It comes as no surprise that high performing companies like Google incorporate inclusive leadership and ‘psychological safety’ to increase employee comfort in the workplace. After all, good levels of inclusive leadership has been proven time and time again to increase innovation, and what company is more innovative than Google?
Google is living proof that inclusion is key to success, and according to Google, ‘psychological safety’ is a big key to their inclusion strategy. But what is psychological safety, and how can you incorporate it into your business?
Psychological safety simply means creating a space where team members feel comfortable enough to take risks and express ideas. It sounds so simple, right? So WHY do so many workplace employees feel uncomfortable expressing INNOVATION?
Amy Edmondson, who coined the term psychological safety, states that employees, and indeed team leaders, feel isolated from the rest of their team, and fear expressing their opinion in case they are wrong. This fear is placing innovation in a stranglehold!
To break free of this, employers must create psychological safety by making it clear that it is OK TO BE WRONG. Admitting that you are wrong is a healthy way to accept responsibility and learn from the mistake, yet we are all so afraid to so in case it affects how others perceive us. To protect themselves from blame, workplace employees are withholding their ideas and opinions which otherwise could be hugely successful!
Another fear for many team members is expressing opinions that differ from the group consensus, preferring to keep quiet and keep their head down rather than go against the group. In this sense, INDIVIDUALITY is being crushed, and true opinions aren’t being expressed; how do we know if the group really do believe what they are saying if everyone is TOO AFRAID to speak up?
Indeed, within workplaces, it is often the people who state the common information that tend to be thought of as the most influential, while those who express less common opinions are often thought of as less credible. How is it that one person’s voice gets so readily dismissed? To further intimidate individual expression, when team members witness outlying views dismissed so quickly, it makes them all the less likely to express their own opinion out of fear of rejection, while junior team members will take the lead from those ‘influential’ members expressing the general views. And thus we all become SHEEP, churning out the same ideas again and again, and failing to come up with anything INNOVATIVE.
So how do we break away from this repressive work environment and create a psychologically safe environment?
Firstly, we must stop penalising people for being WRONG – it is better to have tried than to always be complacent! Encourage a lively debate within meetings, perhaps even appointing individuals to be on opposing teams of ‘pro’ and ‘con’ so that your team is forced to think outside of the box!
Secondly, let’s give everyone their voices back! Throughout history, geniuses have always been the outcasts, and yet without them, society would have ground to a halt years ago! Just because one opinion is the consensus doesn’t mean it is RIGHT – if everyone told you the sky was green, who would be wrong, you or them?
Inclusion is the single greatest key to unlocking innovation and helping your business flourish and develop, so it is vitally important that you encourage an inclusive culture within your workplace, and a psychologically safe environment is a key element! The best performing teams have a high level of psychological safety and are therefore highly inclusive, so take note!
Look no further than emberin for all of the help and support you need to produce a more inclusive work environment for all.