How you answer this question is a vital part of how safe or vulnerable you feel in your workplace.
You feel comfortable speaking up in your role, asking questions, bringing new ideas or processes to your manager and team. You are thanked for your contribution and questions are answered with care to make sure you understand or have any further concerns.
As a result of this positive interaction, you feel encouraged and empowered to speak up more, contribute meaningfully, and certainly add value. It feels like you have the support to both learn and perform.
You feel vulnerable in bringing up your concerns or questions for fear of retaliation. You receive a quick retort and no answer to your question.
With negative interactions such as these, we tend to shy away from challenging aspects of our job, or asking questions. We retreat and take less risks, leading us to do the minimum amount necessary to get by.
The way our colleagues respond to our moments of vulnerability influences our future behaviour and informs how psychologically safe we feel at work.
Psychological safety is defined as the ability or belief that you are safe to speak up and challenge, or ask questions, without the fear of embarrassment, humiliation, or punishment.
It is vitally important for happy performing teams and fosters an innovative encouraging culture where everyone is able to learn from their mistakes. You will feel like a respected part of a team, be able to see the value of your work, and feel accepted for who you are, and your unique strengths.
There are 4 stages of Psychological Safety:
We all need to have that feeling of belonging, and acceptance.
When we feel included, we feel that we matter because we have become part of a group where we feel safe to interact and challenge one another without worry of humiliation, rejection, or embarrassment.
When we don’t feel included, it can physically hurt. We don’t feel accepted and we don’t feel validated.
We all have a human need to learn and develop. A key part of this process is feeling safe asking questions, giving and receiving feedback, and making mistakes.
When we feel safe to learn, we’re willing to take risks and put ourselves out there. All of which helps to build resilience while we’re learning.
When we don’t feel safe to learn, we retreat and contribute less. Managing our own personal risk becomes a priority.
We all want to make a difference and a key part of this is being able to contribute. When we do this regularly we feel empowered and our confidence and competence develops. We can also empower others to contribute and encourage them to grow too.
When we feel able to contribute, we feel a full member of the team and we feel enthused and full of energy. Our contributions feel meaningful.
When we don’t feel able to contribute, we shrink back and only do what needs to be done. Passion or energy or excitement disappears.
We all want to make things better and this involves challenging the status quo without the risk or fear of retaliation.
When we are able to safely challenge, we can innovate and be creative. The respect is there to challenge and we have permission to discuss when something needs to change.
When we’re not able to safely challenge, we’ll never move forward. The same mistakes will be made and innovation will never keep up with the competition.
Fostering an environment of psychological safety has never been more important, especially as it is a key component of equality, diversity and inclusion. Diverse and inclusive teams feel empowered to share their unique perspectives and alternative viewpoints.
Whether you are a manager, or being managed, creating a space where everyone feels psychologically safe is vital to your individual success, your team’s success, and ultimately the success of your organisation. To get you started in the right direction, we’ve created a Sway which has 7 steps for Psychological Safety.