With the great resignation organizations are scrambling to make their organizations more engaging. Currently only 36% of the employees are engaged (Gallup Research). The interest in psychological safety has increased since it was first researched by Amy Edmondson in 1999. A study done by Google in 2017, found that people who felt psychologically safe were more likely to stay. According to Edmonson, psychological safety is the absence of interpersonal fear. So how do organizations create a psychological safe environment? First, we need to assess our interactions within the organizations. Do they show absence of interpersonal fear? As an organizational psychology consultant, I have led or been part of many team meetings. This is usually the first meeting where I don’t know the organization as well. I can recall situations when I found the team to be open, lacking any fear and teams that were hesitant to speak up. The teams were intact – who had worked with each other and knew each other well. Yet, even as an outsider to the organization, I knew if the team was psychologically safe or not. These teams showed certain behaviors that helped me feel safe and easy to speak up. Here are a few questions that can help you identify if your team is feeling safe or not:
Do members regardless of their position contribute in discussions? My client meetings consisted of senior leaders, decision makers and support staff. The support staff were the project managers, administrators, executive assistants. In a psychological safe team, people contributed equally regardless of their position. In these teams, it was hard to distinguish the leader from the team member.
Do they suffer from the “Know it All” mindset? I recall a particular organization where only the leader spoke. People were afraid to speak up for the fear of not knowing something or speaking out of turn on the call. Not knowing something affected their credibility in meetings. This had fostered a culture of “know it all mindset” and the leaders went great lengths to maintain their credibility. As a consultant, I often felt pressured to “know it all” as well and prepared to have all the answers during meetings. “I don’t know” was considered a sign of weakness.
Do they ask for help? This factor is related to the previous one around showing vulnerability. Leaders who create psychological safe teams ask for help as well as readily offer help. For example, I remember a meeting when the leader asked a team member to explain a concept as they struggled to articulate it. And I have also experienced meetings getting canceled because a leader did not trust their team to lead the conversation.
If you recognize any of these indicators in your team. The next question is, what to do about it? Teams are the same by definition and as diverse as the individuals that are composed of so one solution does not fit all. We can help you make sense of the information and data you have on your team and leadership style to craft the strategy that will begin to create the high performing team and employee experience that brings out everyone’s best.
At Attune, we help leaders build positive productive workplaces, we think thriving teams are the core of health of any organization. Contact us, let’s work together to strengthen your team.