Psychological Safety: The Key to a Healthy Workplace Culture

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Healthy workplace culture is a prominent topic of discussion in this day and age. Equality, diversity, and communication are real issues companies have to consider when building their organizational structures.

As the founder and CEO of Impraise, I have worked with organizations that had everything from in-office gyms to pool tables. What most of these companies failed to realize is company culture starts with the employees themselves and whether or not they are motivated to create their best work. Based on my work with these organizations, I truly believe that meaningful feedback between management and their employees is the key to a pleasant and inspiring corporate culture.

Google’s 2016 study on team effectiveness, “Project Aristotle,” found that psychological safety — the feeling that team members were “safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of one another” — was a key factor in team performance. The widely accepted conclusion of Google’s research was that we spend most of our time at work, surrounded by our teams, bosses, employees, and friends. If we can’t be open and honest with each other in the office, this lack of psychological safety will affect the entire organization on a personal, cultural, and even executive level.

In my understanding, the feeling of psychological safety also helps employees shift their attention from day-to-day stresses to long-term concerns like professional development, learning, and growth. Employees can’t do that unless they receive meaningful, actionable feedback from their management. Quality feedback is part of the formula for psychological safety.

If employees don’t currently feel comfortable among their colleagues and managers, it is possible that the entire company culture needs to change. But where do you start?

My advice is to begin with quality feedback that genuinely motivates employees. As an example of how to implement such a feedback system, we can look at how my clients approach this challenge by using tools and technology that allow for 360-degree feedback in real time and on a predictable schedule.

Different from traditional feedback, 360-degree feedback is a system wherein employees receive feedback from not just their managers, but also from colleagues and subordinates. In a 360-degree feedback system, employees can have more constructive conversations with management about their performance and career goals. They can also have meaningful conversations — both related to work and not — with their fellow team members, thereby building more trust between employees.

Comfort and trust at work are the keys to a healthy workplace. If your employees experience discomfort, bad communication, or lack of constructive feedback, chances are your company’s turnover rate will increase. In my opinion, it is our job as leaders to ensure that our employees are motivated to create innovative solutions to problems and fully contribute to their teams.

Bas Kohnke is CEO at Impraise.

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Bas Kohnke is the CEO of Impraise, a web-based and mobile solution for actionable, real-time feedback at work. Impraise turns tedious annual performance reviews into an easy process by enabling users to give and receive valuable feedback in real-time and when it's most helpful. Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @baskohnke