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When considering psychological safety at work, it’s important to grasp the concept in a nutshell first before diving in.

According to the Centre for Creative Leadership, the definition of psychological safety is “a shared belief held by members of a team that others on the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish them for speaking up.”

Think for a moment of one of the worst working environments you have experienced. Did you feel you could voice problems, that you would be listened to, or like you mattered or were appreciated? I’m guessing the answer was no!

Why is psychological safety at work important?

When assessing team psychology, if your team doesn’t feel like they are in a psychologically safe working environment, they won’t ask for help, raise concerns, suggest ideas or challenge ways of working. They will end up doing things ‘the way they have always been done’, and the business will get left behind because it can’t innovate and adapt. Is this starting to sound familiar?

People engage with those they know, like and trust. It is this combination that creates lasting relationships and solidifies a successful business strategy. Business culture and psychological safety in the workplace dictates how safe we feel, and ultimately impacts our engagement, trust and motivation to fulfil our roles, and more importantly – our purpose.

If employees don’t feel like their knowledge is valued, that they are liked and respected, and they are trusted to bring new ideas to the table – how do you think customers feel?

Psychological safety in the workplace not only impacts every person in every job; leaders and teams from the top to the bottom, it reflects back onto your customers.

Why is creating a good culture in the workplace important?

Here’s an example of poor team psychology:

A manager asks a member of the team: “Can you manage this project for me? I think you will do a great job.”

Ideally needing a little more guidance, but eager to impress, the keen employee sets about the project. In the planning phase the team member has some great ideas, but also lacks a little confidence in their own abilities to do a great job. There are questions which would provide clarity but they are uneasy about asking, as they are worried they might look like they can’t cope, besides the manager is always busy.

After a few days the manager gets a bit fidgety about the radio silence and puts some hours aside one evening to do some thinking and planning. She’s beginning to worry about the deadline.

Deadline day arrives and the employee presents their ideas and recommendations. The manager is disappointed and realises that the gut feeling she had was right all along. Frustrated, she extends the deadline and drafts a second person in to support the team member.

Three people are now in the mix – the employee, the manager and the helper – how do each of them feel?

What would have been a better outcome? If this sounds familiar, I’m not surprised. I hear it all the time! The client is important, but the psychological safety of the staff is also being compromised!

Slowing down communication and being ‘present’ allows everyone to gain clarity. Altezza facilitates in the moment discussion and development that is impactful. We assist businesses to remain human in a digital age and increase psychological safety at work.

Psychological safety at work statistics

Dr Meisha-Ann Martin, director of people analytics at Workhuman, told Forbes in this article, that only 26% of workers felt psychologically safe during the pandemic and experienced higher levels of burnout, stress and greater feelings of loneliness. The same survey showed 48% of respondents somewhat or strongly agreed they’d experienced burnout, 61% experienced elevated stress and 32% somewhat or strongly agreed they’d felt lonely at work.

Coaching with Georgie

According to Gallup’s data, just three in 10 U.S. workers strongly agree that at work, their opinions seem to count. But by improving psychological safety at work so that at least six in 10 employees felt safe to voice opinions, businesses could see a 27% reduction in staff turnover, and a 12% increase in productivity.

Psychological safety and Dr Amy Edmondson

According to Gallup’s data, just three in 10 U.S. workers strongly agree that at work, their opinions seea

If you’re researching psychological safety at work you may have come across Dr Amy Edmondson, a professor at Harvard Business School, who was studying how clinical teams worked together. She noted that teams with a higher number of good outcomes actually made more mistakes than teams with fewer good outcomes.

The difference was between teams who were admitting mistakes and acting to improve and teams who were hiding theirs.

This study inspired Dr Edmondson to coin the term “psychological safety” and define it as “a climate in which people are comfortable being (and expressing) themselves.”

m to count. But by improving psychological safety at work so that at least six in 10 employees felt safe to voice opinions, businesses could see a 27% reduction in staff turnover, and a 12% increase in productivity.

How to increase psychological safety at work

Create a positive, supportive working environment

Using a mix of consultative and supportive leadership, ensure that psychological safety is built into your company processes. Mistakes are OK, share learnings with the team to show that there are always lessons to be learned. Continuous movement forwards is better than no movement at all.

Encourage entrepreneurial thinking

By nurturing innovation and welcoming new ideas among all levels of staff, companies can develop the traits commonly associated with the classic idea of entrepreneurship. Cross-functional projects allow staff to learn and grow with peers while using their strengths to benefit the company.

Invest in developing often overlooked skills

Skills such as mindful listening, emotional intelligence, situational awareness, cultural awareness and communication are becoming essential as we make concentrated efforts to be diverse and inclusive. In this new era hybrid working, business leaders need to be receptive to new types of requests. There will be reasons why the requests are being made. These diverse opportunities to learn will bring more skills, promote knowledge sharing and create excellent psychological safety in the workplace.

Invest in leadership-development experiences to support the above – ensure they are emotional, sensory, relevant to the workplace and make a long-lasting impact!

We’ve all been on team building events, but experiences that are immersive enable team members to shift their core beliefs, assumptions and emotions to ultimately change their mindset. If you have been following steps 1-3, they already have the tools and knowledge they need to develop strong psychological safety at work, it’s just that having an immersive experience will help to bring these out!

Psychological safety at work training

The best facilitated experiences will encourage learners to take an introspective approach through targeted reflection via small, intimate breakout conversations.

That may sound cryptic, but this is where horse-led facilitation really shines! My technique allows you time away to connect in the present moment. Past events are usually left at the gate, along with the mobile phones, as we explore what makes your team great at what they do and what next level performance might look like.

This environment will help leaders achieve increased self-awareness, gain reflective feedback and get a clear vision of what they can achieve.

Horse-led facilitation provides:

Horses have an exceptional level of awareness, meaning that they can understand situations and emotions deeply. They are also attentive to body language, voice, and the energy we exude. Time spent around these beautiful animals produces a rich environment for learning, focus and growth.

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Julia with horse

Julia Jones

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