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Psychological safety: a strategy to wellbeing and achievements.

Have you ever wished to share your opinion during a meeting, but you didn’t find the courage to do so? Or perhaps you’ve given unclear assignments and hesitated to ask for clarification? Have you ever felt inadequate, diverse, wrong, incompetent and diminished in your work environment?

If you have answered affirmatively to even just one of these questions, it is important that you know that the feelings of unease, sorrow, discouragement or anxiety that you experienced in certain situations may not depend on your personal characteristics, but rather on some specific aspects of your professional environment.

More specifically, the factors that prevented you from taking action, as well as the sensation of unease that affected you in certain situations, might be caused from a low level of psychological safety in your workplace.

What is psychological safety?

Psychological safety can be defined as a psycho-emotional condition arising from the belief that you will not be judged nor criticized, or even worse punished or excluded, for having expressed your ideas, challenged the status quo, advanced proposals, asked for help, shared doubts, committed errors or admitted that you did not understand or were unable to do something.

In practice, psychologically safe environments are inclusive relational contexts, where you feel appreciated exactly for who you are: a condition that enable you to perform at best of your fullest potential. 

Here, you can be your best self!

What are the effects of psychological safety?

In addition to positively impacting well-being and mental health, psychological safety also brings further advantages. These include, for example, improved communication quality and better human relationships. Clarity, coherence, collaboration, mutual support, trust, absence of judgment, and appreciation of differences are just a few aspects of psychologically safe environments.

But it doesn’t stop there.

As Carl Rogers stated, psychological safety is also essential for stimulating creativity, and creativity, in turn, is an indispensable ingredient for innovation. Furthermore, to innovate it is necessary to challenge the status quo, confront others in a proactive way and integrate different opinions and points of view, thus generating new ideas. Requirements that are easily met in psychologically safe contexts. On the contrary, change can be extremely difficult in unsafe places, where resistance and rigidity generally dominate.

In this historical moment, where research and transformation toward sustainable and smart solutions are key drivers of growth, building psychologically safe workplaces is undoubtedly beneficial.

However, the advantages extend beyond that.

In fact, safe environments seem to be conducive to people’s growth and development, since there is no way to improve and evolve other than stepping out of your comfort zone without the fear of making mistakes and learning from them.

Last but not least, psychological safety facilitates the consolidation of the sense of teamwork and belonging: decisive aspects for retaining workers and facilitating the steadiness of human resources.

Now that we are aware of its importance, a question arises.

Where do we start to build psychological safety in our systems, whether these are families or work environments?

First and foremost: develop your skills on communication and relationship management, and encourage your organization to do the same through corporate training, coaching or sharing relevant material, such as articles, videos or podcasts.

Communicating is one of the most instinctive and natural acts, but a successful communication requires knowledge and abilities that can yield incredible results.

Another important aspect to consider is about the inclusive and transformative leadership. Regardless of your professional profile and context, you can play a fundamental role in leading others towards a greater collective well-being and success, as well as transformation and growth. This is not only important at work, but also in your family or among your friends. Again, to become an inclusive and transformative leader you just need to commence building your capacities in this field, so strengthening also your influencing power and impact on the surrounding reality.

Giving and asking for constructive feedback, actively listening, carefully managing your non-verbal language, being curious and cultivating the art of doubt, asking relevant questions, limiting judgements, are, among many others, some practical examples of promoting psychological safety.

Developing psychological safety requires commitment, but it is a winning choice, especially for us, women, who often are the primary victims of unsafe environments.

Are you interested in learning more?

Would you like to share your experience about psychological safe or unsafe places?

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