The Importance of Psychological Safety in the Workplace

Media Agency work is challenging, inspiring, and always innovative. But how do we foster high accountability while encouraging new ideas? Psychological safety is a newer “buzzword” term in the working world, but providing employees a safe place to learn and grow from mistakes is not. It’s the idea that employers want to create an environment that is safe for employees to express ideas, questions, concerns, and mistakes. In a psychologically safe environment, taking thoughtful risks, sharing new ideas, and soliciting feedback are supported.

To create a truly safe environment, the emphasis on feedback as a learning process, as well as owning your own mistakes allow other employees to feel that the working environment is secure enough to admit failures and to learn from them. But what does that look like?

First, if you want people to admit their mistakes, you have to admit your own. People share their own vulnerability when vulnerability is shared with them. Next, we should be asking ourselves these questions:

  • Take inventory of the meetings on your calendar, is the team able to take time to discuss ideas (even off-the-wall ones) during team meetings?
  • Are we asking thoughtful questions and demonstrating that feedback is a learning process?
  • Are we setting the stage for others to feel comfortable speaking up?
  • Are all team members invited to participate in team meetings? How do we make sure we hear from everyone?

As the ever-changing world of digital media moves forward, our employees are asked to develop new and innovative processes to give our client campaigns the best results. They are also charged with fully understanding our account needs, being curious, and finding a better way to do things. The idea that our employees are supported in exploring something novel and taking well-intentioned risks can be a challenge, but a necessary one.

Validating individuals on a team and recognizing that people only feel comfortable taking risks when they have the full support of the team they work on, creates this psychological safety net. Knowing that your entire team is there to back up your decisions, ask the right questions, and challenge you to think differently is where true growth and innovation happen.

That’s not to say all mistakes are good ones. Preventable failures- failure to follow guidelines, are not celebrated. Accountability remains a critical point of success on any team for trust and honest feedback to happen. Sharing the impacts of decisions made in our work helps team members understand expectations and to hold themselves responsible.

Feeling psychologically safe at work leads to improved job satisfaction, better mental health, and more engaged employees. Providing team members the space to make thoughtful errors and voice their opinions fosters an environment of learning and improvement. This directly correlates to enhanced performance. Change often comes slowly over time, but fostering psychological safety among our teams now will lead to valuable ideas shared in the future that will help move our agency forward.

Written by Human Resources, Melissa Davis

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