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Psychological Safety: Paving Way Towards Better Team

6 min read
Last Updated on 28 January, 2021
Psychological Safety: Paving Way Towards Better Team

In today’s rapidly changing corporate world, organizations have experimented with different methods to develop efficiency in teams. But what companies choose to overlook is the incorporation of psychological safety in the workplace. It is a surefire way to build a safe space within the organization where teams feel safe to take risks within the team and embrace vulnerability.

Although the concept of psychological safety is still a work under progress, organizations have started to understand how it helps them and their teams to become more engaged.

How did it start though?

Well, coming back to 2012, Google raised a question about, “What makes a team effective at Google?”

Keeping that in mind, Project Aristotle was launched by Google to have a more in-depth understanding of how effective teams work.

The project took a long duration of 2 years and a thorough report was studied of 180 teams in the organization. It gave away 5 key findings of how teams operate and how they work efficiently. But out of all those key findings, one stood out from the rest. It is the impact of psychological safety in team building.

Wait, where did this term ‘psychological safety’ come from?

Amy Edmondson, a professor at Harvard Business School was the one who first classified the concept of psychological safety in teams way back in 1999. She described it as:
“The shared belief among team members that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.”

In simple terms, psychological safety is when you feel safe in your team and you are more open about admitting your mistake, speaking up with ease without being embarrassed, and experimenting with new things.

When people feel comfortable within their team then there are more open interactions that deliver better performance. Psychological safety results in high performing teams. They become more open to ideas, innovative thinking and the freedom to have constructive discussions so that there is never a pause in their workflow.

So here’s the million-dollar question. Is your team psychologically safe?

You don’t need to be a team leader to ask these questions. Think for a moment and the work your team does. Here are some essential questions that’ll reflect on whether your team is psychologically safe for its members:

  • Do your team and yourself have a clear set of goals before you set out to execute a project?

  • Do people in your team ask questions during meetings?

  • Does making a mistake in your team lead to embarrassment or the people in the team are open towards it and try to learn from it?

  • Do people in your team feel comfortable when they are together?

  • Do people in your team are open about helping each other?

  • Is feedback a custom within the team? And how often it is practiced?

  • Does your team have respect towards each other and are appreciative of the skills that everyone possesses?

  • How close are your team members and how well do they know each other outside work?

If you have mostly positive answers to the above questions, you can state absolutely that your team is psychologically safe.

The questions mentioned above will be your first steps towards incorporating the value into your team. What you can do is prepare a questionnaire and hand it out to your team members. And depending upon the answers you can plan out a framework and work according to it.

Incorporating Psychological Safety In Your Team

To make your team feel psychologically safe you need to first create an environment that encourages it. And you can do it by following these simple yet effective steps.

1. Learning from Mistakes

Perfection has and always will be an ideal that people have desired. It is something that people have always worked for. But on that road to perfection, mistakes and failures will be an integral part. As humans, we are bound to make blunders and taste defeat often. We learn from them and need not be embarrassed because of it.

In a psychologically safe environment, the embarrassment factor is cut out. Teams are more open to admitting their mistakes and acknowledge each other for their work. They are more clear about finding the solution rather than blaming each other. And as a leader, instead of criticizing try to support the team when mistakes happen and boost their confidence. This way you will be more inclined towards creating psychologically safe teams.

2. Difference Without Conflicts

In a psychologically safe team, differences mean having diverse ideas and opinions about how to approach work. There is mutual respect among each other and each member of the team is given full autonomy to put their ideas on the table.

When you provide freedom within the team there are higher chances that your employees will be more engaged. They will be more driven towards being unique and innovative, giving endless possibilities to new openings.

Encourage your employees to come up with whatever they can and you will be able to make way towards creating a safe environment for everyone.

3. Openness In Team

Teams work with more efficiency when each member can bring their true self with them. That is only possible when there is openness in the team. It allows the team
members to share a space that help them handle conflicts and deal with all the frustrations at work amicably.

As a leader, promoting openness can do wonders and you will see more transparency within the team. There will be fewer conflicts, better understanding, and enhanced team performance. Supporting the idea of openness is another step in creating a psychologically safe environment.

4. Improvements For Better Efficiency

Psychologically safe teams work in unison and have a framework with which they stick to. They plan out everything and conduct brainstorming sessions where everyone can speak up. This helps teams warm up to future improvements which in turn boost performance.

When you plan out on changing certain sections within the team to become more productive, by letting the members have their fair say. They try to constantly keep a note of their feedback and discuss it out.

This way you will be able to incorporate balanced developments and your team will be more comfortable in their workspace with the changes around.

5. Active Listening

When was the last time you welcomed another person’s opinions about your team?

Give it a thought. If not recently then it might be time you start focusing more on active listening. It is a practice where you concentrate on what is being said rather than passively hearing. Active listening builds trust, boosts productivity, improves the team’s bonding and much more.

Crucially enough, active listening is an integral part of the framework that builds a psychologically safe environment.

To promote active listening, you can develop sessions where each one of the members gives an honest opinion about how they feel about being in the team. Furthermore, you can provide the necessary support when needed, become non-judgemental and encourage a positive healthy conversation to boost morale. This is only possible when there is mutual understanding and it is achievable with active listening.

Emphasizing on Psychological Safety during the COVID-19 pandemic

The above-mentioned pointers are definitely going to help you as a manager in helping understand how teams work together. However, the scenario has changed quite a bit over the last few months. With the ongoing pandemic, the dynamics with how teams work together has become challenging where each member has been working from home. To keep the efficiency of teams intact, it is important that you should not forget the basic practices of psychological safety.

A question arises here about how do we keep practicing it?

The answer is quite simple, keep doing the things that have helped you till now. Moreover, you can modernize it according to the situation which gives an upper hand on the crisis.

Few of the thing that you need to keep in mind-

  • Interact with every possible way to understand the team.

  • Become more mindful of what other people are facing.

  • Focus on the shortcomings of your employees.

  • Invest in activities that foster positivity.

  • Regular use of a survey to improve work from home experience.

  • Never forget the aspect of being friendly with your employees and the impact it brings.

Well, we understand that it might be difficult to implement it right away but never give up on trying. Furthermore, bend the rules if it needs to be. After all, it is your workforce that has helped you to achieve your goals and the success of your organization.

Summing It Up

Clearly, the concept of psychological safety is quite new and needs a proper structure for its implementation. But once psychological safety in the workplace is achieved, you will be able to see the positive outcome it has in instilling an efficient team within the organization.

Have suggestions? Comment below and let us know.

Mrinmoy Rabha is a content writer and digital marketer at Vantage Circle. He is an avid follower of football and passionate about singing. For any related queries, contact