If you’ve watched survival shows or end-of-world movies, you’ve likely observed strangers (or actors playing strangers) come together in extraordinary ways to keep the group safe. This happens in real life as well. I remember going down the internet rabbit hole one evening watching videos of strangers working together to form human chains as they save someone they have never met from drowning in a flood or rushing river.
I’m not crying, you’re crying.
The emotions evoked from witnessing someone being pulled from danger are indescribable. Especially when the rescuers are ordinary people living their lives who become superheroes after making an instant life-or-death decision.
In any situation, safety is paramount. Not only physical safety but psychological as well. In fact, psychological safety often contributes to physical safety, as an individual’s level of resilience, self-awareness and comfortability aid in maintaining their overall well-being.
As a leader, you recognize the importance of physical safety in the workplace. You’ve been through safety training and seminars and depending on your industry, even audits or site visits conducted by regulatory agencies such as OSHA. But now that you’ve got a handle on ensuring your team’s physical safety, it’s time to start creating psychological safety in the workplace.
You can foster a workplace culture where every employee feels physically and psychologically safe by incorporating practical techniques for building a psychologically safe workplace and engaging an expert leadership speaker to maximize your efforts.
Why It’s Essential to Create Psychological Safety in the Workplace
Before diving into strategies for creating psychological safety in the workplace, it’s important to understand what it truly means and why it is important. The term “psychological safety” encompasses an environment where individuals feel free to be their authentic selves.
In the workplace, this is manifested when a leader creates a space where employees can ask questions without hesitation, voice concerns or objections without fear and actively challenge the status quo. Effectively, psychological safety in the workplace allows employees to express themselves with enthusiasm and showcase their unique traits without fear of judgment.
Giving your team the gift of psychological safety in the workplace is the right thing to do, and it offers a myriad of benefits for your organization. When employees recognize that you value and prioritize their well-being, they will be engaged, innovative and collaborative.
One of the wonderful benefits of psychological safety is how effectively it builds trust and respect in the workplace. When employees feel secure in expressing their opinions or alternative perspectives, it cultivates an environment of openness, honesty and transparency. Trust is the foundation upon which unbreakable teams succeed and psychological safety is key to establishing and maintaining that trust.
Five Ways to Build Trust and Respect and Create a Culture of Psychological Safety in the Workplace
Now that you have gained a deeper understanding of psychological safety and why it is important in the workplace, it’s time to create your own version of a human chain of superheroes. You can begin by following these five effective techniques to build trust and respect and create a culture of psychological safety in the workplace.
I’ve guided leaders worldwide through successfully deploying these strategies and I know they will work for you too.
1. Be Transparent
Transparency plays a crucial role in building trust in the workplace and fostering psychological safety. If you ask almost anyone about their ideal work scenario, feeling free to be their authentic selves would probably be at the top of their “must-haves” list.
As a leader, encouraging and expecting your team to bring their true selves to work every day paves the way for increased collaboration, innovation and overall well-being. In addition to developing mental, emotional and spiritual resilience, fostering transparency in the workplace nurtures a sense of safety and belonging.
The importance of trust in the workplace cannot be overstated. By modeling transparency in your own words and actions, you will inspire your team to be open and honest as well. The multitude of benefits offered by this level of psychological safety is extraordinary.
2. Cultivate a Got Your Back Work Culture
Recognizing that their co-workers, leader and organization are supportive and have their best interests at heart is crucial to an employee’s feeling of psychological safety.
It is imperative to take meaningful steps to build trust in the workplace and create an environment where every employee can truly flourish. Ensuring your team trusts those they work with (and for) allows them to let their guard down and feel comfortable expressing themselves. Establish a workplace based on mutual respect, where employees feel seen, heard and valued at all times and in all ways.
Creating this “got your back” culture begins at the top.
When you encourage and expect a “got your back” workplace culture, your team will recognize your genuine care for their well-being, and they will bring their best selves to work. Psychological safety flourishes, benefiting both your team and their collective growth.
The trust this type of climate naturally creates isn’t limited to leadership. A “got your back” culture nurtures collective growth and support and invites collaboration and cooperation rather than competition. It is a remarkable feeling to witness employees respecting and trusting each other as they work in harmony toward shared goals.
3. Encourage Employees to Contribute to the Process
The importance of trust in the workplace is absolute. Every leader should prioritize building a psychologically safe workplace by incorporating actionable steps into their leadership strategies. The greatest leaders recognize that encouraging employees to contribute to the process is the most effective way to approach this.
In order to successfully build trust in the workplace, employees must believe in each other, themselves and their leadership. When you embrace the core principles of transparency and trust and expect the same from your team, you demonstrate a commitment to creating psychological safety in the workplace. Part of this support is recognizing that we are all human and, inevitably, disagreements or misunderstandings may arise. It is critical to implement strategies to resolve conflict in the workplace to ensure that a difference of perspectives or opinions are shared respectfully and do not escalate into confrontation.
Empower your team with the knowledge that your workplace culture is designed to support them, and that you value their reciprocal vulnerability and support. Your belief that you are all in this together will create a profound ripple effect within your team. As it spreads to each employee, trust will flourish until psychological safety has woven itself into the organization’s culture.
4. Ensure All Voices are Heard
A major component of creating a psychologically safe environment is providing a comfortable space for employees to express their emotions and thoughts.
An exercise I have found to be successful is the “What I Feel Like Saying” method. I counsel leaders to start a meeting by encouraging every employee to share one thing they feel at the moment. Any feeling expressed, from gratitude to fear, aids in cultivating an environment that values and acknowledges individual emotions and prompts everyone to be mindful of their feelings.
Additionally, it is important to invite and offer constructive feedback. Establish a proper framework for feedback by asking your team to share what is and isn’t working for them and what could be done differently. This approach establishes a positive context for feedback. It demonstrates to employees that their feedback matters, and that you will leverage it to make improvements wherever possible. In working with leadership teams worldwide, I’ve witnessed firsthand the remarkable receptiveness and growth this system fosters.
This style of feedback is so much more dynamic and effective than simply pointing out shortcomings. It also results in greater outcomes and increases the psychological safety of employees, especially those who are generally underrepresented or feel unheard.
It should be noted that employees find giving feedback easier and more accessible in a remote environment. When they are able to share thoughts and feelings through the filter of digital platforms, they tend to be more engaged.
5. Track Progress with a Resilient Leader Assessment
Through my resilience work with leaders worldwide, I have witnessed time and again that resilient organizations foster resilient employees. The important work you are doing by building trust in the workplace boosts the resilience of your organization and, ultimately, your team.
If you are interested in measuring resilience levels across various dimensions, such as mental, emotional, physical and spiritual, you may want to explore the Resilient Leader Assessment. This valuable tool aids in understanding where your employees stand in terms of resilience. You can leverage that knowledge to implement resilience strategies that meet them where they are.
As the resilience levels increase, so will trust and psychological safety.
Conducting regular assessments allows you to track your team’s growth and development and address any areas needing attention. As a leader, witnessing tangible improvements that are directly correlated to your efforts is incredibly rewarding.
Build Trust and Psychological Safety in the Workplace with a Leadership Speaker
It is your responsibility to ensure the physical and psychological safety of your employees. With the expert support of a leadership speaker, you can implement effective strategies to increase resilience, resolve conflict, boost positivity and encourage transparency in the workplace. These are the tools you need to guide your team far away from the danger zone and back to a safe space.
By building trust and respect in the workplace, you will be a superhero to your team.