Do your team members feel safe speaking up in hybrid work settings?
Hybrid work settings have impacted organizations in different ways. From leadership styles and work/life balance to building trust and interaction among employees and teams, we have been challenged to develop and/or expand a set of skills that allows for efficiency in this “new” work context.
How can leaders promote better team members’ interaction and effectiveness in hybrid environments? One of the strongest predictors of team effectiveness is Psychological Safety. This article will reflect on the importance of psychological safety in the hybrid workplace and how leaders can promote a safer work environment where employees have a voice and feel confident to speak their minds and contribute to building stronger and more productive teams.
The Importance of Psychological Safety for Teamwork
Psychological Safety refers to “the belief that one can speak up without the risk of punishment or humiliation.” It positively impacts the quality of decision making, interpersonal relations, innovation, group dynamics, and effectiveness in organizations.1 Employees need to know their leaders support them—and that it is safe to speak up if necessary. This perception of safety to speak up should include interactions with leaders and other members of the team. The more everyone feels they can contribute and speak their minds the more collaborative and productive teams tend to become.
A lack of Psychological Safety can have a substantial negative impact on group dynamics. Some of the drawbacks are a lack of team input or buy-in, higher turnover rates, reduction in the levels of creativity and innovation, more confusion among teams and departments, and reduction in problem-solving capacity.
Psychological Safety in a Hybrid Workplace
Hybrid work environments pose extra challenges. Employees do not necessarily have the same direct access to other team members as they would in F2F environments. The more informal interactions that take place at the office or over coffee are not usually present at a distance. The opportunities for building more comfortable relationships tend to be scarcer. The lack of day-to-day interactions makes building trust and establishing a psychologically safe environment more challenging.
Leadership Practices that Promote Psychological Safety in This Environment
Leaders can promote psychological safety in hybrid environments by intentionally implementing specific actions. Let’s discuss some of them.
Communication: Invest even more time communicating with your team members. Remote workers may feel a greater disconnect, so leaders need to set clear expectations, interact with their team members regularly, and offer frequent positive and constructive feedback. This will help them build a stronger sense of confidence. Leaders also need to promote interaction between team members, conduct team calibration through regular project check-ins, and implement course correction when necessary.
Socialization Opportunities: Provide intentional opportunities for team members to interact and listen to one another in terms of the work they need to develop and on a more personal basis. Allow time at the beginning of your meetings to catch up, actively listen to your team members, validate their accomplishments, and sympathize with difficulties they face, particularly regarding remote work. Listen to understand rather than to respond.
Personal and Professional Life: “Make staffing, scheduling, and coordination decisions that take into account employees’ personal circumstances.” Remember that boundaries between work and personal life have become blurrier in remote work contexts.
Walk the Talk: Share your vulnerabilities and constraints when navigating remote work settings. Managers need to set the tone and take these kinds of risks if they want their team members to be open about their difficulties. We are all still learning how to be most productive in this environment, and managers need to acknowledge that they don’t have a complete and error-free plan of action. If managers want their team members to be open about their difficulties, challenges, and mistakes, they need to set the tone to build this safe spot where all participants feel they can speak their minds and learn from one another. Your employees must be able to share their concerns without the fear that they will be perceived negatively by their leaders and peers.
As a leader, what have you been doing to build a psychologically safe hybrid work environment? What major problems do you feel prevent employees from speaking up in this work context?
Leader Essentials Group can help your management team devise a plan to navigate the current challenges of hybrid-work environments. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a meeting and learn more about how we can partner with you to develop and execute strategic outcomes for your organization!
Vera Alves is the Chief Consulting Officer at Leader Essentials Group, with extensive experience in leadership development and business management. With over 12 years of experience as a C-suite executive, Vera is highly skilled in the areas of leadership, strategic planning, operations management, organizational behavior, and change management. She possesses highly developed communication, training, and linguistic skills reflective of a very strong and charismatic leadership style.
_________________________________________________________________________  Edmondson, A. C., & Mortensen, M. (2021). What psychological safety looks like in a hybrid workplace. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from What Psychological Safety Looks Like in a Hybrid Workplace (hbr.org), 02/20/2022.  Dilan, E. (2021). How to create psychological safety in a hybrid work world. Forbes Coaches Council. Retrieved from How To Create Psychological Safety In A Hybrid Work World (forbes.com), 02/20/2022.