Psychological Safety at Work for Happier and Thriving Organization

Psychological Safety at Work for Happier and Thriving Organization

Psychological Safety at Workplace: Imperatives for a Happy and Thriving Organization

How often have you been a part of a meeting and wanted to make a point that was against popular opinion but didn’t voice it because you felt it may upset some higher-up/or you may be mocked/can lead to retribution?’

If you have been in such situations often, then apparently you are part of a team that lacks a culture of psychological safety.

Unless the team is free to share authentic feedback, share genuine concerns, and bring radical ideas, the organization will never unleash the true potential of diverse thinking and will end up making decisions that are sub-optimal and get results that are sub-standard.

Source: McKinsey

89% of US Respondents believe that Psychological Safety is essential and a core responsibility of business leaders.

While the need to create psychological safety has assumed significance at a global level, psychological safety is particularly important in India due to the hierarchical nature of many organizations and the emphasis on respect for authority. In such environments, employees may be hesitant to speak up or challenge their superiors, which can hinder innovation and growth. By fostering psychological safety, organizations in India can create a culture that encourages open dialogue, constructive feedback, and continuous learning.

With an appropriate level of focus on psychological safety, organizations in India can develop a workplace that fosters collaboration, trust, innovation, workforce well-being, and the organization’s effectiveness at large.

Leaders can boost Psychological Safety in the Workplace in two ways.

Firstly, to start with, leaders must look inward to understand and integrate their own feelings and worries before looking outward to support others in order to increase psychological safety at work.

  • Start by being fully present in the moment and be aware of your feelings as well as happenings around you.
  • Embrace vulnerability.
  • Be empathetic: Show empathy to better understand the feelings of others and show genuine concern for others.

Secondly, employers can take action to drive a culture of psychological safety in six ways:

  • Identify: Utilize analytics and employee feedback to pinpoint care practices and behavioral health requirements.
  • Ensure: Evidence-based behavioral health therapies should be equally accessible and affordable as physical health services.
  • Shift: To help reduce stigma, and raise the business culture’s behavioral-health literacy.
  • Implement: Establish workplace initiatives that support mental health and guard against substance use disorders.
  • Enable: By using network and product design, create new points of access, like digital ones.
  • Integrate: Adopt value-based behavioral-health payment models and provide combined physical and mental treatment.

Psychological safety can be understood as a developmental process that evolves through different stages. While different models may describe these stages in slightly different ways, here are four common stages of psychological safety as per Tim Clark’s “Four Stages of Psychological Safety” Model:

The first stage is inclusion safety. We humans want to feel included and be heard and we long to belong. We need acceptance and comfortable space within a team before we can be heard.  At this stage, all the members should be included and welcomed – without discrimination regarding gender, age, social background, sexual orientation, etc.

The second stage is learner safety. This means being able to ask questions, give and receive feedback, experiment, and make mistakes. At this stage peer-to-peer feedback within teams is important.

The third stage is contributor safety. Team members should contribute as a team member, make suggestions and ideas, and bring up hazards and risks. At this stage, retrospectives and “post-mortems” become very powerful practices.

The fourth stage is challenger safety. This entails having the ability to question the way the team functions, suggest new methods of operation, adopt novel behaviors, and challenge the opinions of others, even those of senior team members. This is the most significant “stage” of psychological safety since it not only allows for the emergence of new ideas and the opportunity to learn from mistakes, but it also serves to keep potentially harmful ideas from reaching the real world.

It’s important to note that these stages are not necessarily linear, and individuals or teams may move back and forth between them depending on various factors. The goal is to continuously nurture and strengthen psychological safety to create a supportive and high-performing environment.

Psychological safety will play a crucial role in anchoring the workplace of the future, as the notion of work, expectations from work, and prioritization of needs at a personal level evolve dynamically.

Businesses, though, have the opportunity to use analytics to discover critical and surprising insights into team dynamics. This will eventually, enable businesses to take the steps needed to build psychological safety at work and drive progress through productive and engaged teams.  


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