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Psychological Safety for healthy workplace!

The concept of psychological safety was first defined by Edgar Schein and Warren Bennis in 1965 as ‘’An environment where people can take risks fearlessly’’. Afterwards, it became a trend with the studies of Harvard University Professor and the author of the book titled ‘’The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace’’ Amy Edmondson. She defines Psychological Safety as:

''Psychological safety is the belief of any person on the team when raising opinions, questions, concerns or mistakes, they will not be punished or humiliated''

Psychological safety has great importance at workplace because you are lacking innovation and productivity in an environment where employees cannot express themselves freely. They leave work or start thinking about leaving work. This is the reason why the responsibility of a leader is to make people speak. According to McKinsey Global Survey search, only few leaders at workplace demonstrate such behaviors to ensure psychological safety. The key to success is to have people who have the confidence to share opinions and who can innovate. You must make people feel secure enough to do this.

How to ensure Psychological Safety?

1- Do not take silence for agreement

Although it is so natural to do that, it is a trap. When nobody is dissenting, you think everything is alright. It will be very difficult to correct a mistake once it is done.

2- Acknowledge that new projects and ideas have certain risks

Accepting these and showing that, will make people feel comfortable and secure enough to speak up.

3- Force yourself to ask questions

Continuously, ask questions like ‘’What don’t I know?’’, ‘’Tell me what you see here’’. So that people will be willing to share their questions as well.

Psychological Safety and Accountability

Many people have the idea that psychological safety and accountability of high standards cannot go well together. Both are the conditions of creating an effective team. In fact, the responsibility of a good leader is both. Inspiring people to have high standards of accountability and providing psychologically safe working environment.

Professor at Harvard University Amy Edmondson explains the relationship of both in this table:

​Low standards of accountability

High standards of accountability

High psychological safety

Comfort zone

Learning zone

Low psychological safety

Apathy zone

Anxiety zone

Picture 1: Psychological safety and accountability

To create an environment for learning and innovation, you need to balance between accountability and psychological safety. We can explain the above table like this:

Apathy Zone: Your employees come to work but this is the only thing they do. They are not working very hard. They don’t bother to ask questions or talk about their new ideas.

Comfort zone: In this zone your employees love their colleagues and manager but they do not work very hard because there isn’t any motivating factor for them to push themselves harder.

Anxiety zone: They tend to work very hard and overcome all the challenges, but when they don’t know something, they are afraid to ask. This is a very risky move at workplace.

Learning zone: When you secure your place as psychologically safe and have high standards of accountability, then learning happens. In this zone, you improve and always push to motivate.

Creating psychologically safe environment and having high standards of accountability will determine how your employees will act at times of challenges and problems. In an environment where the flow of information is fast and effective, problems are solved quickly and even foreseen before they happen.

The psychological security you will provide in your work environment will benefit you in every way. That's why if you are looking for a healthy work environment with such effective communication, you can take a look at the services offered by keİken!

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Westrum, R. (2003). The Typologies of Organizational Cultures.

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