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The Growth and Nuances of Psychological Safety

At Aristotle Performance, we have been a part of the journey--bringing psychological safety into organizations has definitely changed over time. 

Initially, it was an uphill battle. 

Many organizations were unaware of it, but now the challenges we are facing are a bit different; now the challenge lies in addressing the misconception that people think they understand it fully when really, they often do not. 

This shift has led to a trend of "integrating" psychological safety into organizational programs. Sometimes it's done well, other times... well, it's not done well and in fact leads to more damage. 

Statistics from Harvard Business Review reveal that 70% of employees report experiencing psychological safety issues in the workplace, with 31% citing fear of retribution as a barrier to speaking up. To counteract this, some organizations are increasingly adopting embedded programs focusing on things like modeling behavior and conflict resolution as collaboration. However, according to Deloitte, only 23% of organizations have a formal strategy for addressing psychological safety...Yikes!

Unlike physical safety, which has clear goals and costs, psychological safety carries a lot more nuance. 

While the consequences of physical safety seem obvious now, the consequences of a lack of psychological safety still may not seem as obvious. These consequences for lacks of psychological safety can include decreased productivity, increased turnover rates, and damaged trust. 

Studies by Google estimate that companies with high levels of psychological safety experience a 12% increase in productivity. However, when we identify and quantify these costs and benefits it requires a deeper understanding about the actual focus, psychological safety, while also requiring specialized training programs to see that it is actually understood.

The comparison between physical and psychological safety is rarely discussed, at least to my research. 

As mentioned, while the goal of physical safety is quite obvious–at its most basic, avoiding injury – psychological safety involves more complexities that are not always as out-right and obvious. For example, while the costs of physical safety incidents are easily measurable in terms of lost productivity, revenue, and trust, quantifying the costs of psychological safety missteps--such as decreased innovation or stifled creativity--can be more challenging to capture in statistics.

Yet, lots of the current leadership training available overlooks crucial skills like self-awareness and group dynamics. According to a survey done by McKinsey, only 18% of leadership development programs focus on building emotional intelligence. Only 18%! 

We know though, to fulfill the potential of psychological safety, there is a need for character-building opportunities and training that focuses on self-awareness, courage, and understanding group dynamics.

As organizations strive to create more psychologically safe environments, there is growing recognition of the need for programs that address some of these misconceptions all while building essential skills. If organizations start investing in such initiatives, they can reach new heights of potential of their workforce all while driving sustainable success. 

By integrating psychological safety research into on-the-ground training, a shift in organizational culture can help lay the groundwork for a healthier and more productive workplace. 

If you're curious about the how, that's where we come in. Make sure to reach out to us at Aristotle Performance to learn more about how to integrate psychological safety into your organizational framework. 

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