Psychological Safety in Pasifika Workplaces? Why Is It Important?

Do you feel that you can safely contribute your thoughts and opinions about how to improve performance in the office? Do you have to mentally prepare yourself before answering any questions at work?

If you feel smothered mentally and physically drained at work, the chances are that your work environment lacks psychological safety. 

This is part one of a three part series that will dive into Psychological safety and its importance in the Pasifika workplace. The second part will discuss strategies that encourage the above concept while part three will be on tips on how to cope in an environment that is not psychologically safe.

Psychological Safety? 

Anthropologists and historians still wonder how our ancestors created works like the great double-hulled canoes and beautiful Lapita pottery in a world that was constantly at war with each other.

The answer is that the artisans only worked their craft when they were assured by their patron chief that all was safe and sound in the world. They were able to create masterpieces that still survive to this day, showcasing their talents and experience.

That concept of being able to tap into your artistry because you feel safe still holds true today! 

Timothy Clark created a 4 stage framework that defined psychological safety as 

A condition in which human beings feel (1) included, (2) safe to learn, (3) safe to contribute, (4) safe to challenge the status quo – without feeling fear of being embarrassed, marginalized, or punished in some way. 

Being in an environment where you feel appreciated for your work is such a great place to be in right? Wouldn’t you be willing to come to work every day if you were able to contribute to the progress of the team?

Importance?

Psychological safety is the most studied enabling concept in research on team dynamics and group learning. This is because of the immense importance that this concept has on the effectiveness and performance of these teams. 

Here are some benefits that psychological safety brings to organizations and teams. 

Team Innovation Dramatically Increases

Just like the master craters of old, who created our culturally significant art, having the reassurance of safety allowed them to become innovators.

From boat builders that increased their seafaring abilities by introducing double-hulled canoes – to the artists that drew beautiful stories and designs across tapa, these men and women were able to do that because they experienced psychological safety!

Increased Learning Through Making Mistakes

In class I would always felt a sense of dread whenever my teachers asked a question. Even if I thought I knew the correct answer, I would wish that I had the ability to shrink. If the teacher asked if there were any questions, the answer would always be a loud No!

I sometimes think back to these moments and realize that I would have probably learnt much better if I made mistakes in the classroom or acknowledged that the whole lesson had flown way above my head! 

Why did I feel like this? 

Because I did not want to embarrass myself if I gave the wrong answer or worse…feel the wrath of the teacher! 

But imagine if you were in a classroom where mistakes were encouraged? How much more snippets of information could you have grasped? How much better would you have understood math concepts? 

Being able to make mistakes AND learn from these mistakes greatly increases the potential for learning. 

Positive Employee Engagement 

Your team is stumped by a problem and you think you have a solution. It turns out that though your actual idea didn’t work, modifications on it allowed for a breakthrough. Your contribution was recognized and everyone celebrated the win! 

Wouldn’t you feel more engaged with the team now than before? Wouldn’t fear of being called out lessen after this example? 

If you’re like me then the answer to both questions is a big YES! 

The level for employee engagement increases dramatically when members feel psychologically safe with their teams. Even members that are high introverts are more likely to contribute more in this sort of environment. 

The list of benefits goes on and on! 

Having a psychologically safe environment within teams and organizations is such a crucial component of highly effective teams. Being able to feel included, to learn, to contribute and to challenge the status quo increases team innovation and learning while also ensuring more positive engagement with team members! 

But how do you cultivate this in your organization? In the next post we will delve into strategies that stimulate an environment of psychological safety. 

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