On the manufacturing floor, you probably take steps to protect your employees from physical harm, like offering safety training on certain equipment or having clearly marked emergency exits. But are you doing enough to ensure psychological safety for your team, too?

What Is Psychological Safety?

The term “psychological safety” was first coined by Harvard business professor and author Amy Edmonson. She defines psychological safety as creating a workplace climate where everyone feels safe enough to share their thoughts or voice concerns. In a psychologically safe workplace, everyone feels comfortable sharing their perspectives and learning from others. Employees also know they won’t be punished for asking questions, sharing ideas, or expressing a concern.
For an example of a psychological safe workplace, imagine one of your team members comes to you to say they’re struggling to keep up with a new system. Do you

    1. Tell them to deal with it and get back to work?
    2. Listen to their concerns and ask questions to understand their perspective?

If your answer is #1, you might not have a sense of psychological safety in your organization, because your team members don’t feel like they can speak up and get help. On the other hand, leaders whose behavior lines up with answer #2 are more likely to have a happier, safer workplace.

The Workplace Benefits of Psychological Safety

As a leader, it can be difficult to tone down your ego, change your mindset, and become comfortable with a workplace where everyone expresses their opinions. Creating psychological safety in the workplace has many benefits for your organization, your team, and even your leadership. When employees feel safe and secure at your organization, it leads to:

  • Higher productivity
  • Reduced turnover
  • Increased employee engagement.

This is because employees value organizations where they’re heard, valued, and supported. If they can show up at work knowing they can safely voice concerns or share ideas, they’re more likely to bring their all to the manufacturing floor every day.

For an Example, Just Look at Volkswagen!

To see the potential consequences of a lack of psychological safety, look no further than 2015’s “Dieselgate,” or the Volkswagen emissions scandal. The issues began when employees at Volkswagen were told to improve emissions reports. If the reports didn’t improve by a certain time, the employees were told them would be punished or fired. Feeling pressured and threatened, the Volkswagen went on to falsify the improved emission reports. This caused major financial problems for Volkswagen and their consumers, affecting millions of vehicles and tarnishing their reputation as a brand.
While they were probably many factors at play during Dieselgate, it’s a perfect example of psychological safety. If the employees felt safer and more secure in their workplace, they might have asked questions or voiced concerns, rather than feeling like they had to perform well or lose their jobs.

The First Steps Toward Creating Psychological Safety

If you’re ready to learn more about psychological safety, turn to the expert and check out The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth by Amy Edmonson! You can learn more in my recent book review here.