Leadership Tips to Enhance Psychological Safety in the Workplace


Welcome to part 2 of 3 of our Psychological Safety blog series.  Last week we focus on Psychologicalpsychological-safety-in-the-workplace Safety in the Workplace: Impact Leaders Have on Culture. Today we will dive back into the discussion on practical actions leaders can take to enhance psychological safety in the workplace. Remember to take the self-assessment linked at the end of the blog if you haven’t done so already.

1) Self-aggrandizing

Humility, authenticity, and transparency are some of the most important and sought-after leadership traits that not only drive great business results but also support an environment of psychological safety. Leaders who brag about themselves and make themselves the center of the universe with their big personalities just don’t make it anymore. Too often, self-aggrandizing ends up being perceived as bullying and will certainly disrupt an environment of psychological safety.

Action and Resolutions: Gather real and open feedback about how you come across to others in terms of the way you do (or don’t) self-aggrandize. The results of your self-assessment may surprise you - you probably do it more than you think. Reflect on the things you say about yourself and the way you speak them. The bottom line is that as a leader, it should never be just about you and your accomplishments. Just before the holiday break, I was conducting a training session for emerging leaders when one of the mentors of the program shared something that I think is an important note for leaders to remember - “When things go wrong, you must take responsibility and figure out how to make them better. When things go well, it’s because of what everyone else did right.”

2) Unnecessary Micromanaging

Micromanaging is a negative term used to refer to a management style. It is defined as a pattern of managerial behaviors characterized by excessive supervision and control of employees’ work and processes, as well as a limited delegation of tasks or decisions to staff. Micromanagers typically avoid giving decision-making power to their employees while being generally overly obsessed with the details and giving direct orders.

Several tools in the leadership development marketplace like Blanchard’s Situational Leadership II provide context and offer approaches to being an effective leader, underlining when being directive and managing every detail is imperative. It also shares when being over-directive is ineffective. One of the worst things a leader can do is micromanage others unnecessarily because it breaks the environment of psychological safety and causes people to disengage.

A challenge all leaders face is not consciously knowing that they are being a micromanager!

Action and Resolutions: Truly seek out feedback from your peers and direct reports on your leadership style; ask them directly if they feel you are micromanaging. But don’t stop there because you can’t. Ask for examples and insights because, at some point, you will have to discern whether you really are micromanaging or the proactive and directive actions are critical to the situation.

3) Open Distrust

There may be no worse feeling in a business environment than not being trusted by the people you work with, especially your manager. The breakdown of psychological safety is further accelerated if the distrust is unfounded. As a leader, establishing a relationship of trust is the most basic pillar of success. If you are overly cautious and suspicious, you may be presenting yourself as a leader who doesn’t trust others. Be very careful and think about how you portray yourself to the people you work with in terms of your trust level.

Action and Resolutions: Look at the results of the self-assessment reflection exercise and see if there is work to do (I’d be surprised if there isn’t), then build yourself an action plan on how you are going to start to be more trusting.

As a side note, during your assessment, you might have identified several critical relationships where the trust is irrevocably broken. It may be a good idea to build a separate plan for how you are going to fix them as well.

Take our Quick Self-Assessment

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Robert Brodo

About The Author

Robert Brodo is co-founder of Advantexe. He has more than 20 years of training and business simulation experience.