How to Cultivate a Psychologically Safe Work Environment

Do your employees feel psychologically safe at work? On this episode of the Survive & Thrive podcast, join host Jennifer Ayres as she chats with Dr. Amber Tichenor, CEO of TO BE Coaching + Consulting. With over 20 years in organizational strategy and consulting, Amber is well versed in helping leaders cultivate a healthy work environment. She has also done extensive research on rivalry between women in the workplace.

With her background and research, Amber discusses how to identify and navigate this rivalry, as well as how to approach the organization about it. She breaks down how work cultures can either purposefully or accidentally erode psychological safety. Listen to this episode to hear what steps leaders and organizations can take to create a healthy and productive workplace.

What is Psychological Safety?

Introducing Amber (1:03)

Jennifer introduces Amber, giving a quick overview of her professional experience. Amber gives further detail on her background and why she got into organizational psychology.

Why psychological safety matters (5:14)

As Amber notes, your safety -- physical, emotional, and psychological -- has an impact on your performance. Whether because of a toxic environment, bullying coworker, or demanding boss; if you don’t feel your best, you can’t give your best.  

Female Rivalry

Female Rivalry in the Workplace (7:13)

Many work environments and HR may not know how to handle female rivalry. Unfortunately, female rivalry hurts those being targeted, the entire team and the organization. More than just a “cat fight,” this type of behavior resembles bullying and usually stems from low self-esteem. 

Women who are targeted doubt themselves. Amber advises those who are bullied to document everything, so that they have proof of their story. 

How Can Leaders Help? (12:38)

As leaders, we can mitigate this behavior. Prioritizing a healthy culture and implementing practices that support it is a great way to build bonds between peers. With training and policies, organizations can formally discourage or even punish poor behavior. Unfortunately, bullying in the workplace is more common than you may think.    

Approaching the Perpetrator (14:40)

Amber shares her advice for approaching the perpetrator before going to HR. By calming yourself, you can better discuss the issue, look inward, or even step back and find the cause of the problems. Perhaps there is a cultural difference, miscommunication or an accident. 

Cultivating Psychological Safety

Psychologically Unsafe (20:37)

Little mistakes can snowball into a toxic work environment. Exclusion, stereotyping, and overly harsh punishment can lead to a psychologically unsafe workplace. When employees feel on edge, they disengage, decrease their work efforts, take their frustrations out on customers, and leave.

Creating Safety (24:00)

In order to create a psychologically safe environment, leaders must open up communications and allow employees to be themselves. Leaders must especially allow a culture of learning by not punishing employees for honest mistakes. When people feel included and valued, they give more to their work, team, and the company. 

Final Thoughts (27:13)

Before we wrap up, Amber encourages leaders to keep their ears and minds open. To foster and maintain a healthy work environment, leaders must be willing to accept constructive criticism and implement changes.