Instilling psychological safety does take time and practice. It’s something you need to do ongoingly, not in short spurts here and there.

Hi there and welcome. It’s Kerstin Jatho here, a transformational coach who shifts people from languishing to flourishing. In this video, I want to talk to you about psychological safety in the workplace. You might ask, what is that? I’ll demonstrate it to you through an example.

Do you remember your first day at school, meeting all your new friends? Well, ‘going to be’ friends. You were probably fairly quiet, you didn’t engage, you watched everything, you didn’t speak up, and you didn’t participate. You were quite weary, so that is psychological safety. You did not feel safe to actually participate. You did not feel safe to speak up in case you would be laughed at or humiliated.

So that’s what happens in teams as well. People do not speak up. They do not share ideas or concepts because they are scared they are going to be humiliated. Psychological safety is a word that was designed by Amy Edmondson. And it’s a concept that is very, very important in the workplace because psychological safety builds, trust, enhances communication, and commitment.

Two challenges that come in the way for people to actually embrace psychological safety is the fear of speaking up. So, there must have been situations in the past where they have been either directly or indirectly humiliated, even if it’s little sniggering that happens from participating, that can be a facial expression, a comment, or even more of a conversation. Hence people just go, ‘I’m not going to do this.’

The second one is fairness. If people feel that things in the team aren’t fair, that there’s inequality amongst team members, they will not feel psychologically safe to talk up and voice their ideas.

So, five tips of how to instil psychological safety into your team is:

Tip 1: Make the team part of the process

First, make the team aware that you want to collectively come up with new procedures or processes. Especially in this new hybrid workplace, a lot of these things need to be redesigned and re-evaluated. Make the team part of it. So, share with them that you collectively want to do this.

Tip 2: Collaborate on jointly seeking new solutions

Second, acknowledge that there is a co-creation here, and that you as a leader do not actually have a plan. You need team collaboration to come up with a plan on how you are going to find answers to working together in the hybrid working place. It’s a situation you’ve never encountered. They’ve never encountered. So collectively you have to find the answer.

Tip 3: Continue pushing through

Third, your team is most probably going to be very hesitant to start over. It’s going to be a very slow process. They’re not going to trust the process. They’re not going to be sure if this is genuine. So, you need to push through here. You need to have a lot of stamina, keep it going, keep having the conversations, keep going and demonstrate that what you say you’re going to do is true. So actions speak louder than words here. You’ve got to keep going.

Tip 4: Learn from other organisations

Fourth, learn from other examples. Go and read up and look at what are the best other solutions used in companies. See how you can find a way to integrate them. So, look at what others are doing. Be it companies in your industry, be it bigger companies. Find out how are they instilling psychological safety in the organisation.

Pick out what works for you. Remember it’s not a copy paste situation. You’ve got to tailor-make it for what works for you and your team. But that often creates a lot of ideas and inspiration, which you can bring into the team and have conversations about.

Tip 5: Adjust your internal language

And lastly, which is very important for psychological safety, is to adjust your language. If you ever listen to conversations around a team meeting or happening in organisations, there is a lot of negative language that is being used or words and phrases. So, start turning them around into positive language because that, again, instils a lot of room of trust and safety. Remember, your people need to psychologically feel safe so that they can connect, participate, and embrace.

If that is not there, you are not going to receive all of their ideas and creativity. Again, it’s about creating the environment and the culture, and hence instilling psychological safety does take time and practice. It’s something you need to do ongoingly, not in short spurts here and there. It’s something that needs to be a culture of your team.

Make people feel safe to speak up. There is no such thing as a silly idea or a stupid question. So that is already a concept to start embracing.

Thank you for watching and I look forward to connecting with you in the next one.

Over to you for sharing your comments and experiences.

Do you recall a work situation where you did not feel safe to speak up, and your voice wasn’t heard? How could that situation be managed differently?

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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