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Human Resources

HR Leaders: How to Build Psychological Safety in the Workplace

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Those in the C-Suite and the HR department are interested in learning how a psychologically safe workplace can benefit their employees and their organizations. From there, they’re interested in learning how to create a psychologically safe environment.

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What is psychological safety?

Psychological safety refers to the perceived consequences of taking interpersonal risks. Someone who feels psychologically safe in a space believes there to be little consequence to take a risk, such as using the wrong phrase when speaking to a colleague. If someone perceives there to be negative consequences associated with these risks, they feel psychologically unsafe.

It’s easy to see why this is important in the workplace. If people feel psychologically safe, they’ll be more likely to volunteer their ideas and offer feedback on the way things are done. If the space is perceived as too risky and the consequences of speaking up seem too high, people will be silenced.

Luckily, there are many great ideas to help HR leaders begin building a psychologically safe workplace. Here are a few of them to help you get started.


Encourage Your Employees to Be Curious

If you shut down an employee every time they ask a question, eventually they’ll stop asking questions. Some of those questions were likely important. They could have led to innovative ideas that help your business work more efficiently or increase revenue.

The best thing you can do is encourage your employees to be curious. Allow them to ask questions. If you don’t know the answer, ask them to do some research, then share what they discover with you and their colleagues.


Give Employees a Voice

When employees offer you feedback, you need to both accept it and act on it. Employees must feel their voices are heard, and that they matter in the workplace.

Find a way to give your employees a voice. This could be soliciting their feedback in a survey or a monthly meeting.

Remember, when you ask employees for their feedback, you must be ready to act on it. You won’t be able to implement all feedback, but employees must feel you at least consider their input. The more often you act on that input, the more they’ll feel their voices are both heard and valued.


Embrace a New Creative Process

By taking a different approach to creativity, you can encourage psychological safety in your organization.

Ask your employees to share incomplete work with each other and discuss it together. This process calls for both trust and openness. Employees should be encouraged to pursue ideas with relatively soft limits. This encourages everyone to think outside the box a little more, which can lead you in some unexpected and often exciting directions.


Earn Your Employees’ Trust

Of course, psychological safety is grounded in trust. If you’re not open with your employees, they’re less likely to be open with you. They’re less likely to feel psychologically safe because they have a harder time judging the risk associated with speaking up.

To truly create psychological safety, you need to earn your employees’ trust. This can be done by treating employees as they want to be treated, encouraging open and honest discussion, being more transparent, and being open to new ideas.

All these factors encourage trust, and your employees will feel safer when they know they can trust you. They can more accurately assess risks, and they’ll usually judge the consequences to be lower.

These tips will help you get started with the foundation of psychological safety for your organization. There are many other tips to help you create a safer work environment for your employees to take greater risks and realize greater rewards.


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Kaneez Jaffer

Kaneez Jaffer

Kaneez is a Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL) with an advanced knowledge of human resources and organizational structure and design. She has extensive experience with HRIS systems and understands the need to move HR from a transactional model to a transformational one. She has worked in the investment banking, insurance, and legal industries, as well as with large not-for-profit centres helping to simplify and streamline their internal systems. Kaneez is an expert in building relationships and affecting change in a positive and productive way. She acts as the key HR business partner at Apri Insurance Services Inc, managing the implementation of JungoHR, while providing expert advice and counsel on a range of HR matters. Kaneez holds a Graduate Certificate in Human Resources Management as well as a Certificate in HR Law for HR Professionals from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Canada.

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