Psychological Safety: not fluffy or a nice to have
Before you read this blog, just take a moment to consider yourself against the five statements below:
1) I know (and use) the name of everyone on my team.
2) I assume not hearing problems about people’s working hours means that everyone is ok.
3) I could respond better when I learn that someone has made a mistake.
4) I believe my team share their ideas openly with me in meetings.
5) I talk to my team about how I am feeling (whether stressed, anxious, excited, happy).
These five statements are measures of Psychological Safety, which is the ease that people feel to speak up at work – whether sharing ideas, challenging perspectives, reporting faults or talking about their own needs or wellbeing. And it’s been proven that the level of Psychological Safety will impact your organisation in myriad ways – from the level of employee engagement and the quality of innovation, to demonstrably impacting your bottom line.
Sounds interesting, but you’d be forgiven for wondering why all this fuss about Psychological Safety now.
If each person can perform their work separately, with little to no input required, then Psychological Safety remains a nice to have. But for most organisations today, this is simply not the case. The pace of change, level of complexity and amount of information available means that for most organisations, genuine collaboration is essential. This is reflected by the fact that today’s employees spend 50% more time collaborating than they did 20 years ago.
And once you need people to collaborate effectively – learning about problems, finding solutions and constantly innovating – then Psychological Safety becomes imperative.
Why? Because there are huge risks facing employees who speak up and ‘get it wrong’, from loss of face and social status through to stress, diminished personal wellbeing and concerns (often genuine) about their career progression.
No wonder that 85% of respondents reported at least one occasion when they felt unable to raise a concern with their boss, despite believing the issue was important.
That 85% represents ideas that never got heard; problems that were never identified; money that was never saved; talent that was never identified; or negative behaviour that was never dealt with.
In this context, creating Psychological Safety becomes vital for organisations needing to constantly create and innovate. So it’s no surprise that Google stumbled upon the importance of Psychological Safety when investigating the keys to a successful team within Google. In the words of project lead Julia Rozovsky;
“Psychological Safety was by far the most important of the five key (team) dynamics we found. It’s the underpinning of the other four.”
And so it turns out that those five simple statements at the top could be having a profound impact on performance and wellbeing. Ask yourself how you can create more Psychological Safety for your colleagues.
At CoCreate, we help organisations develop the Psychological Safety needed to get the most from collaboration.
The thought piece references the following resources:
Cross and Grant, Collaborative Overload, Harvard Business Review
An exploratory study of employee silence: Issues that don’t get communicated upwards and Why; Milliken & Hewlin