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Workplace safety has been a serious concern since the industrial revolution prompted workers to form unions and demand better and safer working conditions. Because risks to physical safety were typically industry specific, industries developed regulations independent of each other, and unions rose to prominence to focus on enforcing those regulations.
In 1970, the U.S. passed the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act to pass, regulate, and maintain standards and regulations, so physical safety has been a top priority for organizations for many decades. However, the same can’t be said for psychological safety, which we’re examining today.
As mentioned above, organizations across the country place a high priority on physical safety as evidenced by regularly scheduled safety meetings and well-defined measurable safety practices. Recently, there has also been a greater emphasis on wellness in terms of how we practice healthy habits to enjoy better physical and mental health.
However, the most significant contributor to workplace safety and wellness—known as psychological safety—has yet to be fully addressed. This is because the concept of psychological safety is too often thought to be some kind of touchy-feely idea that doesn’t contribute to an organization’s bottom line.
Unfortunately, this belief is sadly misguided and is regularly contributing to low employee engagement scores, undesirable turnover, and apathetic workers who turn to unions who they believe will force their employers to make them feel psychologically safe.
So, what exactly is psychological safety and why does it matter? In its simplest form, psychological safety is what an employee believes is true about their workplace that inspires them to be the best employee they can possibly be—with the best interests of their employer and their employer’s customers in mind.
This belief is established when the day-to-day environment in the workplace reflects the four stages that humans progress through in order to be fully invested. These stages are outlined below.
Effective managers know how to manage and lead. This dual skill set is instrumental in creating a workplace where employees feel psychologically safe and driven to support their organization’s mission and values. These manager-leaders understand that all four phases of psychological safety create an integrated system that inspires and motivates the workforce. They know they must:
Creating a culture that emphasizes psychological safety increases employee retention, reduces employee turnover, decreases physical safety incidents, increases employee engagement, strengthens teamwork and innovation, and inspires each employee to be the best contributor they can. That’s why organizations must prioritize psychological safety as much as they do physical safety—and why partners like IRI, who are well-versed in the ins and outs of workplace safety, can be helpful in making this happen.
At IRI, we are experts in leadership development, employee training, organizational communication and organizational development. We use this expertise to regularly help organizations develop and implement engaging and personalized programs to maintain and elevate company performance. If you’re interested in upleveling your organizational development strategies, contact us using the chat on the right to discuss the next steps, or give us a call at (313) 965-0350.