Is Your Workplace Psychologically Safe?

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You see it all around you; people in reactive exchanges that do extensive damage without realizing how they got there, the repercussions, nor how to improve relationships run amok. This calls into question whether conditions are psychologically safe. When they are not, these exchanges put us into our flight, fight or freeze, reptilian brain, and then our ability to plan, organize, regulate, or to inhibit negative impulses, becomes compromised. We are unable to learn, grow and improve anything, and for a significant amount of time (at least 20 minutes per each incident) we lose touch with our wisdom.

“In general, only a child who feels safe dares to grow forward healthily. His safety needs must be gratified. He can’t be pushed ahead, because the ungratified safety needs will remain forever underground, always calling for satisfaction.”

Abraham Maslow

As cortisol, adrenaline and stress hormones flood the brain, we grab onto fearful ideas like “I must fight,” “I must win,” “I must protect myself because others can’t be trusted,” and “I must convert, fix, change, heal and punish those who don’t think, speak or act like I do.” These beliefs and the survival-driven behaviors that accompany them, are not just impacting people on a physical level; they cost teamwork, productivity and profitability in businesses too. What’s the answer?

Making sense: Everything starts with an individual’s need to make sense to him or herself. Without this, one cannot heal nor understand what has, and may continue to happen today, related to psychological safety, dignity and self-respect. Imagine you experienced trauma in your past (as an adult and as a child) that remains hidden, unrecognized, unexplained and unresolved. You could not tie your experience to commonly described abuse like beatings, alcoholism, molestation, etc. and you did not have a caring person who connected with you in a compassionate way, nor helped you process your feelings and experiences in a healing way during and afterwards.

These hidden traumas then became triggers in you, that can be activated by customers, co-workers and authority figures. The negative impacts you experience then become like a contagious illness that sweeps your workplace and bewilders all in its path. You learned to cover your traumas with a mask, while a deep sense of confusion, self-doubt and low self-worth remained within you.

Psychological safety. Out of internalized misunderstanding, unresolved events, and resultant pain and shame, combined with current culture practices based in fear, comes aggression and struggles (internal and external) and misunderstandings. Experts say people who lack experiences of honoring, dignity and respect during and after unresolved events, tend to project self-loathing onto others and then reject, punish and banish them in an attempt to make some semblance of what’s happened resolve.

Your people need opportunities to learn emotional intelligence skills, and gain tools and support to resolve their problems (old and new). When you as a leader provide such in your workplace, you help them understand and process (heal) experiences from the past that show up each day, so they are able to grow strong and assist you in the growth of your organization and in meeting your business objectives while better fulfilling their life’s purposes at the same time.

A Teal organizational model. As a business leader, it’s imperative you help your people by providing them with a culture that fosters dignity, honor and respect for all. No one need become therapists to create psychological safety. The systems you choose can help all to feel valued, calm, and skillful in the face of any and every challenge. That’s very powerful. To do this, I encourage you to learn about and create a Teal organizational model that promotes trustworthiness as foundational and where power-over and power-under (aka, hierarchy) is replaced with shared power and high, social interest and purpose. Wholeness is nurtured in all, by all, creating the agility needed in today’s complex and rapidly changing world with all its uncertainty. Your people need you to help them, and you may need me to help you. I’m happy to help!

As published in the column The Extraordinary Workplace in the St. Louis Small Business Monthly, June 2019

Why People Hire LifeWork Systems

Business owners and executives, community leaders, parents, educators and individuals hire LifeWork Systems because they know that effective conditions and conversations make all the difference in building trusting relationships, achieving dreams, and creating solutions and innovations for our evolving world. When people are happy and responsible, emotionally and socially intelligent, confident, and appropriately seen, heard, and supported, they always exceed expectations. We help instill into every person common concepts, terms, tools, and processes that result in healthy, happy, caring and contributing individuals, teams and organizations. Our mission is to create a world in which all people love their lives!

We appreciate you being here on our website and encourage you to reach out to us directly at or  314.239.4727. May something we offered in this article and website help you love YOUR life ~ because YOU matter!

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