Psychological safety at work is what allows team members to become colleagues, what helps employees speak up when they disagree with the CEO, and enables people to take risks in order for growth. Without psychological safety, valuable ideas don’t get shared and important questions don’t get asked. Here’s what you can do to increase psychological safety at work, to make sure your team operates at its peak.
How to foster psychological safety
Start off on the right foot
Create an onboarding process that introduces your new team members to the dynamics of the team. Let them know who they can go to with questions or feedback, and that the entire team is open to constructive criticism. Usually it’s the early interactions in a team that sets the tone for how secure a team member feels expressing criticism.
Lead by example and ask constructive, open-ended questions. In meetings let everyone know questions are always welcome, and will not be judged. Sometimes things just need clearing up. It may even be good practice to have new employees come up with at least 2 questions a day for a month or so, until they’re acclimated. This will help them realize it’s normal to ask questions in your company’s culture.
When someone has a question, give them your full attention. Put aside what you’re doing, and if you cannot, ask the person to come back in a few minutes when you can give him or her your full attention, or you can go to his or her desk instead.
Take note of who asks good questions and who stays silent during meetings and training, and engage the team members who hang on the outskirts. Ask open-ended questions directed towards the group, instead of just one person.
Inform and get feedback
Have a culture of information prioritization; make it a top priority to make sure everyone knows everything they need in order to be successful in their job. Information should be treated as a shared commodity, with no one on the team having “better” information than others. Encourage your team to ask similar questions to everyone involved to get a cohesive picture of the answer, and encourage them to draw their own conclusions as well.
Get into the habit of asking for feedback from your team as well, and lead by example with this. After particularly high successes and any problems, ask your team for feedback and advice from their unique point of view.
On the note of feedback, don’t forget to praise your team for a job well done.
Explain your reasoning
Finally, encourage your employees to share their thought processes by explaining your own reasoning. If you’re in a meeting and there’s disagreement, voice your rational and ask others to do the same. This will help you get to the root of your teams motivations, encourages everyone to understand situations from different angles, and keeps the conversation flowing.