How to Ensure Psychological Safety in the Workplace

If your workplace had no safety railings across high walkways, no requirement for personal protective equipment around hazardous substances, and no proper procedures to dispose of biohazards, you’d file a report with OSHA right away. Such flagrant violations of worker safety laws cannot go ignored.

However, for all our zeal in protecting the physical safety of our workers, we as a nation suffer from a woeful lack of psychological safety measures. As a business owner, how can you ensure the mental health of your workers? What is your expected level of care? Here’s what you need to know.

First, What Is Psychological Safety?

Before we dive into what you need to do to establish psychological safety, let’s first discuss what it means. This article by Timothy Clark of LeaderFactor discusses it in further detail, but to somewhat summarize: Psychological safety is the sense of security and reassurance that you can speak up and ask for help when needed.

It’s the sense of being able to offer criticism of higher-ups or raise issues without fear of punishment. The certainty that one mistake won’t have your job on a silver platter.

What Are Some Common Psychological Hazards?

Due to our culture’s lack of emphasis on mental health for workers, many psychological safety hazards go unchecked in the workplace. Some of the most common hazards that can lead to mental illness in your workers include:

  • Fostering an environment of cutthroat competition
  • Demonstrating that you do not and cannot accept feedback
  • Lacking empathy for extenuating circumstances outside the workplace
  • Harsh punishment of first-time mistakes (or any mistakes at all)
  • Allowing discrimination to persist in any form

If you’ve read over this list and felt your stomach drop, then you might need to re-evaluate your policies and procedures. Potential labor rights issues aside, if your workers feel unsafe or unable to trust you, then they won’t work to their full potential.

What Can You Do to Minimize Risk and Damage?

Now that you understand what psychological safety is and what might interfere with it, let’s talk about what you can do to minimize risk to your workers. Some common steps you can take to support your workers include:

  • Normalize being vulnerable about workload and work stress
  • Open dialogues with your workers to check on their mental health
  • Try to see mistakes as learning opportunities for yourself and your team, rather than deliberate attempts at sabotage
  • Train on both the individual and team levels

If you take these steps, you can be sure that your team will come to you if they have issues with the work or their fellow workers.

Let’s Review the Facts

Psychological safety is critical to good work performance and a cornerstone of the new era in the fight for workers’ rights. If workers don’t feel safe opening up to their coworkers or higher-ups, it can lead to serious mental health issues in the long run. 

Looking for more tips to help your business remain psychologically safe? Then check out our blog each day for more helpful articles like this.