In The New Age of Work, Can Your Mind and Heart Really Be Psychologically Safe?

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In the dynamic landscape of corporate evolution and business enhancement, “psychological safety” has emerged. Companies often approach me with inquiries regarding the practicality of introducing or enhancing psychological safety in the workplace. But what precisely does this entail, and can we genuinely attain it in our workplace? Let us embark on a journey of exploration to unravel these questions.

The Quest for Psychological Safety

Picture a workplace where every employee feels secure, valued and encouraged. In such an environment, dedication soars, innovation flourishes, and communication flows effortlessly. That isn’t merely a distant daydream; it’s the promise of psychological safety (Hutchison, 2020, April 8). It’s the magic ingredient that elevates employee engagement, consequently bolstering retention rates. However, there’s a crucial caveat: psychological safety isn’t as simple as ticking off items on a checklist. Policies and procedures alone cannot bring it to life. It’s a profoundly personal journey intertwined with emotional growth, particularly resilience

Debunking Common Myths

As someone deeply involved in diversity, inclusion, and workplace wellness, I’ve delved into the pursuit of psychological safety within organisations. One often unspoken hurdle comes from non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). Companies and their lawyers design NDAs to protect a company’s or a person’s reputation. So, an NDA inadvertently creates a sense of “psychological unsafety” among employees. Therefore, they hinder open communication and honesty.

Race and being psychologically safe

Race plays a significant role in shaping psychological safety in the workplace, and its effects vary based on how diverse, inclusive, and equitable the work environment is. However, research shows that employees who are Black, Indigenous or people of colour have reduced levels of psychological safety compared to their white colleagues. This discrepancy arises from several factors, including discrimination, bias, stereotyping, microaggressions, and a lack of representation.

Hierarchy and Its Impact

Organisational hierarchies present another formidable challenge. While some companies strive for flat management structures, others adhere to traditional rankings that can intimidate and silence employees, especially when authoritative leadership styles come into play.

Addressing the Knowledge Gap

Some employees hold back from speaking up due to perceived knowledge gaps. While an open and inclusive leadership approach can help, true psychological safety means feeling secure even when making mistakes, asking questions, expressing concerns, or sharing unconventional ideas. Recognising the diversity of personalities, communication styles, and preferences within a workforce is paramount.

The Role of Emotional Intelligence

t is not impossible to create a working environment that embraces all the above issues and the others I have not touched upon with policy and good intentions. Creating a psychologically safe workplace involves embracing individual differences and forging emotional connections. It also requires fostering resilience and boosting their compassion, confidence, and courage.

In my experience, whether I’m working on changing corporate cultures or coaching or supporting victims-survivors of abuse, most of my client’s challenges are emotional and internal. It takes compassion, confidence, and courage to stand up and speak; similarly, it takes these qualities to sit down and listen.

As Aristotle wisely said, “Anyone can become angry — that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way is not easy.” Now, that takes emotional intelligence.

And that newfound emotional intelligence doesn’t benefit only the individual; its positive effects ripple throughout the team. Additionally, it enables managers and leaders to let go of some control, understanding that while conflict may be unavoidable, it doesn’t have to escalate into a full-blown battle, as wisely noted by Max Lucado.

A Fresh Perspective

Emotional intelligence is our compass for navigating emotions, connecting with others, and communicating effectively. It’s the game-changer that sets exceptional performance apart in today’s workplace. While IQ and technical skills once reigned supreme, emotional intelligence is now the show’s star.

By investing in emotional intelligence training, employers and companies create psychologically safe individuals, leading to safer working environments and a safer world. At our workshops, we have a clear mission: to help individuals grow emotionally and boost their emotional intelligence. We draw inspiration from those who have faced life’s challenges head-on, fostering qualities like resilience, confidence, compassion, and the latest learning.

As a little tidbit of trivia, emotional intelligence is often referred to as EQ, akin to the more familiar IQ, underscoring its significance in understanding human potential and performance.

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