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5 Factors that Negatively Impact Psychological Safety at Work

Updated: May 3, 2022

Do your employees feel psychologically safe at work?

Psychological Safety is about creating an environment where employees feel accepted and respected at work.

Amy Edmondson, who’s known for her research on the topic, stated, “In psychologically safe environments, people believe that if they make a mistake, others will not penalize or think less of them for it. They also believe that others will not resent or penalize them for asking for help, information, or feedback. This belief fosters the confidence to take the risks described above and thereby to gain from the associated benefits of learning.”

Additionally, research shows that people who feel psychologically safe at work are more innovative, learn from their mistakes, and are motivated to improve their team or company.

Factors that can negatively impact psychological safety include:

❌ Harassment. Any form of harassment that goes unaddressed created psychological distress for employees.

❌ Bullying. A culture of poking fun at each other can seem fun for some but harmful to others. Define what the company deems unacceptable, clearly communicate your stance, and enforce it with employees.

❌ Retaliation when complaints are made or issues are raised. A leadership team that gets defensive and is quick to shut down issues raised is a major red flag for employees.

❌ Feeling unheard and unseen. Feedback should be collected with the intent to provide solutions, not just as a tokenistic gesture that effort is being made.

❌. Being punished for making mistakes. Alexander Pope once said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” Of course, not all mistakes are forgivable when it comes to work, but there should be a healthy tolerance for mistakes to be made so that risks can be taken and innovation can happen.

To assess whether your employees feel psychologically safe at work, I recommend using anonymous wellness surveys to identify key issues and areas needing improvement.

These will allow your employees to share their honest feedback without fear of retaliation or being identified.

VitaliTeam Workplace Wellness provides solutions at the intersection of organizational health and individual wellbeing.

If you’d like to assess the current state of psychological safety and wellbeing in your workplace, and receive expert analysis of the results and recommendations for moving forward, reach out to us for custom solutions to help you transform the culture of your workplace so your people can thrive.

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