While some managers may not understand the significance of psychological safety for effective teamwork or problem-solving, it's rare for team leaders to admit that they're not actively trying to create a safe environment. However, in some work cultures, traits like toughness, aggressive challenge, or the ability to adapt quickly are highly valued. As a result, team members who don't feel safe might be considered to have a lack of fit with the group and their concerns may be dismissed.
What these leaders may not realize is that a lack of psychological safety affects everyone on the team, even those who appear to fit in. This lack of safety can be very costly for both the team and the organization. Team members may adjust their behaviours and responses, resulting in an ineffective team. If everyone on the team is doing this, the team leader may not recognise the extent of the disengagement and unproductive behaviour that has taken root.
To determine if team members feel safe, managers and leaders can look for indicators similar to those used by researchers to measure psychological safety:
Employees actively share opinions that differ from those of their colleagues or manager
People use clear, direct, and respectful language without excessive caveats or an excessive attempt to avoid offense
Feedback is given when requested, both positive and negative, and negative feedback is seen as an opportunity to learn and collaborate
There are multiple channels for employee feedback
During status meetings, people regularly share aspects of collective objectives that are at risk or not going well
Few bad surprises occur, as leaders are aware of non-compliance with company policies and procedures
For learning, innovation, and growth to occur in the workplace, interpersonal trust, self-awareness, and psychological safety are crucial. Psychological safety should not be viewed as a mere job perk but as an integral part of every company's culture and future. Psychological safety must be a top priority in the workplace if businesses want to succeed. More importantly, psychological safety contributes to an inclusive, diverse, and accepting workplace where team members feel comfortable expressing themselves. Ultimately, the quality of a company is reflected in the well-being and satisfaction of its team members.