How to create a mentally safe workspace?

Mental Health
21 Oct 2022

Most often than not, we fear failure more than we fear our managers or bosses. This is not because your boss is scary, but simply because you don’t want to let them down. You may feel this way either because you feel you are not supported enough by your team, or you don’t feel brave enough to present your idea because you think they’ll reject it.

The obstacles that you face can all be overcome. These obstacles that you face at work is due to a lack of psychological welfare at work, which then would have allowed you to be more relaxed and yourself—especially with sharing ideas with your peers. Psychological safety at work is so essential, and most of us are not noticing this because it has become accustomed to believing that workspaces carry with them with an air of command. 

So, what is psychological safety?

Psychological safety or psychological welfare at work can be defined as the ability to be able to display and carry out one’s natural self without the fear of judgment or negative consequences of self-perception, career or status. 

This is especially important in the workplace because we spend most of our lives at work, spending time with people more than we do with our own family. Not having a sense of psychological welfare at work can hinder work and performance, and can lead to burnout. 

What can you do to make it better?

You can cater to make sure that the people at work feel respected and accepted with themselves and with their peers. There should be no irrational fear of making mistakes because without making mistakes, there can be no room for improvement. 

In fact, the fear of making mistakes is so damaging that it completely hinders psychological safety at work. We must learn to trust one another as well, and take risks. 

What does a workplace need for it to be psychologically safe?

In order for a team to perform well and in the most optimum way, the team members must have trust among one another. It’s called taking interpersonal risks, getting out of one’s comfort zone in order to make each other feel comfortable within the workplace. 

It boils down to people being ready to allow each other to be themselves, and not displaying any sort of judgmental behavior towards them for being the way they are. 

Most offices in India function with the idea of a typical hierarchical model, where the leader is the boss and the people working under the boss are the employees. This creates a sort of boss-subordinate atmosphere, which hinders psychological welfare because this hinders the prospect of people being themselves. In such an atmosphere, there is no room for personal welfare but people tend to want to impress the leader in order to be left off of scrutiny. 

One of the main drawbacks of this kind of traditional setting is the lack of psychological safety. This is the scenario where the boss says ‘I don’t care, just do your job.’ The criteria of behavior are simply following orders.

If in this scenario, an employee makes a mistake, they will fear to tell their bosses about the said mistake because of the fear of scrutiny. 

So, what’s the better approach?

In a workplace that promotes psychological welfare and psychological safety, bosses don’t behave like they hold power. The power dynamics within such a workplace requires the job getting done rather than having someone to do it. Members in such a workplace understand their responsibilities and aim in achieving the goal rather than involve in a hierarchy. Here, the hierarchy serves them no purpose. 

Bosses embrace failure in this kind of scenario—this does not mean they want the employees to fail all the time, but they are aware that failure is a part of the entire process. They encourage employees to learn from their failures and assist in creating an atmosphere where failure is alright as long as people learn something from it and move forward. In this atmosphere, no one is afraid of taking risks because taking risks is essential for growth.

This level of open communication with the employees caters to the boss’s own abilities as a potential leader. 

They’ve made a space for their employees to work in harmony and achieve results rather than focus on making the right move with one another and are bridled with fear. With psychological safety in the workplace comes results, better communication, and a better workplace overall. 

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