psychological safety at work

 Here is my take on psychological safety.

Safety is a feeling that can not be injected through trainings or by someone preaching in a all hands meeting.  It is a combination of many factors.

  • No Fear with Team: Being comfortable to express , collaborate, disagree with a view point (not for shake of disagreement).

  • No fear of failure: Being feeling freedom to Innovate, make changes and if something goes wrong, not being penalized as long as it is done in open and everyone have details. No one can predict future and issues.  Failures are part of the success story. If you are afraid of failure and never try, then, you never innovate.  

  • No Fear of  Manager :  Team member should have the freedom to express freely with the manager. or upline managers.  There should be no punishments for bringing up issues.  Your compensation reviews, your bonus or RSUs should never get impacted because of some vigilante activities.

  • No Fear of change:  Freedom from fear when you are working on code, you should have no fear to develop code, design or redesign as long as you are fully responsible for it, the moment you break the system and then frame someone else, you are generating too much harm to organization.  NEVER ABUSE FREEDOM IN THE NAME OF SAFETY.

  • No Fear of credit: You do great work and your work goes unnoticed, someone else get credit or promotions.  This never motivates you to deliver in the same mode again.  If someone needs credit for something, please GIVE, thats least you can do.  If someone deserves some penalty because of lack of skills or not owning up,  they need to be GIVEN the penalty.   Unless you take from under performers, you can not give to achievers.  Many times,  compensation process becomes democratic and performers are made victims to cover up the under achievers. 

  • Fear of Challenge:  If someone challenges my decision, I should not be afraid, if I am, I will find safety net under disguise and then start creating troubles to the challenger.  Fear can lead to many mistakes. If I am open and accept the challenge and look it holistically, may be that improves overall decision process.

psychological safety  can not be achieved by:
  • Org vision statements
  • Mandatory trainings and certifications
  • Employing coaches for this purpose. Creating literature etc.

psychological safety  can be achieved by:
  •  Truly believing leadership.:Accept failures and create a system that lets free flow of information.  Bigger the organization, the blinder is the top leadership.  Bigger the processes and less the sprint of it.  We will feel like have everything but lack it.
  • First line managers should have freedom to let his team have freedom.
  • Each level should have freedom to communicate with at least couple of levels or all levels. Freedom doesn't mean writing an email, rather  the higher level person should find time to genuinely talk and understand the lower level employee.  Forwarding to a HR lead and then pushing it to some local HR etc is nothing but diluting the communication.   It may look like burden, but the moment you hav a system in place, you actually reduce all those communications, because everyone is afraid of doing mistakes and messing up someone else below them and makes them straight.
  • Have independent authority who have access and visibility to all employees and establish protocols to even randomly interacting with employees to figure out any symptoms of lack of safety.
  • It is both bottom up and top down. Employees should have framework to support their safety to work and deliver and at the same time top line should keep monitoring the situation and make sure to address symptoms by tuning the process or leadership. 
  • By Not punishing vigilante, let it be known if some mistakes happen. Let the employees see how it is rectified and that gives hope. It is actions that bring hope and safety and not words. 
  • Vision and spirit around safety  SHOULD NOT BE SOMETHING TO BE A POSTER ON THE WALL.  But a spirit injected into teams.


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