The 4 Stages of Psychological SAfety

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Workplace Psychological Safety

How to Create a Safe and Healthy Work Environment

If you're looking to create a healthy and safe work environment for your employees, you've come to the right place. When trying to build psychological safety in a team or organization, most people don’t know where to start. The truth is, it’s hard to know where to start if you’re not measuring the levels of psychological safety in your organization. In this article, we'll dive into the importance of workplace psychological safety and how to build it in any team, in any setting.

What is Workplace Psychological Safety?

Before we dive into the importance of psychological safety, it's important to define what it is. Workplace psychological safety is the ability of employees to feel comfortable and confident enough to speak up, express their ideas, and challenge the status quo without fear of negative consequences.

In a psychologically safe workplace, employees feel safe to take risks, be vulnerable, and share their ideas without fear of being punished, humiliated, or ostracized. This type of environment fosters open communication, innovation, and collaboration.

The Importance of Workplace Psychological Safety

Creating a psychologically safe workplace is important for many reasons. When employees feel safe and supported, they are more likely to stay engaged, motivated, and productive. This leads to increased employee retention rates, which saves organizations time and money on recruiting and training new team members.

Moreover, when employees feel comfortable speaking up, they're more likely to share their ideas and collaborate with others. This can lead to new and innovative solutions to problems that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Research has shown that psychological safety is also important for team performance. In a study conducted by Google, called Project Aristotle, researchers found that the highest-performing teams shared two key traits: equality in the distribution of conversational turn-taking and high levels of social sensitivity. These traits are more likely to be found in psychologically safe environments.

When teams feel comfortable with each other, they're more likely to share the workload and provide support to one another. This creates an environment of trust and mutual respect, which ultimately leads to better team performance.

Psychological safety is built across four stages, stages that meet the basic needs of humans in social settings. These stages are inclusion safety, learner safety, contributor safety, and challenger safety. The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety framework, created by Timothy R. Clark, helps teams move from theory to actual practice on their psychological safety journey.

The Benefits of Workplace Psychological Safety

What makes a culture “great?” When we say that great culture starts with psychological safety, we’re not talking about perks and parties. We’re talking about:

  • Teams that are high-performing, inclusive, and innovative.
  • An organization with no hidden problems or pockets of toxicity. 
  • Team members are committed to, not compliant with, your culture.
  • A place where everyone has a voice, and everyone is listened to.
  • Employees that exceed expectations and improve without coaxing.
  • Applications pour in while top talent never wants to leave. 
  • A place where high levels of accountability drive success. 

As the foundation of culture, psychological safety will transform your organization and empower your team members to be inclusive and innovative in their everyday interactions. But psychological safety, just like culture, is delicate and dynamic. It’s perishable, not permanent. It requires intention too. 

Because unfortunately, psychological safety doesn’t just happen. So it can’t be a one-and-done initiative or a back-burner idea. It should be at the forefront of your strategy. It has to be monitored and measured. It has to be planned out, revisited, and consistently improved.

So how do you create an environment where your culture can actually stick? You start with psychological safety. No other cultural initiative or employee development program can succeed without first creating psychological safety. Research has shown it’s the #1 variable in team performance, the key ingredient for creating inclusive environments, and the heart of high-performing, innovative teams.

The Consequences of a Lack of Workplace Psychological Safety

On the other hand, a lack of psychological safety can have serious consequences. Employees who feel unsupported or ostracized are more likely to leave their job, which can lead to high levels of turnover. This not only costs organizations money but also reduces team cohesion and productivity.

Additionally, a lack of psychological safety can lead to increased stress levels for employees. When employees feel like they can't speak up or challenge the status quo, they may bottle up their feelings, leading to a build-up of stress and anxiety. This can ultimately lead to burnout and decreased productivity.

Finally, a lack of psychological safety can lead to a lack of innovation. When employees are afraid to take risks or share their ideas, organizations miss out on potential solutions to problems. This can lead to stagnation and lack of progress.

How to Build Workplace Psychological Safety

Building a psychologically safe workplace is a journey that requires intentional effort and commitment from leaders, employees, and the organization as a whole. Here are some practical tips to help you build and maintain a psychologically safe workplace:

Model Psychological Safety

Leaders must model the behavior they want to see in their employees. They should be approachable, open to feedback, and able to admit their mistakes. This sets the tone for the rest of the organization to follow.

Establish Clear Communication Channels

Employees must feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their ideas, opinions, and concerns. Leaders should create a culture of open communication by actively listening, providing feedback, and encouraging respectful dialogue.

Encourage Feedback

Leaders should encourage employees to give and receive feedback regularly. This can be done through one-on-one meetings, team meetings, or anonymous surveys. Feedback helps employees understand what they're doing well and what they need to improve on.

Recognize and Reward Vulnerable Behavior

Recognize and reward employees who demonstrate vulnerable behavior, such as speaking up, taking risks, and challenging the status quo. This reinforces the importance of psychological safety and encourages others to follow suit.

Invest in Training

Provide training and resources that help employees develop the skills they need to build and maintain a psychologically safe workplace. This can include communication skills, conflict resolution, and emotional intelligence.

Use Technology

Leverage technology solutions like LeaderFactor's Culture Diagnostic platform to help teams and leaders build and maintain psychological safety. The Culture Diagnostic provides real-time feedback and insights into team dynamics and toxicity, helping teams identify areas of strength and areas that need improvement across The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety.

Measuring Workplace Psychological Safety

Measuring workplace psychological safety is critical to building and maintaining it. Without measurement, it's challenging to know whether your efforts are making a difference. LeaderFactor offers a psychological safety assessment tool that helps organizations measure their level of psychological safety and identify areas for improvement.

The assessment includes a survey that measures the organization's level of psychological safety across several dimensions, including trust, communication, collaboration, and innovation. The results of the survey can be used to identify areas of strength and areas that need improvement, allowing organizations to create action plans to address any gaps.

Conclusion

Building a psychologically safe workplace is critical for organizations that want to create a culture of high performance, innovation, and engagement. A psychologically safe workplace is a place where teams are committed to the culture, everyone has a voice, and accountability drives success.

It's the responsibility of leaders to model the behavior they want to see, establish clear communication channels, encourage feedback, recognize and reward vulnerable behavior, invest in training, and use technology solutions like LeaderFactor's Culture Diagnostic tool. Measuring psychological safety is equally important, and LeaderFactor's psychological safety assessment tool provides organizations with the insights they need to create action plans and improve their workplace culture.

Investing in building and maintaining a psychologically safe workplace pays off in many ways, from reduced turnover and absenteeism to increased innovation and productivity. Start building a psychologically safe workplace today, and see the benefits it can bring to your organization.