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How to Achieve Psychological Safety at Workplace?

Updated: Jan 11, 2023

In our previous blog post, we introduced the topic of psychological safety and briefly talked about how we can adapt it to our workplace. Let's remember again, what is psychological safety? Harvard Professor and the author of the book titled ‘’The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety At the Workplace’’ Amy Edmondson, has made a name for herself with her research and training in this field. According to her:

“Psychological safety is the belief that people will not be judged or punished even if they make mistakes.”

Importance of Psychological Safety

In this blog post, we will discuss how psychological safety can be applied to workplaces for leaders. First of all, why do we emphasize this very much? Why is this important? Let us tell you. Years ago, researchers at Google conducted a study. What they were looking for was the answer to the question "What makes a team at Google effective?"

As a result of the research, Google revealed the 5 essential characteristics of an effective team. The first of these was psychological safety. Google says:

“In a psychologically safe team, teammates feel safe taking risks in the presence of team members. They are confident that no one on the team will embarrass or punish another for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or presenting a new idea.”

This Google project was named "Project Aristotle", inspired by Aristotle's saying, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." For this reason, psychological safety is an important issue not only for a healthy work environment, but also for creating an effective team.

Being Part of Something Greater than Yourself

There is an example of a bricklayer that Amy Edmondson gave in her psychological safety training. One day, a passerby sees 3 construction workers building a wall and stops and asks the first one: What are you doing? The man replies: I'm layering bricks. He asks the second man, and he answers: I feed my family. The third man says: I am building a Cathedral. In this example, the third man is committed to his work for a much greater purpose than himself. Because he understood that the work he did occupied a very important place in the construction of the cathedral.

It means that when you are committed to your work with a much greater purpose than yourself, you are more motivated, more committed and psychologically safe in your job. Today's leaders must ensure that every employee builds a cathedral. In other words, leaders should show them the part that makes their employees’ work meaningful. This is not only to the company, but also to a community or even humanity.

Psychological safety is the opposite of a culture of silence. In order to break this, it is important as a leader to exhibit behaviours that encourage people to ask questions.

How to Break the Culture of Silence?

1- You Ask First

If you want your employees to ask questions and express their opinions, you should talk and ask questions first. In this way, you encourage others to do so. Remember that you are an example to them in your work environment.

2- Be a Don’t Knower

Eileen Fisher Founder and CEO Eileen Fisher describes herself as ‘’Don’t Knower’’. In all team meetings she says: “I don't know anything, you tell me. What do you see?" She conducts all of her meetings in this way.

3- Admit your mistakes

If you, as the leader, talk about your mistakes, accept and apologise for this, your team will not feel worried about making mistakes and thus you will create a psychologically safe team environment.

Breaking down the culture of silence in your workplace can be a challenging process. Creating an environment of high psychological safety is a skill that can be improved. First of all, you have to start by improving yourself as a leader. If you are struggling with this and want support, you can reach the packages provided by keIKen and our other blog posts! Addresses where you can reach us:


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