You experience work on three basic levels. You have:
- an organizational experience
- a team experience (and perhaps more than one different team experiences)
- an individual experience
Happiness at Work is a ‘big picture’ experience
You no doubt have a view on the organization that employs you. And that view is based on your experience of various key features of it. For example, the level of Trust that you have in your organization, the Recognition that you get from your organization for the job you do every day and your sense of Pride in your organization. These are the three overarching elements of your Happiness at Work.
The organization’s Purpose and the meaning that you derive from that Purpose are also part of your overall experience of working for this organization. As is your view of its senior leadership team, their Vision and Strategy for this organization.
Psychological safety plays a vital contributory role to your Happiness at Work. But Happiness at Work is a larger concept than psychological safety. It spans your individual mindset, your relationship with your role, your team and your organization. Think of it like a panoramic view.
Our Quick iOpener Survey (QiS) results, from research carried out in February 2021, indicate how small progressive steps in psychological safety have a direct, positive impact on your reported happiness at work.
If you’d like to get your own Happiness at Work assessment, you can access the iPPQ Happiness at Work survey free of charge at the moment.
Register here and you will receive your unique link to take the iPPQ within one working day. Once completed, you will be emailed your nine-page comprehensive report explaining the things that matter most to your levels of happiness at work as well as some self-coaching questions particular to your score.
The team perspective
At any point in time, on your team, you are collectively shaping a micro-culture that determines how your team performs. If you are also the leader of this micro-culture, your behaviour has a greater impact over the individual behaviours of the team members. But its culture is the sum of the individual ways in which all its members show up on this team and thus is dependent on everyone.
The four progressive steps to optimizing psychological safety are explained here. When focussing in high definition on the dynamic workings of your team, you want to be able to spot daily examples of co-belonging, co-learning, co-collaborating and co-progressing that define a thriving micro-culture. This optimal team psychological safety leads to commitment, high performance and innovation.
The opposite would be a fearful team that team members long to leave. There’s a number of reasons why this can happen. They and their unique talents don’t feel valued. There’s a notable lack of empathy for one another. Language is harsh and unforgiving. The voice climate of this team is quiet, perhaps silent. No-one dares to put their head above the parapet to speak with candour. Learned helplessness seeps into its fabric.
We’ve been referencing this Cost of Misery for many years at iOpener, when analysing Happiness at Work data from our iPPQ survey. Seldom calculated, this cost of misery includes poor performance, mistakes, project failures, sick leave, relationship breakdowns, poor communication, attrition rate, replacement recruitment costs, on-boarding expenses and more.
Our case studies prove how building increased team psychological safety and happiness results in greater efficiency and effectiveness, to the extent that previous estimations of additional human resource needs were no longer required.
A new consideration for teams to navigate
Team psychological safety has just got a whole lot trickier.
The Covid-19 pandemic has fuelled increased employee anxiety. Whether working remotely, being furloughed, or having to accept reduced hours and pay cuts, anxieties stemming from loneliness, lack of connection with colleagues, friends and family, financial predicaments and future uncertainty have been running high.
In Working from Home and Hybrid Work arrangements, employees and particularly team leaders now have added considerations to navigate when it comes to establishing psychological safety; employees’ personal circumstances.
Formerly less likely to be part of everyday conversations, now the declaration and consideration of personal circumstances have to be handled with care. In HBR article, “What Psychological Safety looks Like in a Hybrid Workplace”, Amy Edmondson and Mark Mortenson write, “Having psychologically safe discussions around work-life balance issues is challenging because these topics are more likely to touch on deep-seated aspects of employees’ identity, values, and choices. This makes them both more personal and riskier from legal and ethical standpoints with respect to bias.”
Ensure that everyone on your team understands that every single team member has been affected in different ways by the pandemic. No assumptions can be made. Some people will talk more openly about their 2020-21 experiences. Others will choose not to and may feel vulnerable and exposed to do so.
Normalizing a full spectrum of emotions - whether you’re privy to personal circumstances or not - is the way forward for a more supportive team environment. As Susan David, Professor at Harvard, says, “Research now shows that the radical acceptance of all our emotions - even the messy, difficult ones - is the cornerstone to resilience, thriving and true authentic happiness.”
Psychological safety as a source of collective resilience
Consider promoting greater psychological safety as a buffer that withstands challenges to you and your team members’ wellbeing.
What has been clear from iOpener’s research findings is that when employees have accrued a collective sense of psychological safety over time, they fare better through the tough times. They sustain greater resilience, operate at higher levels of performance and drive creativity and innovation.
At iOpener, we believe that your resilience at work is a collective concept. You’ll have worked that out for yourself whether you’ve felt well supported or poorly supported by your colleagues through Coronavirus times. This team resilience is closely related to the psychological safety of your team.
The close-up individual perspective: You
Whether you have given it thought or not, you have a personal brand that tells your colleagues what and how you contribute on your team as well as interpersonally with each individual team member. Although one could say that your reputation is owned by others, remember that you have absolute agency over your personal team-player brand. The way you behave and interact with your team members is a vital component of your living brand.
Over time though, your experience of some or all of your team members may influence positive or negative responses in the way you behave within the team. And their experiences of you and others may also shift their interactive behaviours too. And so, your collective experiences create positive or negative movements in psychological safety. This constant undulation requires an avid focus from your team members on how all of your words, behaviours and actions are affecting one another.
What is your personal team-player brand?
Here are seven questions to consider when considering how to model good Psychological Safety enabling behaviours for others.
Are you …
1. mindful of how others are doing?
2. treating everyone on your team equally well?
3. showing vulnerability and humility at times?
4. listening to others’ suggestions with an open mind and signalling curiosity?
5. showing yourself willing to learn from others?
6. praising effort as well as results and expressing appreciation to your team members?
7. putting the topic of Psychological Safety on the table, for team discussion and improvement?
To receive iOpener’s infographic on Psychological Safety and keep up to date on our latest QiS results by email, please fill in your details here.
If you’d like to schedule a chat about how our workshop “Growing Your Team’s Psychological Safety”, please contact iOpener here or email firstname.lastname@example.org