In the dynamic landscape of today’s diverse work environment, ensuring psychological safety within a team is a challenge that requires thoughtful and proactive strategies. Let’s embark on our discussion with a handful of authentic scenarios from the everyday work environment:
- Andrew resumed to the Marketing Dept today and during the meeting on the new year’s budget has an opinion contrary to his manager’s, but he has been warned by his colleague earlier that day to keep his opinion to himself during the Marketing Department Annual Meeting because he’s still a “newbie.”
- Folake walked into the strategy meeting with her natural hair buns and could see the judging eyes of her colleagues piercing through her skin “forgetting” she was awarded the best employee in Q1 by her organization and has always been a top performer.
- Anna started working in company XYZ three months ago but any time she gets an email notification on her work email she has a sudden rush or anxiety, especially from her boss. She never seems to do anything right by him.
At one point we’ve had to deal with toxic organizations and bosses, some people swear they still deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) from all the drama attached to an unsafe work environment.
Creating a psychologically safe team is sometimes not carved in the organization’s mission and vision or written in the employee handbook. People should be allowed to bring their whole selves to work—their unique personalities, preferences, and work styles. The organization environment should be a safe playground for everyone to be themselves.
In this article, I will be touching the base of why psychological safety is important to both employees and employers. Whether you’re physically in the office or working remotely, it’s imperative that organizations take into consideration the psychological safety of their employees and how their mental health might be impacted in the workplace.
What is Psychological Safety?
Workhuman’s study found that a mere 26% of workers feel psychologically safe and don’t experience higher levels of burnout, stress, and greater feelings of loneliness.
Here’s what Workhuman’s numbers showed:
- 48% of respondents somewhat or strongly agreed they’ve experienced burnout.
- 61% have experienced elevated stress levels.
- 32% somewhat or strongly agree they’ve felt lonely at work.
The modern workplace is becoming increasingly complex and diverse, and the demands placed on employees are becoming more rigorous. As a result, ensuring worker safety goes beyond just physical health but also psychological health.
Psychological safety is the belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes and that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking [Edmondson, 1999].
Psychological safety refers to the freedom of employees to express their thoughts, ideas, and opinions, without fear of ridicule or retaliation.
HBS (Harvard Business School) study states that the highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety—the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake. Studies show that psychological safety allows for moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, and creativity, and sticking your neck out without fear of having it cut off—just the types of behavior leading to market breakthroughs.
It’s an essential aspect of ensuring employees are mentally and emotionally healthy, as well as being happy and productive at work.
In today’s diverse workplace, psychological safety is becoming an increasingly important topic. As more and more organizations recognize the benefits of a diverse workforce, creating a work environment where individuals can be and bring their authentic selves is essential for their success.
Psychological safety is crucial for individuals to feel valued and respected for their unique perspectives and contributions. Therefore, exploring the relationship between psychological safety and diversity is crucial for organizations striving to create an inclusive and supportive work environment.
Creating a psychologically safe team is sometimes not carved in the organization’s mission and vision or written in the employee handbook.
According to HBS (Harvard Business School), the highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety—the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake. Studies show that psychological safety allows for moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, and creativity, and sticking your neck out without fear of having it cut off—just the types of behavior leading to market breakthroughs. So how can you increase psychological safety on your own team? First, approach conflict as a collaborator, not an adversary.
This type of team environment allows for open communication, creativity, and problem-solving. Research has shown that psychological safety is key to team performance and effectiveness. A psychologically safe team is a team in which team members feel safe expressing their thoughts, ideas, and concerns without fear of being judged, criticized, or punished.
Today, people are 10 times more likely to quit their jobs because of toxic work cultures—rather than compensation or work-life balance—and three in four people say that their boss is the most stressful part of their jobs. Company cultures, however, don’t typically start out toxic.
Creating healthy cultures takes intention, time, and patience, but you can do a few things as new (or seasoned) managers to set the tone for more inclusive and equitable workplaces. I fundamentally believe that psychological safety is a precursor not only to performance but to inclusion and diversity. How can we be diverse if we’re not inclusive, and how can we be inclusive if we don’t foster psychological safety?
