Have you ever gotten mixed messages from someone at work? You know, like when your boss says:
"Hey, bring your ideas! We really want to innovate and get some new initiatives going here!"
Then . . . when you share your ideas, they're dismissed or ignored. Talk about mixed signals!
That doesn't feel good. And it certainly doesn't create an environment where people feel inspired to bring more of their ideas.
There’s been a lot of talk about Google's study on psychological safety - a term coined by Amy Edmondson - but most people don’t fully understand what psychological safety is. Sometimes the best way to show what something is, is to show what it isn't. So when you bring your ideas, these responses are NOT psychological safety:
"Yeah, but…. that's not really the direction we need to go."
"Yeah, but, ugh, we just don't have the budget for that.”
"I've tried that somewhere else. It flopped.”
“That's not going to work here.”
"Not really what we're looking for. Anybody else have an idea?"
What do you think when you hear things like this? After hearing all of this, how likely are you to share your ideas next time? And most importantly, who loses in this scenario?
You do, sure. But the company does too. With leaders actively discouraging ideas, innovation comes to a standstill. Employees don’t feel like what they have to offer is valued. And eventually, they leave or disengage.
On a scale of 1-10, if you have to be operating at a 6 (at minimum) to not get fired? Well, this kind of environment leaves you with people working at a 6.1, just barely enough to stay under the radar.
Does this sound familiar to you?
What if the manager reacted differently to all those ideas he’d asked for?
“That's really an interesting idea.”
"Tell me more about that.”
"How did you come to that conclusion?”
"How do you think that would impact these other parts of the organization?"
"Oh, what if we took that idea and added this to it?"
Reactions like this, that honor the contributions people have made, spark an inspiring conversation that encourages new thinking.
What are the things you're doing in your organization to create trust and safety for other people, so that they want to be invested in their work? Because at the end of the day people want to feel excited about what they're doing and to know that what they're doing makes a difference.
If you want to talk more about how to create a psychologically safe workplace, let’s talk.
Katie is a Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator and Executive Coach.