Psychological Safety

Did you ever have an experience in the workplace that didn’t sit right with you? If so, did you feel comfortable speaking up? Perhaps you had an idea about how to improve something within your organization. Did you feel confident sharing it or did you think “why bother” and keep it to yourself? Turns out, the level of psychological safety within your office often dictates the answer to these questions and the overall culture of an organization.

As I mentioned in past articles, I have recently completed a certification from Cornell University on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The course, taught by Professor Nishii, tackles the issue of employee engagement and its three components. So far, we’ve examined psychological availability and psychological meaningfulness. This month, we’ll look at the third component: psychological safety.

What Is Psychological Safety?

Organizational psychologist William Kahn, author of the 1990 study “Physical Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement at Work”, defined psychological safety as “being able to employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences to self-image, status and career”. Harvard Business School professor, Amy Edmondson, brought the idea to the masses and described it as, “a climate where people feel safe enough to take interpersonal risks by speaking up and sharing concerns, questions or ideas.” The ultimate goal is a feeling of belonging and feeling heard. And it’s something every organization should prioritize.

Why Is Psychological Safety Important?

There are few things more frustrating for team members than having an idea, suggestion or question, but not feeling able to share it or feel like anyone is listening. It not only leads to disengagement, but lowered morale, productivity and ultimately, higher turnover. On the flipside, high levels of psychological safety have shown to improve decision-making and team dynamics. When people aren’t constantly concerned about saying “the wrong thing”, organizations see greater innovation and creativity.

According to Dr. Timothy Clark in his book “The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation”, the stages are as follows:

  • Stage 1 – Inclusion Safety: a feeling of connecting and belonging
  • Stage 2 – Learner Safety: feeling safe to learn, ask questions and experiment
  • Stage 3 – Contributor Safety: feeling safe to make a valuable contribution using your skills and gifts
  • Stage 4 – Challenger Safety: feeling safe enough to challenge the status quo when you see an opportunity for change or improvement

How would you rate the level of psychological safety within your organization? Do team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas, questions and concerns or is there room for improvement? That’s where Leah M Joppy and Associates can step in and help. We can look at your current practices and help you craft new and innovative ways to communicate, problem-solve and engage with team members. This is particularly valuable for those who work from home and may feel more isolated and less engaged with day-to-day office life.

Let’s help create engagement in your organization via high levels of psychological safety. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com today.

Ideas for Improving Psychological Safety

Imagine a work environment where every team member feels comfortable sharing their opinions and ideas.

  • An environment where people feel like they can learn from their mistakes and not humiliated.
  • An environment where disagreements and open discussions are encouraged and not seen as a threat.

Perhaps you already work in an office like this and you probably feel grateful for it! However, if you’re like many, it could feel like a dream that will never come true. That’s because many organizations have difficulty developing and maintaining a strong sense of psychological safety for their team members. As we discussed in our last article, psychological safety is about being able to act and engage in a team without fear of negative consequences. It’s one of the strongest proven predictors of team effectiveness.

It takes great leadership and management to create psychological safety. But if you feel like it’s lacking in your organization, what are a few first steps you can take to improve it? Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Practice accountability and lead by example: Leaders set the tone for an organization and are responsible for the psychological safety of the workplace. Leaders should be approachable, be open to opinions that differ from their own and be willing to acknowledge their own mistakes (just to name a few).
  • Enhance communication skills: For example, ask team members directly for their thoughts and opinions. Encourage people to share by asking questions. Actively ask quieter individuals for their input. Also, practice active listening by leaving your phone on your desk during meetings and improving eye contact.
  • Hone conflict resolution skills: No one likes to deal with conflict, but when you’re leading a team, it’s inevitable. If a team member humiliates or undermines others or prevents team members from speaking up, leaders have to be ready to intervene. Just one or two negative people can really put a damper on overall company culture.
  • Foster open conversations with team members: It’s vital to pay attention to how your team operates. Do some people dominate during meetings? Are some more quiet and seem reluctant to participate? Make an effort to enable equal speaking time for everyone. A calm environment and perhaps some ice breakers are just a few ways to put everyone at ease. Team outings or even virtual hangouts can also provide an opportunity for team members to let their guard down and get to know each other better.

