How to create psychological safety in the workplace?
As many as 45 percent of employers believe that psychological safety is a strong performance indicator and 47 percent say it is a crucial need since it leads to higher employee retention and engagement, reveals new report by global job site Indeed.
Psychological safety refers to employees believing that they can take risks without being shamed by other members.
The major reasons for employees feeling psychologically unsafe at work include mental health issues (47percent), unaddressed/unsatisfactorily addressed grievances (43percent) and fear of losing their anonymity while providing feedback (28percent), says the report on Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DI&B) at Indian Workplaces, which examines the need for psychological safety in Indian organisations.
Impact of psychologically unsafe workplaces
Employees facing fear due to various reasons could adversely affect psychological safety. Fear of burnout (34 percent) and fear of failure (25 percent) are dominant among employees in psychologically unsafe workplaces.
Biases also play a role in determining psychological safety at work. The most common biases employees face are gender and sexual orientation (59 percent), their religion, caste and ethnicity (32 percent), their physical, mental, and emotional disabilities (18 percent), and the language they speak (18 percent).
In order to create a psychologically safe environment, 45 percent of employees express that being their authentic selves at work, expressing ideas, opinions, and criticisms freely without the fear of judgment, contributes to psychological safety. 33 percent also noticed that work-life balance makes them feel psychologically safe at their workplaces.
From an employer perspective, 53 percent of them agree that a psychologically safe work culture is both achievable and sustainable. However, 32 percent of employers feel that while it is achievable, it cannot be sustained.
Most employees' responses (38 percent) suggest that burnout has been the most prevalent trend shift, followed by disengagement (33 percent) and other mental health related aspects such as depression (27 percent) and anxiety (24 percent).
How to promote psychological safety at work
Employees feel that the leadership team plays a role in psychological safety at work. Leaders can positively influence employees to be motivated at their job (rated 4.48 on a 5-point scale), provide a sense of security at work (4.41), and improve relationships with other peers or colleagues (3.66), as per the report
Cognitive diversity is also something that employees feel is important to organisations as it ensures that they have plural ways of thinking and solving problems.
A majority (83 percent) of employees feel that organisations can benefit from having people with different ideas, thoughts, and perspectives.
Richa Telang, Founder and CEO of TrueBlue Advisory, an employer branding consulting firm, says creating professional boundaries and directly confronting such behaviour are two strategies that can stop you from being at risk of such treatment.
“Find ways to gather tangible evidence like recordings and report this behaviour to the proper authorities. You can also seek social support in case you need. Parallelly, employers should take serious steps to track workplace behaviour. Educating employees and supervisors about bullying and suggesting pathways they can take if they witness abuse in the workplace are some such ways,” she says.
Telang says that employees should educate themselves to recognise workplace bullying signs and defend themselves if necessary. Organisations can also take steps to reduce bullying, including helping employees learn how to respond when they witness bullying at work.
“Also, a healthy work environment helps build strong employer branding,” she adds.
Amidst various global uncertainties, organisations are looking to build high performing teams that can sustain waves in the market. In the last couple of years, employees have faced various stressors related to work such as burnout, mental health issues, overwork etc.
“Therefore, prioritising employees will be at the forefront for organisations to enhance psychological safety at work which can further lead to strong business growth. Initiating strong programmes around DI&B are instrumental in laying the foundation for psychological safety in organisations,” says Rohan Sylvester, Talent Strategy Advisor, Indeed.
“Our data shows that 23 percent of organisations are planning to initiate formal policies around DI&B in the next 12-18 months. It will be critical for employers to focus on this in order to thrive in the new normal,” he added.