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Psychological Safety

05/04/2022 by Arlete Amoroso

I knew it, but I was afraid to speak up!
 
Perhaps you have already been through this situation or witnessed someone go through it. The question we should ask ourselves is: "What stopped you/him (her) from talking, bringing the fact to the surface?"
 
Certainly, the answer to this question brings to light a key concept: Psychological Safety.
 
"A belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes." This is the central argument of the book written by Amy Edmondson: The Fearless Organization.
 
Psychological Safety plays a key role in leadership development and, as a result, impacts organizational culture, as it directly impacts unwritten behaviors and rules that can be adopted unconsciously.
 
A psychologically safe environment is one where people feel safe to be themselves, express their opinions, ask for help, do something different from what has always been done, take risks. As a result, a culture of learning, innovation and growth is nurtured. A win-win relationship takes place between the organization and its employees.
 
Even today, we find places where the culture of fear has a strong influence and people focus their attention on managing interpersonal risks, consciously or not, inhibiting the sharing of ideas or concerns, generating anxiety and burnout. The organization's ability to innovate and grow is threatened. Everyone loses.
 
How to build a psychological safe environment?
 
First, we must understand that there is practically no individualized work, without interdependence. To thrive in an uncertain, fast-paced and challenging era, we must foster the growth of individual and collective skills, where ideas and exchanges of experiences flow, the inclusion of diversity takes place and a sense of belonging is in the organizational climate.
 
An excellent starting point is to measure the current psychological safety in your organization. With her life dedicated to this study, Amy Edmondson presents her public domain measure for psychological safety, widely used in the scientific community and by organizations worldwide:

  
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "strongly agree" and 5: "strongly disagree", please answer the following:
  1. If you make a mistake on this team, it is often used against you.
2. Members of this team are able to bring up problems and tough issues.
3. People on this team sometimes reject others for being different.
4. It is safe to take risks on this team.
5. It is difficult to ask other members of this team for help.
6. No one on this team would deliberately act in a way that undermines my efforts.
7. Working with members of this team, my unique skills and talents are valued and utilized.  
The result of your answers will give you a suggestion of what the first step on the journey to building an environment of psychological safety might be.
 
It doesn't guarantee effectiveness, therefore makes it easier to find the best that people have to offer, as they are not held back by interpersonal fear that interferes in the way the work is done.
 
Currently, the development of skills to build a psychologically safe organization is one of the great challenges of leadership, as it is the foundation of an environment where everyone wants to belong and contribute. Fortunately, like any skill, they can be learned through guidance and training.
 
What has been your impact on building a psychologically safe environment?
 
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AUTHOR: Arlete Amoroso Socia Desarrollo Humano, Liderazgo & Coaching
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