Saying you encourage your team to speak up and be candid is one thing, but creating a culture of trust is another. It takes care, consistency and a commitment to learning new behaviors, but the payoff is worth it! Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone.  Leah M. Joppy and Associates is ready to help with fresh ideas and strategies to help you increase psychological safety within your organization. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com and let’s start 2023 off on a productive note!

Psychological Meaningfulness

Most of us spend the majority of our week at the office, yet how many of us find our job to be meaningful? It can feel like a pipe dream to find work that makes us feel fulfilled and motivated. And the numbers back this up: according to a study by Bates College and Gallup, over 80% of college-educated Americans aspire to meaningful work, yet less than 50% actually attain it. This isn’t good news for organizations, as a lack of employee engagement and perceived meaninglessness leads to decreased productivity, lower morale and greater turnover

I just recently completed a certification from Cornell University on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The course, taught by Professor Nishii, takes a deep dive into the issue of employee engagement and it’s three components. We examined psychological availability last month and this month we’re taking a look at the second component: psychological meaningfulness.

What Is Psychological Meaningfulness?

What do we mean by the term “psychological meaningfulness”? Organizational psychologist William Kahn, author of the 1990 study “Physical Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement at Work”, defined it as “employees perceiving their role/task as meaningful, both to the organization and within the context of wider society, to justify their “full self” being deployed.” Team members feel motivated within their positions due to challenge, opportunities for autonomy and strong goals. They feel like they’re a part of something larger than themselves.

What Psychological Meaningfulness Looks Like – and Steps to Avoid

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to meaningful work. It differs from person to person and often changes as people age, go through periods of personal change and have various life experiences. But we can agree that once a sense of meaningfulness is found, it brings about a greater sense of pride and achievement, a feeling of fulfillment and a satisfaction in finding work that is absorbing and interesting. And while there’s no magic formula for creating meaningful positions, there are definite steps that organizations don’t want to take. Here are 6 of the most common mistakes:

  • Failing to recognize and appreciate team members’ contributions
  • Creating a disconnect between organization and personal values
  • Treating team members unfairly
  • Overriding team members’ judgment and making them feel disempowered
  • Creating a disconnect between team members
  • Putting team members in situations where they feel unsafe

Most organizations don’t know where to begin when it comes to helping their employees find more meaning in their positions and increase overall engagement. The typical “office perks” are often surface level and don’t delve into the root issues. That’s where Leah M Joppy and Associates can help. A fresh approach and perspective, combined with experience tackling all different types of employee disengagement issues is just what you need to start next year off on a positive note! Call us at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com today.

Job Crafting: Redesigning Work

What makes a job meaningful? Helping others? Salary or other perks? Flexibility? A sense of autonomy? The answers are as varied as the team members in your organization. What we do know is that perceiving a job as meaningful can be the difference between employees staying and contributing their best work – or moving on to greener pastures. Our last article looked at why meaningful work matters, but what steps can organizations take to make it happen? Let’s take a look at one example: job crafting. It’s not a new idea, but one that’s getting more attention since the pandemic and resulting changes in the workplace.

What is job crafting? It’s about taking proactive steps and actions to redesign what team members do at work, essentially changing the tasks, relationships and perceptions of jobs. The main idea is that employees can stay in the same role, but get more meaning out of their jobs by simply changing what they do and the “whole point” behind it. Job crafting is creating positions that align with employees’ strengths, passions and motives.

Here’s an example: A marketing analyst spends her days examining data, researching and looking at trends. While she’s great at her job, she would really like to branch out and add some creative projects to her routine. So, she requests a meeting with the social media marketing manager at her organization to learn more about what he does and how she can incorporate her expertise to help on the creative side. Her boss works with her to help add more of these types of projects into her job.

Job crafting is broken down into three key types:

  • Task Crafting: Changing responsibilities. This is altering the type, scope, sequence or number of tasks that make up a job to improve it in some way. For example, a long-time team member could offer to mentor new employees. The marketing analyst example above also uses task crafting.
  • Relationship Crafting: Changing interactions. This is altering the people that employees typically interact with in a job. For example, leaders and team members can form new interdepartmental task forces.
  • Cognitive Crafting: Changing mindset. This is altering the way team members interpret the tasks they’re responsible for and focusing on how their efforts help the big picture of an organization. For example, call center workers can receive first-hand accounts of the people they’re helping and how their job impacts the lives of others.

