safe space

How To Create a Safe Space For Your Team

Table of Contents

You’ve probably heard about the concept of a safe space. Would you be able to describe what it is with confidence though? It’s one of those terms that comes with nuances and complexities, so hesitating is normal. However, it’s crucial to understand what creating a safe space entails so that you can foster the right environment for your team. Creating a safe physical safe is important, of course. But things get a little more nebulous when it comes to psychological safety. 

Professor Amy C. Edmonson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School, is known for her groundbreaking research on psychological safety. She defines it as “a belief that one will not be punished for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes, and that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.” 

“Psychologically safe work environments are ones where people show up each day feeling welcome and encouraged to interact among the team, even if they are different (or have different opinions or ideas) from other members of the workforce. People aren’t afraid that something they say or do will have a direct negative impact on their reputation or potentially result in disciplinary action or termination, says Eric Mochnacz, a senior consultant at the HR firm Red Clover HR.  

The benefits of creating safe spaces at work 

According to him, the benefits of a psychologically safe environment include increased engagement and productivity – byproducts of the free exchange of ideas and diversity of thought in the team. 

Additionally, when you create a safe space for your team, you’re sending the message that it’s acceptable to be yourself. This fosters deeper engagement, trust and connection. “If we dig a little deeper, a psychologically safe environment allows people to be their true selves – and express themselves in a way aligned with their identity (whether it be racial identity, nationality, sexual or gender identity) without fear of reprisal or impact on their employment,” says Mochnacz. Utilizing event management software can further enhance this transparency, keeping everyone informed and engaged with up-to-date scheduling and notifications for all company events and meetings.

“People can show up to work as their true selves and feel like they are respected and valued by their peers – and even if they may not fully understand each other – there is a commitment from leadership and their colleagues to continue to learn from others’ perspectives.” 

Creating a safe space for your team 

Here are the guiding principles to embrace for creating a safe space for your team. 

Establish core values and walk your talk 

In a strong team, there are shared values. For example, your team may prioritize creativity and adaptability. Those values act as a compass that informs the actions of team members. And there is comfort in knowing that they exist. 

“Core values should guide every decision you make as a business. They outline the behavior you expect from everyone at every level of the organization. Generally, core values are incredibly positive, and when there is buy-in across the organization, you have a more positive work environment,” according to Mochnacz. 

“When people can predict positive behavior and assume good intentions because their colleagues are treating each other and making decisions with core values in mind, it creates a certain level of psychological safety.” 

It’s important to walk your talk though. You don’t want to say that you value transparency and withhold crucial information from your team, for instance. 

Prioritize transparent communication 

Speaking of which, transparent communication is essential in a safe workspace. “Business leaders may not be able to share everything with employees, but if they focus on transparently and directly communicating anything in the business that will impact the employees, the company builds trust,” says Mochnacz. 

He adds that a transparent environment means that employees won’t panic when they get a Friday afternoon meeting randomly booked on their calendar or when their boss swings by their cubicle for a quick chat. Their first thought isn’t, “I am getting fired today.” Which is exactly what you want to be aiming for when creating a safe space. 

Keep in mind that the way leaders interact with each other plays a big role in fostering that sense of transparency. “The way leaders treat and communicate with each other has an impact on how safe employees at every level of the organization chart feel,” adds Mochnacz. 

Increase mistake tolerance

Normalize mistakes and you’ll create a safer space. Employees become more confident in sharing transparently and making decisions when they embrace the fact that making mistakes is expected, says Douglas Ferguson, the president and founder of Voltage Control, a facilitation agency that promotes meaningful workplace engagement: “Mistake tolerance gives employees room to learn and encourages and unleashes everyone. This creates an atmosphere of psychological safety where experimentation is innovative.” 

Lead with humanity 

Caring about creating a safe space for your team is a powerful first step in itself. You can’t fake caring – leading with humanity and nurturing relationships in the workplace goes a long way when it comes to fostering a psychologically safe environment. 

“Leaders should set an example in building good workplace relationships. They should forget about titles and hierarchy for a moment and interact with teammates more personally. By doing so, they influence others to look at one another as people, not roles. Creating a human-centered workplace unlocks potential and allows for innovation and sustainable solutions,” says Ferguson. 

Remember that psychological safety – or a lack of it – usually trickles down from the top of an organization. Remain committed to doing your part. 

Want to spread the word?
Share on social

Get started with Hive

Test Hive out with a 2 week free trial.