The workplace setting is one of the critical aspects of most people’s life since at least one-third of it they spend at work. As a rule, modern workplaces tend to be planned and structured in a way that encourages staff members to feel comfortable and, therefore, motivated to perform better and deliver improved performance (Johnson et al., 2020). However, the extent of staff members’ performance and, particularly, their willingness to accept responsibility for their actions, as well as engage actively in workplace decision-making, hinge to a significant extent on the level of psychological safety that they experience in the target organizational setting.
Furthermore, since the extent of psychological comfort in the workplace affects the willingness of staff members to accept responsibility and, therefore, take risks in the workplace, it defines their ability to accept the role of a leader and participate in group learning. Indeed, implying substantial investments in terms of their time and psychological comfort, the roles of a leader and a learner become particularly easy to accept for employees in a psychologically safe workplace environment, which is why strategies for enhancing psychological safety in the workplace must be used.
Psychological Safety and Culture
Although the concept of psychological safety might seem irrelevant to a typical organizational setting, there is a range of factors that may affect vulnerable staff members negatively. Apart from leading to a drop in performance rates, problems with psychological safety are likely to affect an employee’s loyalty to the company and engagement with its priorities and needs. Therefore, examining the concept of psychological safety in the organizational setting is strongly recommended as a means of understanding how staff members’ feelings of security can be reinforced.
The notion of psychological safety is often misrepresented due to the lack of proper knowledge of what constitutes the process of meeting the emotional and psychological needs of staff members. According to Andersson, Moen, and Brett (2020, p. 1), the most accurate and concise definition of psychological safety could be summarized as the belief in feeling safe. In the workplace environment, the specified definition would extend to the shared belief in safety, especially during decision-making or any other process of risk-taking.
The notion of psychological safety is linked to the concept of workplace culture. Specifically, as long as leaders promote stakeholder-oriented workplace culture, staff members, as one of the key types of stakeholders, typically feel rather safe since they recognize the company’s attempts at creating a comfortable workplace environment for them and ensure that their well-being is not affected (Moore, 2018). For instance, the Agile workplace culture, which has recently been developed as an innovative approach toward managing projects, leading teams, and promoting change in the corporate setting, aa been recognized as one of the frameworks that lead to the development of psychological safety among staff members (Thorgren & Caiman, 2019).
Specifically, due to the focus on communication and collaboration among staff members and managers, the Agile method of handling workplace relationships and processes helps to create a positive workplace experience that ensures staff members that the organization values them (Edmondson, 2018). As a result, the employees’ willingness to accept risks increases since they feel more comfortable and confident.
Leadership and Group Learning
In contrast to the previous concept, the notions of leadership and group learning have been discussed quite thoroughly in multiple research over the past several decades.
Although learning in the workplace used to be a supplementary activity in addition to meeting the key organizational goals, it has recently been placed at the top of the organizational priorities due to the rise in innovative solutions and the necessity to adjust to the promptly changing business environment. The observed change has been defined to a certain degree by the rise in innovative solutions and tools for managing specific workplace tasks, as well as the surge in discoveries in the realm of IT and ICT in general (Irai & Lu, 2018). As a result, the current workplace setting must be flexible enough to be prepared to accept another new solution for amplifying the output and improving workplace performance. Therefore, it is critical that staff members are able to learn fast and build crucial skills promptly.
Furthermore, group learning is particularly important since it provides an opportunity for collaboration and for quality improvement in the workplace. Once group learning starts, every team member remains updated on the key innovative solutions and gains the same extent and range of skills as the rest of the group. As a result, a team manages tasks cohesively and manages information so that none of the essential details are omitted (Rambe, 2018). Consequently, the range and frequency of workplace errors are minimized, which helps to implement key organizational and production goals on time.
Relationship between the Two Topics
At first glance, the two topics in question appear to be quite disconnected from each other. Indeed, the sense of psychological safety does not exactly connect to the idea of leadership and workplace learning directly. However, a further and more careful look at the issues at hand will help to discover that there are significant correlations and, more importantly, distinctive causation between the two notions in question (Chen et al., 2019).
