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Is your workplace safe enough for teamwork?

In recent years, workplaces have shown a strong commitment towards workplace health and safety. Although physical risk at work is the lowest it has ever been, psychological safety has traditionally taken a backseat in terms of organisational priorities.

Psychological safety refers to the comfort of individuals to speak up about ideas, questions and mistakes without a fear of being punished or humiliated. For organisations that want to capitalize on the value of high performing teams, it is evident that they need to ramp up their commitment to building psychological safety.

This article will take a look at simple ways to promote a psychologically safe work environment for all employees.

Leadership

Unfortunately, leaders seem to be a major culprit for creating a less psychologically safe work environment. Why? As leaders, sometimes it can be hard to admit that you are wrong or that your opinion may not be as good as someone else’s. However, leaders who refuse to show any signs of vulnerability inevitably instill this expectation onto the rest of their workforce.

To prevent this misconception from constraining team performance, it is encouraged that leaders ask for feedback from their team, acknowledge their mistakes and show a genuine interest in calling on others for ideas.

Discussion space

There are numerous ways to promote a more psychologically safe space for team discussions. In particular, it is important to consider the types of materials encouraged and discouraged in the planning space.

For example, phones and technological devices can encourage member distraction, particularly in initial meetings. This can lead to less active listening by team members and can also make team members feel humiliated when they are sharing their ideas. As such, it is recommended that during initial discussions, technological devices are discouraged.

Another way of promoting psychological safety in team discussions is by holding discussions in a small meeting room. Small meeting rooms can create an impression of a more supportive team environment as it promotes more inclusive body language and reduces the risk of distraction.

Self-awareness training

Another method for reducing the risk of psychologically unsafe team work is self-awareness training. By encouraging team members to understand the perceptions of their personality in a team environment, they can understand the responses of other team members and adapt their behaviours accordingly.

One popular model for developing an understanding of an individual’s personality is the ‘Five Factor Model’. This model evaluates personality based on five key traits: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. By evaluating where each team member sits in this model, team members can tailor their communication style to support their colleagues.

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