28 October, 2020
As more and more organizations look to enhance their current Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts, the concept of “psychological safety” is a renewed area of focus. Widely considered to be the “Father of Employee Engagement”, Professor and researcher Daniel Kahn discussed the concept of psychological safety in the workplace back in the early 1990’s as “the ability to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career.”
In the DEI space this concept speaks to the ability of employees to feel they can bring all aspects of their identity into the workplace to engage, participate, challenge and interact in ways that allow them to be who they are without the fear of reprisal from others. In fact, the most effective teams often have the highest levels of psychological safety for their members. Feeling safe to voice your own unique opinions and views builds trust among colleagues, enhances communication and improves the team’s overall productivity. There are many ways to foster greater psychological safety and most don’t cost anything and are easy to implement right now. Here are a few quick ideas to keep in mind:
- Make it the norm to have robust discussion and debate. If everyone knows it’s okay, and even expected, to have differing opinions, it makes it much easier for different perspectives to be included.
- Get curious! Spend time asking good questions to understand different perspectives. Remind yourself that there may be more that you don’t yet know about. And… be careful your questions are rooted in gaining greater understanding rather than winning an argument!
- Reach out to those who aren’t part of the discussion. Who aren’t you hearing from? Who else’s perspective might contribute to the discussion? In other words, seek out the voices that are missing and make sure you are including them in your discussions and decision-making.
- Be thankful! Show gratitude for dissenting views or differences of opinion. Saying something like, “thank you for taking the time to talk this through with me” or “thank you for sharing your perspective and giving me more to think on” can go a long way to building a respectful workplace where everyone’s input is valued and respected.
Tara B Taylor, MPA