It’s no surprise that job crafting has a multitude of benefits for organizations, including happier, more engaged employees, less turnover and enhanced performance. Whether you’re interested in learning more about job crafting or other methods to help team members find more meaning in their roles, Leah M. Joppy and Associates is ready to help. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com and let’s start tackling any employee unengagement issues now!

Psychological Availability – How Does It Affect Your Organization?

Most people can agree that their work life has changed dramatically over the past few years. Zoom meetings are the norm. Hybrid schedules or work-from-home jobs are becoming typical.  And often, the lines between work life and home life have increasingly blurred. It has tested all of us and led to an increase in burnout and disengagement in the workplace. And that contributes to lost productivity, decreased morale and higher turnover – all things that no organization wants to deal with!

With all of these new challenges in mind and a desire to help organizations work through them, I am currently completing a certification from Cornell University on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The course, taught by Professor Nishii, takes a deep dive into the issue of employee engagement and examines three components: psychological availability, psychological meaningfulness and psychological safety. We’ll be looking at each one in more detail in the coming months, starting with psychological availability.

What Is Psychological Availability?

What exactly do we mean by the term “psychological availability”? Organizational psychologist William Kahn, the so-called father of employee engagement and author of the 1990 study “Physical Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement at Work”, defined it as “employees feeling mentally and physically available to harness their full self at this particular moment.” In other words, team members should feel the demands of their position are reasonable and achievable. Work/life balance falls under this umbrella and we all know what a challenge that can be these days. “Burnout” is a term we hear all the time and are probably facing within our own organizations.

This “availability” concept includes many aspects of the workplace. For example, the physical environment has to be examined. Do employees have the equipment necessary to do their job? Do they have the space they need to work individually and as a group? Management and peer support also play a key role. Is management communicating effectively and consistently? Is the organization’s culture enabling team members to feel like they’re flourishing and not floundering? The goal of promoting psychological availability comes down to creating a workplace where team members feel heard and supported – both through the physical and emotional environment.

According to a recent workplace study from Gallup, 51% of workers are “not engaged”, meaning they are psychologically unattached to their work or company. And many of them feel they have more options now – the “Great Resignation” has had a major impact on many organizations. With all of the challenges leaders face while navigating a post-pandemic workplace, problems with disengaged employees can sneak up quickly and snowball into major issues.

That’s where Leah M Joppy and Associates can help. We can get to the root causes of WHY team members are feeling disengaged and work with you to come up with ideas to address these problems quickly. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com and let’s start tackling any disengagement issues now!

 

Psychological Availability and Work/Life Balance

According to Gallup research, before the pandemic, 76% of workers reported feeling burned out sometimes, while 28% of workers said they were burned out “very often” or “always” at work. With the events of the past few years, you can bet those numbers are likely trending upward.

In our last article we looked at the term “psychological availability” and how it relates to employee engagement. One of the key components of psychological availability is work/life balance, often a major issue within organizations. As many of us have experienced, a lack of work/life balance often leads to burnout. According to the World Health Organization, signs of burnout at work include people feeling:

 

  • Depleted or exhausted
  • Mentally distant from their job or negative feelings or cynicism about their job
  • Reduced professional efficacy

Do any of the above sound familiar? Combating employee burnout and increasing team members’ psychological availability takes some ‘out of the box’ thinking and a commitment to real and meaningful change. Here are a few ideas to get started both in terms of physical environment and organizational culture:

  • Equip managers to combat burnout: Most employees say their immediate managers matter more than upper-level leaders when it comes to well-being support. But often, managers don’t understand how to talk to their employees about their well-being. That’s where training plays an important role. Managers need to learn the skills needed to identify and alleviate employee burnout. And these managers need to feel supported by upper-level management as well.
  • Make work/life balance a priority: This needs to be modeled by leaders and supported organization-wide. Work/life balance initiatives can include: monitoring workload and scheduling, allowing flexible schedules to accommodate team members’ needs, encouraging use of vacation time and incorporating wellness activities into daily office life.
  • Examine the physical work environment: Design environments that are as comfortable and inviting as possible. Examine the lighting. Monitor the noise levels and ways to reduce interruptions. Provide spaces that allow team members to connect with each other without disrupting the rest of the office.

