Psychological safety describes the feeling of being one’s whole self at work, taking risks and being vulnerable, without fear of negative consequences. A recent Workhuman survey of more than 3,000 U.S. workers found that only 26% felt psychologically safe during the pandemic and experienced higher levels of burnout, stress, and greater feelings of being lonely. The survey further revealed men experienced higher psychological safety than women, white employees experienced higher psychological safety than other ethnic groups, and working parents had the lowest psychological safety in comparison to employees who are not parents. According to a Gallup report, organizations that move towards creating psychological safety for its employees see a 30% reduction in turnover, 40% reduction in safety incidents and a 12% increase in productivity.
“Based on our survey, the two most practical ways to boost psychological safety are to say “thank you” more often and to check in with employees more frequently,” said Workhuman Director of People Analytics Dr. Meisha-Ann Martin. “Creating a sense of psychological safety, especially for underrepresented groups, allows for higher levels of engagement, increased motivation, innovation, and better performance, which can lead to major breakthroughs.”
The Workhuman survey also affirms psychological safety is highest for employees who are recognized and is lowest for those who are never recognized, and only 51% of the respondents said they’ve been thanked at work in the last month. To make gratitude a habit, set aside time each week to think about which colleagues delivered for the business, then take the time to thank them for their efforts. Additionally, people who check in with their manager at least once a week experience higher psychological safety than those who check in less frequently, and yet only 29% of respondents in the Workhuman survey said they check in with their manager every week. A regular cadence of check-ins becomes an opportunity to build trust and sets a foundation of positivity for the manager-employee relationship.
At its core, psychological safety is about feeling comfortable bringing your whole, human self to work. For employers, it’s about empowerment – trusting the humans you’ve hired to do the jobs they were hired to do, allowing them to use their voices and show up in their teams. These two simple tactics – recognizing more frequently and establishing a cadence of check-ins – can go a long way in creating an inclusive and psychologically safe environment for your people.
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