Tips to Build Psychological Safety in Your Workplace: Part 2 – Encourage Participation

9 mins read

This article covers 3 tips for encouraging participation of psychological safety in your workplace:

  • Show Your Team You’re Engaged
  • Promote Positivity
  • Effectiveness over Efficiency

This is part 2 of our 3 part series on tips for building psychological safety in your workplace. As a brief recap to better understand this concept, psychological safety is the capability to show and engage yourself without fear of the possible negative consequences towards your career, status, or self-image. Within a team environment, this can be described as the shared trust to take risks with each other, and is accompanied with a feeling of acceptance and respect. Some of you may be thinking: “This sounds great… yet how can I create this in my workplace?”. Let’s explore the next 3 tips that can get you building a workplace that is psychologically safe for your employees!

Before we get ahead of ourselves, if you are interested in a more in-depth explanation of psychological safety, read our article on What is Psychological Safety in the Workplace.

Part 2 – Encourage Participation:

The second part of building psychological safety in your workplace is to invite participation in a way that has your employees engaged. This means that you must present the idea or request of participation in a way that is appealing while remaining authentic. You don’t want your team playing it safe because they are afraid of other co-workers or superiors, the goal is for your staff to be involved in the process with curiosity and trust.

1. Show Your Team You’re Engaged

We’ve all been given the advice at some point in our lives to ‘lead by example’ – if not, you’re getting it now! The best way to get your employees to participate in psychological safety, is to show that you are participating yourself as their leader. Showing that you are engaged with your employees can be one of the best ways to ensure that they feel heard, and that their voice matters in the team. Demonstrate engagement by being present during meetings; this means making eye contact, closing your laptop and putting away your phone. It can be very easy to get distracted by important phone calls, texts, or e-mails during a meeting or conversation, however those small actions of disengagement can negatively impact your team’s sense of engagement and therefore their psychological safety.

Engagement also means listening, not just giving the appearance that you are listening. Active listening is an excellent skill to have and practice. This means you are listening to their words for the entire message, not just the individual words or to give the appearance of listening so you can say what you want to say in response. Let the conversation at hand be your sole focus and ask questions to show that you understand what the other person is trying to express. By encouraging and practicing active listening, you are fostering an environment where it is accepted and valued to speak up.

2. Promote Positivity

One of the best ways to promote positivity it to get rid of negative responses by not allowing them within the workspace. Especially when it comes to our peers, negative comments about each other should not be tolerated. When a leader allows negativity to stand it can become a behaviour that is seen as acceptable, and the destructive behaviour may spread to others.

Employees may think they should talk poorly about others because they are hearing it all the time, or that others are probably talking about them already. If you have a team member that is making negative comments about a co-worker, make sure to talk to them about it.

Knowing that any sort of destructive comments about each other are not tolerated will also give employees more confidence to be able to express themselves without those negative consequences looming as a possibility. Be clear that you work together as a team and that negative comments about each other will not be tolerated.

Promoting this positivity will encourage employees to be more constructive and optimistic as the environment will be less negative as a whole. Here are 3 simple things that can be done in the workplace to promote positivity:

      • Practice gratitude: Did someone’s idea from a meeting inspire you? Did someone go out of their way to do something to make your day easier? If so, thank them! Make it a habit to thank someone for their work at least once a day.
      • Celebrate the little wins: It can be difficult to remember to celebrate the steps along the way to reach a BIG goal. Appreciate and celebrate the little wins, and give recognition to the employees that may be “behind the scenes” of reaching a goal.
      • Smile: A genuine smile is contagious, and smiling can trick the brain to feel happier which will lead to more positive thoughts. Don’t have a genuine smile to share, well smile anyways. Even if you don’t feel like it, as it will help remind yourself and everyone else that it will be OK. But for the sake of appearances maybe try these practice smiles in your office, at least until they are genuine.

3. Effectiveness over Efficiency

Being effective means that you are successful in producing a desired outcome or intended result. The focus in the workplace should be how your employees can be more effective as a team, rather than how they can be more efficient at their individual job. Promoting efficiency as the main attribute at work can suggest to employees that they are just a number or resource to achieve certain financial outcomes.

Keep in mind that employees that feel psychologically safe are more likely to be more productive, innovative, and engaged. As a result, effectiveness will lead to efficiency – it just takes the right lead!

By creating this safe work environment, you are reducing the potential discomfort that your employees may feel inside of their group or team. This then allows your staff to direct their energies to the external issues and the betterment of the company as a whole, so you are better able to seize the BIG opportunities that come your way.

Safety that Extends Beyond Physical

While physical safety is very important in any work environment, it is also important that we don’t forget about mental safety as they both play a key role in the performance of your employees. By demonstrating your engagement, encouraging authentic participation, promoting a positive work environment, and helping employees be more effective, you will build psychological safety within your workplace to complement the physically safe environment already present!

These 3 tips will help to get you started on building a psychologically safe work environment, however, don’t miss the final part in this 3-part series, Part 3 – Reinforce Through Response.

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