That’s just the start. There are so many areas to consider and possible ideas to implement. The key is taking those crucial first steps. When it comes to employee burnout and disengagement, it’s so important to look for solutions right away, rather than wait until productivity declines and turnover increases. Call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com and let’s start tackling any disengagement issues now!

What’s Your Vision Of Returning To Work?

Ah, September. The promise of cooler temperatures, the kids back in school, pumpkin-spice everything and a return to routine. For some, normalcy after a busy summer is a relief. But for others, it can be a big challenge after time off and a period of rest and relaxation. This year may be particularly difficult, since many of us were able to enjoy a vacation after a few years of less (or no) travel. Now that Labor Day weekend is over and the first week of September is behind us, how do we battle the “back-to-work blues” and get back into a productive routine?

Your vision of returning to the office and the reality are probably two different things. Vacation is supposed to be rejuvenating and invigorating, but one look at an overflowing inbox can really dim your enthusiasm. And that’s completely natural. The human brain adapts pretty quickly to what is considered “normal.” For those on vacation, that can mean altered sleeping schedules, greater freedom and more food and drink. Here are a few tips to help once it’s back to business as usual:

  • Ease back into a normal sleep schedule: We talk about this a lot for kids returning to school, but the same advice holds for adults too. If you were a night owl and sleeping in during your vacation, it can take some time to get back to a normal sleep/wake schedule. Start to dial back your nocturnal habits to get back to your typical bedtime. Your morning self will thank you for it!
  • Start slow: For the first few days, tackle the absolutes on your to-do list and leave it at that. Trying to force motivation often backfires and can leave most people in a worse state than when they started. Tiny victories are what many need to work up to tackling larger tasks.
  • Incorporate some “vacation” into your life: Did you go for daily walks in nature while away? Did you try an amazing dish you’d like to learn to cook at home? Try a new wine you loved? Experiences shouldn’t be saved just for vacation. Adding them into your home life can help you relive those fun and invigorating moments.
  • Give yourself some grace: This may be the most important advice of all. Laundry may sit for an extra few days. It might take you longer to complete tasks. That’s okay. Beating yourself up over not getting back to your typical level of productivity immediately isn’t helpful.
  • Talk it out: If you find yourself in a prolonged funk after vacation, talking with a coach can be incredibly beneficial. A coach can offer advice to help you beat the post-vacation blues and come back to work feeling refreshed and motivated. If you often feel unenthusiastic and lack productivity after time off, a coach can help you get to the root causes of why you’re feeling this way and work with you to overcome them.

Vacations are supposed to be a significant boost to our overall health and wellbeing. Yet, so many of us struggle with getting back into the groove of work, life and routine after returning. September doesn’t have to be the cruelest month. If you need help getting motivated after time away from the office, Leah M Joppy and Associates is ready to help. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com.

Making The Transition To Work Easier For All

Labor Day weekend is behind us and summer is quickly becoming a memory. It’s back to business as usual, but for many, it can be challenging and downright daunting returning to a normal routine and finding motivation. And with so many workers returning to an in-person office after years of working from home, it can be even more difficult. If you lead a team, you know that September can be a challenging month coming off of vacations and the more relaxed atmosphere of summer. How can you ease your team back into office life? Here are a few tips to help:

  • Communicate often: Meeting with returning staff creates structure and allows you to catch up, review priorities and set attainable goals for the coming weeks. However, keep it light and realize that this is more about motivation than piling on tasks.
  • Assign some easy-to-accomplish tasks: Create a list of simple, short-term goals for your team to get them back into the swing of things without overwhelming them. This will warm them up for the bigger projects you have planned for the future.
  • Plan some team building activities: Something light and fun to look forward to can go a long way towards building motivation after the summer months.
  • Lead by example: As a manager, you’re probably struggling a little too (see our previous article on ways to work through it). But you also set the tone and team members feed off your energy. Let them see that you’re excited to get back to work and maybe even share some of your post-vacation productivity tips.

