By Art Ocain A positive work environment is all about the culture of the company, which is bolstered by the hiring and firing practices of the company, the policies of the company, and the energy and attitude of the company’s employees.
Creating Psychological Safety
A positive work environment can be created by creating psychological safety for employees. High-performing teams have a high degree of psychological safety, as they are willing to take risks, give feedback, be creative, and speak their mind (Delizonna, 2017). People who feel safe build more rewarding human relationships where empathy is more prevalent. This type of environment yields higher levels of trust, higher levels of engagement, more analytical reasoning, and more cooperative relationships, which creates positive emotions such as curiosity, confidence, and inspiration (Delizonna, 2017). A psychologically safe environment is usually free of discrimination and has a high level of diversity. People are free to ask questions and develop new ideas, behaviors, and beliefs (Edmondson &Hugander, 2021).
To create a psychologically safe environment, discrimination needs to be rooted out as it is a psychological stressor and impediment to open communication, rather than an enabler. Likewise, bullying creates an environment that is stressful, creates drama, and is in opposition to honest collaboration (Mayhew, 2018).
One way to create a psychologically safe environment is to adopt a blameless culture. Refuse to blame. Look for root causes and reasons for issues, but replace blame with curiosity (Delizonna, 2017). Employees need to be able to feel free to take risks, innovate, experiment, give feedback, and communicate freely without fear of blame.
Another way to create a psychologically safe environment is to normalize vulnerability (Edmondson &Hugander, 2021) and practice giving and receiving feedback often (Delizonna, 2017). People that are familiar with receiving feedback do not feel attacked when feedback is given to them. People that are familiar with giving feedback do not feel pressured to soften or alter their feedback, and they are free to speak honestly. It takes a lot of practice to give and receive feedback, and it should be done very often.
Creating a blameless culture and a culture that is strong at giving and receiving feedback sets a platform for psychological safety. It is important, as well, to crush office politics and office gossip that is detrimental to performance, creates cliques, and creates opposition and friction (Mayhew, 2018).
Creating Collaborative Environments Where Employees Feel Valued
Positive employees with high levels of job satisfaction feel valued and feel that they have high self-worth in the organization. They are accountable for their tasks and performance, and they are empowered to work autonomously. This concept is supported by psychological safety since they are not afraid to lose power and understand that they can make decisions as needed for their position and tasks (Wellbeing Works, n.d.). Employees should feel empowered and enabled to cooperate and collaborate as needed.
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Negative Feelings and Behaviors
Although positivity is usually preferred, it is important for people to be free to express negativity in a constructive way when they have it. People can be negative for constructive reasons. For instance, an industry expert may be highly disappointed when something is done incorrectly or falsely, and they may speak and act to correct the problem (McLeod, 2018). Sometimes they are negative when doing this and maybe angry. Imagine a doctor who is angry at an easily preventable rookie mistake made by one of her staff. This negativity needs to be channeled in a constructive way and needs to be transformed into a constructive feedback for a teachable moment. One does not blame the doctor for being negative in such a circumstance.
Since negativity can ruin trust, open lines of communication, and quality of feedback, It is important for the person experiencing negativity to be coached into transforming that negativity into something constructive that the whole team can benefit from. An open and trusting team with a culture of psychological safety should be able to help turn that person’s negativity into a fast feedback loop.
Delizonna, L. (2017, August 24). High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/08/high-performing-teams-need-psychological-safety-heres-how-to-create-it
Edmondson, A. &Hugander, P. (2021, June 22). 4 Steps to Boost Psychological Safety at Your Workplace. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2021/06/4-steps-to-boost-psychological-safety-at-your-workplace
Mayhew, R. (2018, November 28). How does behavior affect work performance? Bizfluent. https://bizfluent.com/info-8617280-behavior-affect-work-performance.html
McLeod, S. (2018). Attitudes and behaviors. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/attitudes.html
Wellbeing Works. (n.d.). Psychological Safety: Autonomy, Workload, and Job Satisfaction. Retrieved from http://well-being-works.co.uk/psychological-safety-autonomy-workload-and-job-independence/