well-being of the employees, allowing them to work without being distracted by other issues. With great feedback cycles, the opportunity to experiment, and open communication across the hierarchy, leaders can significantly help to improve employee engagement.

  • Attrition Goes Down Visibly

Studies outline that 83% of workers in the US experience work-related stress. Employees have frequently complained about being overworked and underappreciated following the pandemic, resulting in great resignation and a quiet quitting wave. 

Favorably, employers and leaders have begun to recognize the importance of workplace well-being as the dynamics are shifting. Creating a psychologically safe workplace can go a long way toward keeping employees loyal and lowering attrition considerably.

Building Physiologically Safe Workplaces – With Little Help from Numly™  

Building and nurturing psychological safety at work requires effort, and so does creating leaders who will serve as the foundation for it. Leaders require skill development just as much as the rest of the team. If properly motivated, a supportive and connected leader will elicit maximum productivity and build better teams.

Numly recognizes the importance of training leaders to lead effectively. Our 60-day pilot program of NumlyEngage™ provides the leaders of your organization an opportunity to improve their leadership skills to become Better Leaders.

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