It can be tough motivating a team after the slower paced, vacation-laden routine of summer, but there are a number of ways you can make the transition easier. And you don’t have to do it alone. Leah M Joppy and Associates can work with you to help boost motivation and help build a more enthusiastic, cohesive team. Don’t lose weeks of productivity due to the post-vacation blues. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn how we can help.

Leading In A VUCA World

There’s no doubt about it, we’re living in a VUCA world. Although it sounds like something out of a science-fiction movie, VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. And it’s become even more pronounced over the past few years. What’s also becoming clear is that strong management within organizations is more vital than ever and comfortable, classic models of leadership don’t work within our ever-changing climate.

So, what does it take to lead in a VUCA world? It takes a lot of effort, but here are some of the top ways to navigate the waters:

  • Developing shared purpose and communicating it effectively: Leaders need to be skilled at building teams that have a shared vision. They must also be adept at helping team members understand their place within the big picture. Communication is key!
  • Learning to move out of a comfort zone: The old ways of doing things may have worked in the past, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to work forever. Leaders must be open to change and embrace a fresh and creative approach to tackling challenges.
  • Having the confidence to lead through times of uncertainty: Times of change can be difficult to handle and managers feel it as much as their team members (maybe even more!). However, strong leaders must be able to assess available information, risks, etc. and take strong, confident action based on their knowledge.
  • Providing consistent support: This includes: mentoring team members to help them adjust to changes, modeling the desired behavior for embracing changes, providing and supporting employee learning and development and acknowledging and celebrating successes!

In today’s constantly changing world, leaders may feel like they need to step up their game to be as effective as possible. However, it can be intimidating

to take the first steps towards meaningful and sustainable action. Leaders don’t have to go it alone. Working with a coach, like Leah M Joppy and Associates, provides managers with a partner that can help them navigate our VUCA world. We work with leaders to develop the competencies outlined above and to survive and thrive in a VUCA climate. We also help leaders develop high levels of resiliency, so they’re ready to take on challenges and are less likely to experience burnout.

Call Leah M Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn how we can help.

A Word For An Unsettled Environment

Chances are, you’ve probably heard or read the acronym ‘VUCA’ (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) thrown around a time or two. It’s one of those buzz-worthy terms to describe the unsettled environment organizations have to deal with on a daily basis. And nothing has brought out VUCA more than the past few years, as organizations have dealt with unprecedented changes in day-to-day operations and had to pivot in unexpected ways.

The acronym ‘VUCA’ was first used in 1987 by the U.S Army War College to describe the unfortunate situation after the Cold War. The term later found its way into the business world and outlines four distinct challenges that leaders face:

Volatility: Challenges are unstable and unexpected. The duration of these challenges is unknown.

Uncertainty: The future is unpredictable. It’s nearly impossible to anticipate events and how they’ll unfold.

Complexity: Information is overwhelming and choosing a single right path is almost impossible. Challenges and their repercussions are more complex and harder to understand.

Ambiguity: Situations are vague and difficult to interpret.

In short, we’re living in a world that’s constantly changing and these changes, whether big or small, are happening faster and faster and in more unpredictable ways. Since we don’t have a crystal ball to see the future, the best way for an organization to be prepared is through strong leadership. As we saw over the past few years, change can be incredibly challenging for team members with people reacting to these changes in different ways. Skilled, prepared leaders are the key to meeting the challenges of VUCA head-on through:

  • Maintaining strong lines of communication
  • Keeping employees engaged
  • Determining fresh and creative approaches to meet changes head-on
  • Maintaining and growing productivity

And that’s just the start. It’s a tall order for even the most seasoned leader and one where they’ll need a strong level of support from upper management.

As much as we’d like to make time stand still for a bit and catch our breath, change and the challenges that accompany it, is inevitable. We don’t know exactly what changes are coming down the road, but working with a coach, like Leah M Joppy and Associates, can help your organization be prepared when they do happen. We can take a look at what challenges your organization has faced in the past, how your leadership team handled them, what worked and what didn’t. We can then work with you to improve approaches and develop creative and flexible solutions that will help make this VUCA world we’re living in a little more manageable.

Interested in learning more? Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com.