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Psychological Safety: The Ultimate Price of Inaction

Updated: Sep 18, 2018

Between 2010 and 2015, over 90% of workers’ compensation claims involving a mental health condition were attributed to work-related stress in Australia (Safe Work Australia).


This is the context we are operating in. Working environments where high job demand, low role clarity, isolated work, and poor working relationships are driving many people to seek the escape hatch.

Environments where people do not have the freedom that psychological safety affords are at high risk.


As defined by Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School, “psychological safety is a climate characterised by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.”


Trust and respect are inextricably linked entities. They are also most easily maintained when reciprocated.


Additionally, by being ones self, we are showing up with our full capability. In a rather extreme yet relatable analogy, instead of showing up as Clark Kent, we show up as Superman (or woman).


What is the cost of such psychologically unsafe environments?


Furthermore, what are the missed opportunities from not accessing someone’s full potential? Their growth mindset.


Yes we can talk about the approximately $543 million paid in workers’ compensation for work-related mental health conditions each year as having an impact.


But what’s far more relevant and telling? Social Impact.


The social impact toxic workplaces have on families and friends can be as little as a bad day or a tough week, to a lifetime of sorrow should that person seek out the eternal escape route. Suicide.

It is a word that I would challenge stirs emotions in even the most detached of human beings. However it is also a word that represents the ultimate price of inaction.


So often the saying goes, where there is a problem there is a solution. And what is great about problems is that there is often more than a single solution.


Below are three practical pathways to creating psychologically safe environments within our working environments…


Solutions focused: The Power of Three


Adopt A Learning Culture

Our default response as humans is to find fault when mistakes are made and things go wrong. Adopting a learning mindset by engaging coaching questions to problem-solve following mistakes, will help eliminate the dead end of fear and blame.


Practice Positive Feedback

Offering feedback that is specific and based on measurable data will add to the acknowledgement. It allows the recipient to recognise the tangible value of their actions. Psychological safety is founded on confidence and an appreciation of what one brings to the table.


Promote Listening and Inclusion

Celebrating our differences and using them as a valuable tool to solve complex problems requires attentive and respectful listening. Key to this skill is removing traditional biases and taming the tendency to formulate a response whilst the other person is still offering their perspective. People will feel heard, worthy, and safe when they receive a reply that considers what they have just shared.


The above solutions are a great starting point, however they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creating mentally healthy workplaces.


Some problems require more than just solutions, they demand champions of change. That person or collective group of people who believe so strongly in a cause or mission, that they will not stop until they see change.


And even when they see the seedlings of change start to bear fruit, they will continue to fight until that change becomes the new normal, the new psyche, the new mainstream. An accepted way of thinking and behaving.


When faced with challenges that seem insurmountable, or outcomes that appear reliant on the actions of a select few, we must look inward. Because when we start with what we can each do as individuals, things become attainable.


We are all the pieces in the puzzle. We are all the links in the chain. We are all organisms in our respective environments.

Simon Sinek believes, if you get the environment right, every single one of us has the capacity to do remarkable things.


*What price is your organisation willing to pay?


#PsychologicalSafety #WorkplaceMentalHealth #Trust #Respect #Solutions #Change

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