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5 Ways to Foster Psychological Safety at Work

POSTED ON 
May 2, 2023

Creating a psychologically safe workplace is crucial for fostering a positive and productive work environment.

Coined by Amy C. Edmonson, psychological safety refers to the belief that employees can express themselves without fear of retaliation or judgment. When leaders and organizations prioritize psychological safety, employees feel valued, supported and empowered to contribute their best work. This, in turn, leads to better business outcomes.  

Achieving psychological safety, however, can be challenging. Common barriers include a lack of trust within the team, fear of judgment, ineffective communication channels, and organizational cultures that prioritize hierarchy over collaboration and inclusion. To overcome these obstacles, internal communications and HR teams can work together to implement policies, procedures and practices that promote trust and open communication.  

Here are five ways that internal communications and HR can partner to build psychological safety in the workplace.  

TABLE OF CONTENTS

@linkList; ;Create a Safe Space for Feedback;Train Leaders and People Managers;Provide Reasonable Accommodations;Support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion;Create a Culture of Learning

Create a Safe Space for Feedback  

Creating a safe space for feedback is vital to empower employees to share their opinions and ideas without fear of retribution. Open dialogue not only fosters trust and collaboration but also drives innovation and problem-solving.   

To create a safe space for feedback, consider implementing multiple channels for employees to voice their thoughts, such as: 

Promoting a culture of transparency and open communication is also crucial, as it encourages employees to share their ideas and concerns openly. Additionally, be mindful of the power of framing in these conversations.   

For example, when employees bring up concerns or issues, it's important to frame the conversation as an opportunity for collaboration and problem-solving rather than blame or punishment. By framing conversations in an encouraging manner, leaders can create a psychologically safe environment that supports employee growth and development. 

Learn How to Partner With HR on Your Internal Communications Preferences Survey

Train Leaders and People Managers 

Leaders and people managers play a crucial role in shaping the work environment and influencing employees' sense of psychological safety. To effectively cultivate an inclusive environment, it's essential to provide leaders with the necessary training and resources. Consider offering training opportunities that address topics such as: 

  • Giving Constructive Feedback: Teach leaders about language bias in performance feedback. For example, a study by Textio found that underrepresented people receive lower-quality feedback. Additionally, there are feedback inequities by gender, race and age.
      
  • Navigating Conflicts: Equip leaders with effective conflict resolution techniques, such as active listening, empathy and collaborative problem-solving. This training will help them address and resolve conflicts in a way that strengthens team cohesion and maintains psychological safety.  
  • Recognizing and Addressing Bias and Microaggressions: Raise awareness about unconscious biases and microaggressions that can undermine psychological safety. Train leaders to identify and address these subtle behaviors, creating a more inclusive and equitable work environment.   
Read our blog on helping managers manage

Provide Reasonable Accommodations 

Providing reasonable accommodations helps ensure that all employees can perform at their best, regardless of their unique needs or working styles. This offers a sense of belonging and encourages diverse perspectives, leading to a more innovative and resilient organization.  

 As you identify reasonable accommodations that your organization can make, also consider accommodations that can support neurodivergent workers. Below are a few ideas to consider: 

  • Flexible Working Arrangements: Offer flexible working hours and the option to work remotely or on a part-time basis. This flexibility can provide employees with the time and space needed to manage their disabilities or neurodivergencies.
  • Assistive Technologies: Provide access to and support for assistive technologies, such as screen readers, speech-to-text software or text-to-speech software. These tools can help remote employees with visual impairments, dyslexia or other learning disabilities. 
  • Accessible Virtual Meetings: Ensure that virtual meeting platforms are accessible for all employees. Provide sign language interpreters, live captioning or written materials as needed. Choose platforms that offer features such as adjustable font sizes and high-contrast modes for employees with visual impairments. 
  • Workspace Adjustments: Provide ergonomic office equipment, such as adjustable chairs, desks and keyboard trays. Provide noise-canceling headphones or quiet workspaces for employees who need a reduced noise environment. Consider installing adjustable lighting or providing access to natural light for employees with light sensitivity.  
Learn How To Support Neurodivergent Remote Workers


Support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion  

Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace creates a sense of belonging, values diverse perspectives, and drives better decision-making, increased innovation, and higher employee satisfaction. To effectively support DEI within an organization, internal communicators and HR leaders can implement a variety of strategies:  

  • Employee Resource Groups: Encourage the establishment and growth of ERGs, which serve as supportive networks for diverse employees and provide valuable resources, mentoring and networking opportunities while amplifying underrepresented voices.  
  • Diversify Leadership: Ensure diverse representation at all levels of the organization, particularly in leadership positions. This not only promotes a more inclusive culture but also demonstrates the company's commitment to equity and inclusion.  
  • Inclusive Communications: Develop inclusive communication practices that respect and acknowledge the diverse experiences and perspectives of employees. This includes using inclusive language, featuring diverse employee stories, and soliciting input from a wide range of voices within the organization.   
Get Tips for Using More Inclusive Imagery in Communications

Create a Culture of Learning  

Establishing a culture of learning encourages employees to take risks, embrace failure as a learning opportunity, and commit to continuous growth. This environment of learning and adaptability drives innovation and resilience within the organization. To create a robust culture of learning, consider the following strategies: 

  • Growth Mindset: Encourage a growth mindset among employees by emphasizing the value of learning, experimentation and continuous improvement. Recognize and reward employees for their efforts in learning and applying new skills or knowledge, rather than solely focusing on performance outcomes. 
  • Normalize Learning from Mistakes: Cultivate an environment where making mistakes is viewed as a natural and essential part of the learning process. Encourage open discussions about failures and setbacks, and share lessons learned from these experiences.  
  • Cross-functional Collaboration: Foster cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing by creating opportunities for employees to work on projects outside their primary area of expertise. This exposure to diverse perspectives and experiences can enhance learning and stimulate innovation.  

Remember, It’s an Ongoing Process 

Creating and maintaining a psychologically safe workplace is an ongoing process that requires continuous effort, attention and evaluation. It's important to regularly assess and adjust your strategies to ensure you’re effectively promoting psychological safety in the workplace.   

By working together, HR and internal communications teams can create a workplace where employees feel valued, supported and empowered to contribute their best work. Implementing initiatives such as creating a safe space for feedback, training leaders and people managers, providing reasonable accommodations, supporting DEI, and cultivating a culture of learning all contribute to building a psychologically safe work culture that benefits everyone.  

To dive deeper, we recommend these brilliant resources:

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Rowena Diaz
DIRECTOR, PEOPLE OPERATIONS

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