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5 Ways to Promote Emotional Safety in the Workplace

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Do you feel anxious while getting ready to go to work, uncomfortable expressing your emotions and opinions? Or perhaps you feel left out because of a lack of close relationships with your coworkers? These are just some of the feelings you may come up against during your years in the workforce. Unhappiness, fear, or unwillingness to go to work can all be symptoms of a toxic work culture. Emotional safety in the workplace is easy to overlook as it’s not something that’s obvious to all. This is why so many companies are now focused on fostering a positive work culture, building a sense of community and working towards a collective well-being, that will strengthen the emotional safety of the workplace.

In 2017, Gallup research found that a focus on increasing emotional safety in the workplace makes staff feel more engaged in their job and can lead to a 12% boost in productivity. In 2015, Google studied their employees and looked into “what makes a good team”, they discovered that “emotional safety” was the most significant factor in a team’s performance.

So, what exactly is “Emotional Safety?”

Emotional safety is having the mental security and comfort to communicate your feelings at work, with your co-workers, bosses, and others. The ability to openly communicate discomfort, profound ideas, and personal insecurities without being punished or humiliated. It is one’s level of trust in others, regardless of their position in the hierarchy, or popularity. It’s about knowing that you will be appreciated for who you are rather than for what you’ve done.

Every organisation should move towards making emotional safety a part of their daily work culture as it can lead to higher levels of engagement, increased motivation to solve difficult problems, more opportunities for growth and development, and improved performance of employees. It takes effort to create an “emotionally safe” environment for employees, but it doesn’t require any expensive training, it’s all about “care, support, and consistency”.

To help you get started, we have compiled a list of five ways to promote emotional safety in your workplace.

1. Be Empathetic

Encourage open communication in the workplace and make an effort to address issues such as employee burnout, anxiety, and depression. Employees must believe that their emotional well-being is supported, and that they will not be stigmatised for expressing themselves, as some employees feel isolated and disconnected, due to a lack of social interaction and healthy relationships with co-workers, which can affect their mental health.

2. Encourage Risk-taking

Give employees the autonomy to complete their tasks and let them make sound decisions as per their own understanding. Provide them with challenging and fulfilling opportunities that gets them out of their comfort zone. Make employees feel comfortable when discussing their incomplete work or failed initiatives as it will help them to learn and work closely with others in further development. Emotional safety is all about ensuring that employees feel safe and comfortable discussing anything from accomplishments to areas of improvement.

3. No-blame Culture

In many companies, employees are most afraid of being held responsible if a project or decision goes wrong. A “no-blame” work culture is one where employees feel safe from being blamed, and instead are supported in finding a solution.

4. Promote Active Listening

According to a Gallup report, only 30% of employees in the United States believe their opinions count at work. In a study by the International Journal of Business Communication, 91% of employees considered active listening essential to their work satisfaction as active listening in the workplace fosters trust and empathy. Managers must devote time and resources to connect with their employees, hear their opinions, and encourage input. Everyone likes to be heard, and by doing so you are showing the team that you’re invested in their success and growth, and encouraging your employees to continue to share in the future. 

5. Set an Example

Managers should hold themselves to a higher degree of transparency and optimism in the workplace. If you make a mistake in front of your team, don’t be scared to admit it. It will encourage others to accept their mistakes and feel emotionally secure rather than being judged for admitting them. The most powerful technique for building an emotionally secure workplace is to teach employees to embrace failure and learn from their mistakes. By encouraging a learning mindset employees will feel empowered to take more risks and try new ways of working.

Focusing on employee’s emotional safety is more essential than ever in today’s world. For companies incorporating an emotional safety culture can enhance their workplace by fostering trust and a sense of belonging, as well as boosting the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of the employees.

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