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Psychological Safety – What’s the Cost?

Last year, Gallup reported that less than 15% of U.S. employees were actively engaged in their work. Deloitte says 60% of employees report bias, and 84% believe it negatively affects their happiness, confidence, and well-being. This belief can create a base for fear of not meeting expectations, self-defined beliefs, and creating a feeling of being "stuck."

The Great Resignation is proof; we have work to do. Why would so many feel employees feel the need to leave the workforce? Do your employees feel undervalued?

Amy Edmonson's work states that employees worry about how they are perceived, where fear drives decisions. Whether they are good or bad, it's a decision they feel is the best one considering the situation. The is giving rise to great resignation, or the Great Tsunami.

If psychological safety was a primary strategy for companies, positively the economic impact could be staggering. The number one reason people stay or people leave is culture. Beliefs define culture. Thoughts come out of our experiences, creating a narrative and a basis for our decisions. These beliefs may isolate us and create fear for any next step and resentment for where they end up. Instead of staying, many feel the only way out is if they leave, even though they love their job.

My recent Women of Color Diagnostic Thinking pilot shared they have to act "white" to be successful or act like their boss to be accepted and not challenge the status quo for fear of not getting hired or labeled the "angry black woman." These statements are not just beliefs but real-life experiences. Many Latina, Asia, and Indian women make up one-third of white men, and white women make about fifty percent less than most white men, yet are fearful of asking for what they want. There's no psychological safety for most people for sharing ideas or even knowing how to ask for what they want. How can we turn this ship?

If you suffer from fear-based narratives about your work or personal life, it may be because you have never experienced psychological safety. Once you have experienced the benefits of psychological safety, you find trust, community, connection, and a deep feeling of being a contributor. As a leader, you can gift that as inspiration for those you lead vs. just managing the role.

How do you determine you have psychological safety in your organization?

  1. What is your rate of turnover?

  2. What are the costs for rehiring?

  3. What is the cost/day for projects when teams are not collaborating well?

  4. Our managers put into management positions based on their performance as an individual.

  5. Do you invest in the personal development of your managers and employees, and is it moving the needle for company performance?

  6. Is the rallying cry for your company's performance focused on revenue or the employees' ideas for change?

  7. Is diversity reflective of your employee base?

  8. Is your DE&I program successful? What are you measuring?

Psychological safety is not easy for a company to create when it's made from within since most employees don't trust their senior leadership team. Perceptual blind spots can sabotage the best intent for an excellent outcome, and others may see safety differently. Having an outside consultant can be very helpful in creating psychological safety, creating an agile organization, and retaining your high performers. It is a game-changer.

Dina Readinger’s forty-year career in corporate America led her to create a powerful and undeniable system, Diversity Diagnostic Leadership Systems, which helps employers create psychological safety, and a process for retaining key employees, and developing empathetic leaders. Dina is a speaker, author (Book Release Summer 2022), certified team and leadership coach, specializing in change management. She has a BS in Biology & Chemistry, Nuclear Medicine, and EMBA from Washington University, St. Louis, MO.

Phone: 314-550-2477

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