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6 Ways for Creating a Psychologically Safe Team in a Diverse Work Environment
#1: Advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion
It takes more than just words to be an advocate for DEI. It requires conscious effort and practical steps to create a workplace that reflects the diverse society we live in. From creating diverse hiring practices to offering employees opportunities to learn about different cultures and accepting people for who they are.
At Matchr, we have over 20 diverse people in culture, skin color, and orientation along with different personalities and backgrounds. We are all about “creating equal opportunities for all” and always advocating for diversity and inclusion. Going as far as training everyone on DEI from Work180 and weekly presentation about our countries, people, music, and food, common! As a result, during our monthly survey, 80% of employees said they are happy working with Matchr and will also recommend it to their friends/family.
#2: Establish clear and open communication
Organizations should encourage team members to share their thoughts and ideas openly and without fear of negative consequences. Transparency about work to manage deliverables and expectations. Instead of forcing people to stick to specific ways of communication, let them articulate themselves in a way that feels more authentic to them. Some may prefer writing out their thoughts while others may take speak up more often. Understand that no one communication style is better than the other.
At Matchr, we usually have monthly meetings where the management discusses the financial capacity of the company, sales pipeline, career path, transparency, wins, and losses for the month, this is to ensure everyone is in the loop of all the happenings in the company. Our co-founder, Adriaan Kloff, sends an update “What’s cooking” every Tuesday to give us a tip of the iceberg of what’s happening and I kid you not, the memes are the highlights of the day. These are only a couple examples how to stay connected within a remote diverse team.
#3: Lead by example
Train managers to prevent workplace anxiety they should model the behavior they want to see in their team, such as being open to feedback, showing vulnerability, and frequently accepting suggestions from team members. Managers must learn to lead with more compassion and humanity to build team cultures where everyone feels respected. When people see their managers are human, they are much more likely to show up authentically and contribute productively.
#4: Provide support
Make sure your team members have the resources and support they need to do their jobs effectively. For example, Matchr provides a minimum set of equipment and tools: laptop, generator, etc to enable employees to carry out their tasks efficiently. Also, we have 50% of our workforce in Ukraine, and Matchr has constantly ensured they are taken care of adequately due to the crisis happening there.
Employees working collaboratively within a team or organizational structure will lead to team cohesion and solid support within the organization. “When you extend them that grace, you’re letting your team know that it’s okay to take risks and speak up, as long as they grant one another that same respect.
#5: Address conflicts and disagreements quickly
When conflicts arise, address them promptly and directly with the individuals involved, and kill the grapevine as soon as it erupts. When disagreements are left unresolved it fosters contempt and demotivation amongst the team. Check in with each team member to get their understanding of the stated outcome and expectations.
Many personalities and face-saving cultures are not going to say, “I don’t get it.” They may even nod that they understand or are in agreement. But you need to ask each individual to paraphrase their understanding of the intended outcome or expectation. Or ask how they might communicate the outcome to others on their teams, not as a way to put them on the spot but to learn from the different perspectives surrounding the same outcome.
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#6: Encourage feedback
Invite team members to give feedback on the team’s dynamics and processes and act on the feedback received. Invite your team to challenge your perspective and push back. While this may be uncomfortable at first, healthy conflict leads to better decisions and greater accountability—making it a win all around.
By utilizing insights from neuroscience, cross-cultural knowledge, and inclusive best practices, managers, and colleagues can act in delivering feedback more effectively, driving the business and individual growth outcomes they seek.
At Matchr, we have a monthly survey that is sent out for all to fill out anonymously, these reports are used to fill the pulse of everyone working in the organization, and employees give feedback on what they like and what’s not to the management. Issues raised are addressed in “real-time.”
A psychologically safe organization creates a sense of belongingness among team members and the organization. It enhances team building and can bring in more change than expected. It is directly linked with motivation, great leadership, and performance.
“Treat others as they would like to be treated” (rather than the “golden rule” of treating others as you would like to be treated) should be the watchword in the organization and when an organization creates a common ground for all, employees not only enjoy working but look forward to the dreadful “Monday morning.”
Learn more about life at Matchr and our culture from the interview with Samantha Nel, our Lead Recruitment Specialist.