“All roads lead to Frankfurt.” Um, what? One mistake, made just when you were having a heated discussion and even an hour later you still think about it.
You spend around ⅓ of your day at work if you’re in a full-time position. That’s why it’s even more important to make this place one with ‘psychological safety’.
Psychological safety? That sounds like another made up term complicating any interaction. But it’s not about always being nice to everyone. Essentially, it means: Creating an atmosphere in which no one has to fear humiliation.
But how can you promote psychological safety?
We will show you simple ways that will quickly lead to more safety, trust and creativity at work!
Communicate assuming a Common Base
Even in the most harmonic environment, conflicts and arguments are inevitable. As much as opinions can diverge, you should still always assume a common denominator.
There is a simple motto to keep in the back of your mind whenever you’re interacting with another person: “They are the same as me.”
They also want to leave the conversation on a positive note. Just like you, they have hopes, fears and feelings. As obvious as that sounds, it’s easy to forget in the heat of an argument. So if you keep that thought present, it will encourage a more respectful interaction with everyone starting off a common basis.
Just like me - But not
After we’ve given you the advice to assume a common basis, we seemingly turn around with the second tip by saying:
“Everyone is an individual and should be treated as such.”
Of course, you need to first establish a common basis to have respect and a degree of openness to fall back on. Only with this in place, it’s possible to meet someone where they personally need it. Not everyone wants to chat with their boss in a casual way but everyone should feel comfortable and safe enough to voice their opinion.
Then everyone feels acknowledged as an individual person rather than just as an exchangeable employee.
Don’t just be open to critique, ask for it!
Asking for it shows co-workers that you care about their opinion and that you acknowledge your flaws. Simultaneously, others won’t feel as attacked when you criticize them yourself.
It’s also helpful to ask for feedback after a meeting. You can find out whether the way you communicated something was appropriately phrased and if your point came across. Use this feedback to adjust your tone in upcoming conversations, so that your critique will be considered to be useful advice rather than an attack.
Lots of communication is good, open communication is even better.
Decisions don’t need to be made in collaboration with every employee but the outcomes need to be communicated with them as quickly as possible. if there’s transparency you avoid employees feeling like they can only voice critique among certain co-workers or even secretly fear losing their job.
When you feel safe within a group, you start associating yourself with it. This will encourage employees to contribute more to the group and the success of the company. You trust that others have the same mindset or to trust you to say otherwise.
Do you immediately talk about ideas you have or do you rethink everything until it’s airtight and the idea has been formed into a solid plan?
If you value the opinion of others and feel safe with them, you can be vulnerable with them. As a result an idea doesn’t have to be perfect right away, an argument can be flawed. That’s the advantage of psychological safety! You trust the opinion of others is helpful and ask for it earlier in the process.
You will find that it makes for flexible, quick and innovative collaboration. Creativity will be fueled if you have psychological safety as a constant.
Review and Grow
“How certain are you that you won’t be judged if you admit you made a mistake?”
That’s the question frequently asked at Google HQ to access psychological safety. Just like everything in life, upholding a safe atmosphere is an ongoing process.
Try to regularly review how your co-workers are feeling and what their own ideas are to make work more comfortable for everyone.
At Smunch, the HR Team has created an anonymous survey to assess the happiness of its employees and gave feedback that showed that they took the critique serious and planned to adjust some processes. A smaller but no less important way to review and grow can happen in team meetings. If possible, let a team meeting begin with the question about how everyone’s feeling and whether someone has something weighing on their mind.
Psychological Safety isn’t complicated at all but has great impact. With a more respectful, open communication you spend less time anticipating negative reactions for any flaw or mistake.
It will give you more time for more fun and productive things!
We hope this gave you a nudge to think about how psychologically safe you and others feel at work.
Stay happy and safe!
The Smunch Team