Psychological Safety

Term:  Psychological Safety

Psychological safety refers to a person’s perception to think, feel and behave in a healthy manner in the workplace without fear of consequences.  According to Edmondson and Lei a central theme is that a healthy sense of psychological safety facilitates the willingness of employees to contribute and share ideas, take initiative to develop innovative products and services and present suggestions for organizational improvements (Edmondson & Lei, 2014).  The first step in obtaining psychological safety in the workplace is to identify the signs and reduce the psychological hazards within the workplace.  Common psychological hazards include:

Perceived high workload

Lack of  influence or autonomy in how work is performed

Lack of support by management

Perceived and/or actual lack of respect

Unclear, conflicting or continually changing expectations

Compare and Contrast:

Extended exposure to psychological hazards, also referred to as burnout, such as those stated above can have a cumulative effect on the psychological and physical health of employees.  Mental Health experts agree that job burnout can precipitate mental illness.  It is estimated that between three percent and seven percent of the working population experience a severe degree of job burnout.  Those who suffer from burnout and lack of psychological safety will exhibit fatigue, change in appetite, change in sleep habits, loss of motivation, detachment, a sense of helplessness or hopeless and a lack of satisfaction or feeling of accomplishment from their job (Smith, Segal, Robinson, & Segal, 2017).

While these signs of burnout would seem to be easily observed behavior, Biron, Ivers, Brun, and Cooper point out in their article that these changes in behavior or work performance occur slowly and over a long period of time.  These behavioral changes might be so slight that many may contribute these attributes to their personality.  But much of this behavior can be influenced by factors in the workplace environment such as stress, bullying or disrespect (Biron, Ivers, & Cooper, 2007).

Tim Austin asserts that it is one of the essential roles of the manager to improve the psychological safety in the workplace.  Managers are authoritative and powerful figures; therefore their influence on psychological safety is great and must be sincere.  Promoting psychological safety by managers is as simple as four beneficial practices:

Accessibility – Managers create a sense of safety and cohesiveness by being accessible to their team members

Admit imperfection – Managers who readily admit mistakes and acknowledge they lack all the answers provoke lower team members to play a role in the process

Present failures as learning opportunities – Genuinely frame failures as learning opportunities and eliminate blame

Set boundaries – Boundaries provide team members the freedom to raise critical issues without fear of negative consequences (Austin, 2017)

Biblical Integration

Managers and leaders should build their team members up.  Developing team members and creating a psychological safe workplace is as directed by Hebrews 10:24 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds”.  Living by example will bring others to have a positive sense of themselves and hopefully they will feel the need to pass on this positive sense of self.

Conclusion

How managers respond when team members put themselves on the line is the soul of psychological safety.  Creating a supportive environment where team members have the confidence to communicate freely without fear of retribution or negative criticism will foster psychological safety within the workplace.

References:

Austin, T. (2017, March 9). Making It Safe: The Importance of Psychological Safety. Retrieved February 05, 2018, from safetydifferently.com: http://www.safetydifferently.com/making-it-safe

Biron, C., Ivers, H., & Cooper, C. (2007, January 3). Risk Assessment of Occupational Stress: Extensions of the Clark and Cooper Approach. Health, Risk & Society, pp. 417-429.

Edmondson, A. C., & Lei, Z. (2014, January 10). Psychological Safety: The Histroy, Renaissance, and Future of an interpersonal Construct. Organizaitonal Behaviour, pp. 23-43.

Smith, M., Segal, J., Robinson, L., & Segal, R. (2017, October). Burnout Prevention and

Treatment. helpguide.org, pp. 1-4.

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