Important things to increase psychological safety  Hajime Ota (Professor, Doshisha University)|電経新聞

Important things to increase psychological safety  Hajime Ota (Professor, Doshisha University)

Recently, the term “psychological safety” has become popular in the business field.
If subordinates feel that it is okay to express their opinions to their superiors and that they are forgiven even if they make a mistake at work, they will be able to challenge themselves positively and the atmosphere in the workplace will improve. Engagement (enthusiasm, dedication, and absorption) with work increases, and performance also improves.

So, is “psychological safety” actually maintained?
In a survey of people working in companies and other organizations, nearly two-thirds of the respondents believed that it was better not to take on challenges even at the risk of failure. “Japan” PHP Shinsho, 2022).
This suggests that “psychological safety” is not high for workers.
In order to increase psychological safety, companies are taking initiatives such as clarifying the goals of each employee and incorporating one-on-one meetings. Supervisors are also encouraged to listen without criticizing the other person and create an atmosphere in which it is easy to talk.

But will that alone make subordinates confident that they are safe?
It is no exaggeration to say that the greatest anxiety for subordinates lies in personnel evaluations.
If you believe it’s okay and voice your opinion, it may affect your personnel evaluation, and if you make a mistake at work, you may be transferred to a job you don’t want.
In short, as long as superiors have the power to make or break employees through the means of personnel evaluation, “psychological safety” cannot be adequately guaranteed.
I promise my seminar students that I will give them credit if they attend and submit their assignments. This is because we do not want to instill a feeling of being forced to do something by putting pressure on students with credits or grades. Perhaps this has had an effect, as I have become closer to the students and they start speaking to me honestly.

Humans have a latent desire to control others and want to retain the final say.
Moreover, in Japanese companies, the roles and divisions of work of individuals are vague, and emotional evaluations that measure motivation and attitude play a large role.
Furthermore, transfers are often decided without regard to the individual’s wishes. If you don’t change that, your subordinates won’t open up to you, and you won’t develop a spirit of challenge.
The important thing is for the company to put a brake on the discretion of the human resources department and superiors. For example, it may be a good idea to separate the direct supervisor from the evaluator, or to systemize the disclosure of evaluation results within the department. Having subordinates evaluate their superiors and introducing a system for complaining about evaluation results may have some effect.
If this is difficult, at least the boss should clearly state the evaluation criteria in front of all subordinates.
In any case,”psychological safety” cannot be maintained unless we break away from paternalism, such as paternalism and hierarchical relationships, and build relationships between superiors and subordinates on an equal footing. The key to this is the creation of a system that limits discretionary power.