Before I dive in, I have to get something off my chest. By no means am I an expert on the workplace topics I write about. In fact, I do not claim to be an expert at anything. I like to keep it real! But I am evolving right before your very eyes! My willingness to learn continuously makes me dangerous. Dangerous in a good way. To me, that is more valuable than my degree. Please, just hear me out.
I recently had a family member ask me why I spend my limited spare time blogging, not knowing if anyone will even read my entries. My answer was simple. If only one person reads my blog, then it was worth my time. I would rather have one person read my blog and learn something from it than have 50,000 people skim through it and not learn a thing. As it relates to managers, sometimes they are so consumed with one facet of their job; they forget to pause and look around. The result, they become one-dimensional and lack growth. I am here to help, or at least try!
My posts are based on a mix of personal experiences, literature I have read, and discussions with professional managers in multiple industries. A blog like mine is for those types of managers who don’t have egos and who are go-getters. So, if you think you are a perfect manager or are completely satisfied by doing the bare minimum to collect a paycheck, my blog is probably not for you. I want my audience to be current or aspiring managers who genuinely care about the success of others, not just their own.
My mission is to give managers something to think about. My point is this; I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for MANAGERS to create a happy workplace culture. That does not mean form a committee or task human resources to do it. It means having more direct managers actually doing it themselves. When they do, it facilitates, yep… you guessed it, diversity, inclusion, and engagement (past post topics).
Ok, enough, back to the topic at hand; psychological safety (PS) in the workplace. In general terms, it means providing an environment that allows employees to be themselves and to feel safe speaking up without fear and intimidation, negative repercussions, or damaging consequences. Riddle me this; how would it feel if you had to pretend to be somebody you are not, every day at work? And you do this because you don’t feel safe expressing yourself. Odds are it would be exhausting, frustrating, and probably make you miserable.
Now, that does not mean pretending to be wealthy when you are actually broke. Playing games like that, which I do not recommend, is usually by choice. What it does mean, is having to hide things such as a disability, sexual orientation, religion, etc. Or maybe people do not feel inclined to speak up because of their title, pay grade, or position. In essence, anytime a person does not feel free to talk about anything reasonable, they lack PS. I say reasonable because having PS at work does not mean a free-for-all to discuss anything. Knowing your limitations is basic common sense.
A lack of PS in the workplace forces people to manage interpersonal risk, which keeps them from speaking up. When that happens, the company loses out on potentially valuable information. Should the janitor approach the CEO with a concern or an idea? Absolutely! That hierarchal chain of command thing that many companies follow is becoming outdated. It is critical that all employees, regardless of who they are, feel comfortable enough to speak up when something is important to them.
Imagine if you will, your company is wasting money every year on worthless office equipment. That receptionist people rarely talk to has ideas that could save thousands of dollars. People don’t chat with her much because her position is not important to them. She doesn’t speak up because she doesn’t feel valued. What if that quiet man on the assembly line of your manufacturing plant, knew a safer way to process dangerous materials. He is quiet because he does not speak perfect English and is intimidated by management. He didn’t speak up, someone got seriously hurt, and now you face an injury lawsuit!
Human nature suggests we should blame those employees for not speaking up. Well, they did not speak up because they did not have PS, and THAT falls on the managers! There has been a lot of research on PS in the workplace, and it has proven that PS is essential for a company’s long-term success. An excellent quote from a book I read said, “Leaders who welcome only good news create a fear that blocks them from hearing the truth” (The Fearless Organization, ch. 3, p. 71). You may think my examples are exaggerated, but I assure you they are not. A lack of PS in the workplace has even led to the loss of life. Don’t believe me? Research it.
In conclusion, think about it this way. By creating PS in the workplace, you are tapping into every single brain in the organization. The more brainpower, the better! Give everyone the same platform to speak up. Don’t just have a ‘suggestion box.’ Some people may not write well or don’t have the time. Allow them to visit you via an open door policy. It could generate new ideas to save or make more money. It could bring awareness to something dangerous that is often overlooked. Collaboration can move mountains. And best of all, it promotes inclusion, mutual respect, and camaraderie!
My call to action to managers is this: Remind your employees that you value their opinion. Tell them to speak up about anything important to them, and teach them to be good listeners as well. Tell them they can approach or schedule a meeting with you anytime. Please give them the confidence they need to speak up! Do your part to create PS, and the company will reap the benefits. It is called psychological safety, and it facilitates healthy interpersonal communication. A must-have if you want to maximize your company’s full potential!
It’s that simple! Thanks for reading!