5 Drawbacks of a Psychologically Hostile Workplace

5 mins read

This article is on the 5 drawbacks that may be experienced in a psychologically hostile workplace:

    • Blame
    • Reduced risk taking
    • Increased anxiety around failure
    • Exclusion
    • Reluctance to contribute

In teams where we see a high level of psychological safety, there is a culture of inclusion. People feel safe to speak up, ask questions, and offer ideas that may seem unorthodox. While all these positive aspects are great benefits to have in your work environment, it is also important to understand the drawbacks that could be experienced from a lack of psychological safety. Here are 5 drawbacks that may be present in a psychologically hostile workplace.

If you would like more information on psychological safety and who coined this term, see our article What is Psychological Safety in the Workplace.

Drawbacks of a Psychologically Hostile Workplace

There are always equal and opposite reactions in life, this being Newton’s third law of motion; the statement also rings true for psychological safety in a workplace. Without psychological safety there isn’t just an absence of the benefits, but an inclusion of a host of negative reactions. Here are some of the drawbacks that can be experienced from the lack of a psychologically safe workplace:

1. Blame others

Blaming others can be a result of being previously shamed or punished after admitting responsibility for a mistake or something that went wrong. Blame is a defensive strategy an individual uses to avoid recognizing and experiencing difficult feelings like shame, guilt, hurt, sadness, failure, disappointment, powerlessness or even inadequacy. If employees are feeling psychologically unsafe in their environment, it is more likely that they will not take accountability for their words and actions and will consequently blame others.

2. Reduced desire to take risks

A safe environment will encourage risk taking or experimentation which can lead to innovation. If there is a lack of psychological safety in the workplace, it is more likely that the staff members will be unwilling to take the necessary risks for innovative thinking and ideas. While reckless risk taking is not a benefit, calculated risks are a key requirement to move a business forward.

3. Increased anxiety around failure

If employees are feeling like they will be punished or judged in their failures, they are most likely going to have increased fear around failure. Increased anxiety around the workplace is more likely to result in more mistakes, not less! Failure is a very important factor in experimentation and risk taking, a team should feel resolve to rise through failure. Not fear.

4. Exclusion

Staff members that are not feeling comfortable and psychologically safe within their work environment are not as likely to include their co-workers. Some of the best ideas and problem solving come from collaboration and a team environment, which may not be present if employees are excluding each other. Trust must be present for colleagues to include each other and collaborate.

5. Reluctance to contribute

If there is a psychologically hostile workplace, employees are unlikely to contribute their efforts, ideas, or time. If staff members do not trust the people they are working with, or working for, they may not feel the necessary confidence or desire to share their valuable ideas or to go the extra mile when needed.

Lackluster of Lacked Safety

As explained there can be many disadvantages in the work environment if there is a lack of psychological safety. From blame, to exclusion, anxiety, fear, and reluctance to contribute or take risks, there are many undesirable outcomes if employees are not feeling safe in their workspace or team. We hope this reading has allowed you to consider the safety status of your workplace environment. Here is our final question to leave you with: are your employees comfortable and trusting enough to be themselves in your workplace environment?

Interested in how psychological safety will help your business achieve more? Check back for our article: “The Performance Encouraged by a Psychologically Safe Workplace”.

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