Specifically, with the focus on psychological safety, a leader can encourage staff members to participate in the workplace learning process more actively and implement key leadership tasks more efficiently while also encouraging employees to accept some of the leadership-related tasks. As a result, the delegation of responsibilities and the resulting increase in the speed of data and task processing is likely to rise.
Namely, by creating a setting in which staff members feel psychologically safe, one will be able to increase their readiness to accept risks. In turn, the process of workplace learning is often seen as a huge risk by employees since it suggests that they must develop key skills and learn new information fast and effectively. In turn, a workplace environment that is psychologically unsafe and causes additional tension in staff members will not be conducive to the development of new skills.
Furthermore, the correlation between the two concepts in question also appears to be reciprocal. Namely, the increase in the efficacy of leadership and workplace learning is likely to provide staff members with greater psychological security and safety. Indeed, in the workplace environment where innovation is prioritized, the need to adjust to rapid changes and especially learning new skills, including the skills of operating specific equipment, may turn out to be quite stressful for staff members.
In fact, Tarafdar et al.’s (2019) study shows that the presence of a specific type of pressure may cause employees to develop anxiety and related disorders. Furthermore, without due psychological support, the incorporation of the said changes into the workplace setting is likely to cause resistance among employees, as another research confirms, whereas the focus on workplace comfort will encourage the development of corporate social responsibility (CSR) (Staniškienė & Stankevičiūtė, 2018). For this reason, the integration of a supportive leadership framework along with a learning framework that will allow the target demographic to build the necessary skills quickly will be needed.
Thus, the relationship between the two topics is quite clear and unambiguous. The introduction of an effective leadership style that motivates employees and gives them confidence, as well as a learning framework that provides employees with the needed skills, increases their levels of psychological comfort. The observed change can be justified by the rise in their preparedness for complicated workplace dilemmas and the challenges of managing new equipment and innovative technological tools, which have become ubiquitous in most workplace environments. Furthermore, the development of a setting where employees can feel secure and safe will also allow them to accept the principles of continuous development and the importance of adjusting to innovative solutions, which will cause them, to accept workplace learning ad a change in the leadership style due to the shift toward innovation and transformation.
The identified connections do not imply that neither of the two concepts can be implemented in the workplace without the other. Additionally, it is worth noting that the subject matter has been significantly under-researched and, therefore, requires further examination. Namely, the correlation between psychological comfort in the organizational setting and the willingness to accept workplace learning represents a noticeable gap in the current research literature. In turn, the connections between psychological comfort in the workplace and the type of leadership used in it have been made, yet the reciprocity between the specified factors could be studied in greater detail.
However, remarkably, the observed disconnection between the two factors does not work and vice versa. Namely, without a psychologically conformable and safe setting, staff members are unlikely to accept the idea of learning since the specified change will imply taking substantial risks, including the risk of failure (Lundgren et al., 2017). Being left without psychological support, employees are highly unlikely to be eager to take the risks of failing to learn new skills, which is why resistance to change is highly expected in the specified context.
For this reason, it could be assumed that the phenomenon of psychological safety in the workplace is either impossible or tremendously difficult to achieve without a clear and effective leadership strategy. Specifically, the leadership approach that will encourage communication between a staff member and managers, thus allowing the latter to ensure the former that they are valued and appreciated by the organization, is strongly needed.
Since the willingness to lead a team of employees, as well as to learn and develop new skills in the workplace setting, are defined largely by staff members’ ability and readiness to accept risks, the extent of psychological safety in the workplace and the corresponding culture that promotes it are central to encouraging leadership and group learning. Namely, it is strongly recommended that employees are provided with additional benefits, particularly financial rewards.
Furthermore, the process of group learning should not incorporate competitive elements that could introduce tension in the workplace and reduce staff members’ psychological safety but, instead, be based on the provision of emotional and psychological support to all participants. With the focus on the psychological safety of all staff members, an organization will be able to promote change and learning actively.
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