"The behaviors that create psychological safety — conversational turn-taking and empathy — are part of the same unwritten rules we often turn to, as individuals, when we need to establish a bond. And those human bonds matter as much at work as anywhere else. In fact, they sometimes matter more.” – The New York Times
The key to an optimal work environment? According to Google it’s psychological safety. Now before you get all worked up about this generation being "soft”, hear them out. Do you remember that trust fall activity you did at summer camp and theatre classes when you were young? Nothing says team building like falling back-first into someone’s arms that you’ve just met moments ago. If you remember that, then you certainly remember hitting the ground when your partner fell through on their part. Lack of psychological safety is a bit like that.
Psychological safety goes deeper than trust though. It’s about having the space to ask necessary questions that help you do your job without fear of looking incompetent or being judged. Google found that “the safer team members feel with one another, the more likely they are to admit mistakes, to partner, and to take on new roles.” We’re always looking to level up and one of the best ways we know how is by risk taking. If you’re never risking failure, you’re never growing.
“Twenty-first-century success depends on… the broaden-and-build mode of positive emotion, which allows us to solve complex problems and foster cooperative relationships.” – Harvard Business Review
When faced with provocation in the workplace, our amygdala lights up our brain and gives us that primal fight-or-flight response. When the amygdala lights up, we are unable to access the more complex thinking processes that are so crucial to fully analyzing our responses. When we feel safe and our brains signal us to stay at ease, we can access the more advanced processes and build our work relationships, whilst problem solving effectively. We can take risks because we will be able to bypass the fight-or-flight and move into what HBR calls the “broaden-and-build” mode of positive emotion.
So how do we access this safety? Sounds like a dream, right?
See negotiations as mutually beneficial. Negotiations aren’t about winners and losers, they’re about creating a favorable outcome for both sides. Approach conflict in this way. After all, you should see your workplace, counterpart, and yourself on an even playing field.
Get curious. Drop your defenses. Know that you know how to do your job and do it well and then ask the important questions from there. Once you can let go of feeling like you have something to prove, you can effectively take risks.
It’s just a job. This seems obvious, but knowing that you’re doing the best you can and that it’s only a job can help more than you think. If you can remember that everyone else is just trying to do their work effectively, you can remember that people are just like you and just trying to do their job.