After burning out three times during her professional life, Gabby Lubin decided that burnout should be the exception—not the rule. To help other professionals avoid the crushing weight that comes from being overwhelmed by work, she started Spark This Day, an HR tech platform that helps employers understand and support their employees.

In her podcast Capital P in People Work, Gabby brings industry leaders, practitioners, and experts together to discuss how to make better workplaces. In this episode, “Restoring Psychological Safety,” Gabby brings 3 guests together for a live panel: Sandhya Sudhakar, Jeb Hurley, and Earl Foote. Get to know them with their bios below.

Sandhya Sudhakar

Sandhya Sudhakar is a certified leadership and career coach, enneagram practitioner, speaker, and founder of Self at Work. She helps leaders build meaningful connections with themselves, their teams, and their work without burning out their employees or themselves. 

Sandhya takes a trauma-informed and inclusive approach to leadership and well-being at work. 

Jeb Hurley

Dr. Jeb Hurley is a behavioral scientist and leading expert in team dynamics. He blends neurobiology, psychology, and technology to enhance leadership team effectiveness and create high trust, agile cultures.  For over 30 years, he has worked with founders, CEOs, and Fortune 100 companies to build safer workplaces.

Earl Foote

The ultimate adventure-seeker and music-lover, Earl Foote is the founder and CEO of Nexus IT. His goal is to make a positive impact on the world and his team at Nexus IT by fostering psychological safety in the workplace.

What is Psychological Safety?

To understand how teams work together in the workplace, it’s vital to understand psychological safety. Each of the guests weighs in and shares a few different angles on what this term means. 

When you’re in a workplace and you’re experiencing psychological safety, it means that you perceive your work as a place where you can share ideas, make decisions, and interact with colleagues constructively.

Put simply, when you feel psychologically safe at work, it means that there is an environment of trust and mutual respect, where your views are heard and validated. But balancing everyone’s mental safety, especially in high growth or rapidly changing situations, becomes complicated.

The panelists dive deeper into the concept of psychological safety, discussing how to foster it in teams and organizations. They share strategies on how to create a psychologically safe environment, such as actively listening to your team members, being aware of power dynamics, and creating an atmosphere of trust.

The panelists agree that fostering psychological safety is not only beneficial for employees’ mental health and well-being but also for the organization as a whole. 

Our work is more than just a place for us to trade services for money. When we feel safe and supported, it allows us to come up with innovative ideas and create a more meaningful workplace and life.

We do better work when we know our effort is valued and appreciated.

How to Help Your Employees Thrive Rather Than Survive

This episode is packed with valuable advice on how to create an environment of trust and respect to prevent burnout and build a successful team. Since Earl Foote, the CEO of Nexus IT, is currently trying to create a culture based on psychological safety, he had some specific suggestions for people trying to do the same.

Perception Is Reality

Psychological safety is all about how an employee perceives their workplace. But Earl points out that perception is reality—what a team member feels and thinks is their reality, regardless of the facts. 

So, the first step to creating a psychologically safe workplace is understanding how your employees are feeling in their work environment and addressing any issues that may be causing distress or anxiety.

Create Opportunities to Communicate

If it’s not obvious that you want to hear other people’s thoughts and experiences, employees will have a hard time sharing with upper management. To create a culture of openness, Earl holds “CEO Coffee Chats,” where he invites 3 or 4 employees across teams of Nexus IT to talk about concerns and ideas they have for innovation.

Through these, Earl has discovered problems he wouldn’t have known about before and amplified the voices of each employee. But he reminds listeners that it’s a work in progress—because humans are finicky, our needs are constantly changing.

Create Systems

Remote work has made it difficult to make everyone’s voice heard, especially over potentially awkward Zoom meetings. Sandhya suggests creating very specific systems, like Earl’s Coffee Chats, to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and the discussion can be rooted in a sense of trust.

Another way to make sure everyone is prepared for meetings and has the time to think about how they can contribute is by publishing agendas beforehand. The systems can be simple, as long as they give opportunities for everyone to participate, express their points of view, and share ideas.

As Jeb reminds us, change, which we’ve all had so much of these past few years, disrupts psychological safety. When your team is experiencing rapid change, take extra care to check in and offer opportunities for employees to share concerns.

At the end of the day, psychological safety is an important part of creating a workplace where everyone can be proud to work. Empowering your team with trust and respect will create a much healthier—and more successful—work environment. 

Tune into this episode to learn how you can help your organization become more effective through increased psychological safety.