July 2021

How Psychologically Safe is your Workplace?

The topic of Psychological Safety is highly relevant to our work at the moment. In a session we recently conducted, a participant courageously shared a situation in which an incident occurred and was then reported to management. However, there was no further action taken by the management to address the incident which resulted in the person becoming disengaged and left with a sense of being unable to speak out further. This was damaging for the individual, the team and the organisation. For me, this is a classical example of a lack of Psychological Safety.

Timothy Clark, in his book The 4 stages of Psychological Safety, defines it as,

"A social condition in which you feel:

(1) Included

(2) Safe to learn

(3) Safe to contribute

(4) Safe to challenge the status quo

...all without fear of being embarrassed, marginalized, or punished in some way."

When there is a lack of Psychological Safety, people are unable to raise concerns or allow their voices to be heard as they do not feel safe enough to do so. This has many impacts on both individuals and the workplace they operate within. Now more than ever the need for psychological safety is critical, as the current state of the world is characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA).Psychological safety creates an environment where people are able to be innovative, take risks and be vulnerable leading to higher performance. In terms of metrics, teams and organisations in which psychological safety is fostered demonstrate better KPI's in all areas.

What steps then can we take to improve the level of psychological safety?

Here are some ideas:

- Encourage and appreciate different viewpoints

- Ask your team for suggestions on improvements

- Make space for equal and open discussions

- Trust your team

- Get to know the skills and strengths of your team

- Educate your team about what values mean in action

Which of these can you implement this week and what changes can you make to enhance psychological safety in your workplace?


Book Recommendation:


The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety:Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation, Timothy R Clark

This book is the first practical, hands-on guide that shows how leaders can build psychological safety in their organizations, creating an environment where employees feel included, fully engaged, and encouraged to contribute their best efforts and ideas.

Perhaps the leader's most challenging task is to increase intellectual friction while decreasing social friction. When this doesn't happen and it becomes emotionally expensive to say what you truly think and feel, that lack of psychological safety triggers the self-censoring instinct, shuts down learning, and blocks collaboration and creativity. Timothy R. Clark, a former CEO, Oxford-trained social scientist, and organizational consultant, provides a research-based framework to help leaders transform their organizations into sanctuaries of inclusion and incubators of innovation.

When leaders cultivate psychological safety, teams and organizations progress through four successive stages. First, people feel included and accepted; then they feel safe to learn, contribute, and finally, challenge the status quo. Clark draws deeply on psychology, philosophy, social science, literature, and his own experiences to show how leaders can, and must, set the tone and model the ideal behaviors--as he says, "you either show the way or get in the way." This thoughtful and pragmatic guide demonstrates that if you banish fear, install true performance-based accountability, and create a nurturing environment that allows people to be vulnerable as they learn and grow, they will perform beyond your expectations.