“Last Month Reena was attending a team meeting.
She voiced out about her feelings of being left out from the group. People ask her the reason. She shared “What’s bothering her?”.
One of her colleagues told that people shouldn't be opposing. Another told that instead of bringing problems, they should get the problem solved. The meeting got over.
Reena left the meeting emotionally drained and all the more disturbed if she is working with the right people.
She felt that instead of trying to understand her view point or empathizing with her, people jumped on her. She got the vibe that people were not interested in what she is doing or interested in sharing what they are doing. She was saying to herself — We had a team norm where we agreed on that we can voice out our opinion without fear- what happened to that? She was thinking — Where did I go wrong?
For the next one week, she was feeling low and mentally disturbed. Finally, she made up her mind that she won’t speak up and voice her concerns in any of the team meetings.”
Sounds familiar. Do we recognize with what Reena has gone through? Many of us have gone through this situation in one form or the other.
One of the most overused term in recent past is “Psychological safety”. We see lots of articles, research paper on “psychological safety. We also hear of organizations investing heavily on improving psychological safety, yet at the same time, we hear/see many instances similar to Reena.
Leaders would say that they would want to know why their team members are not speaking up or sharing their concerns. We would see a flurry of activities /surveys to understand the reason. At the end of the activity, either no action will be taken or some cosmetic action will be taken. After few months, we see that the problem still persists.
I have seen that in majority of the cases, psychological safety is confused with creating a speak up culture and that is what most of the teams focus on.
In my view, creating a psychological safety is much more than creating a speak up culture. It is equally important to create a culture of listen up — to listen with empathy, listen without judgement, listen without bias, to create an atmosphere of inclusivity, to create trust within the team /organization, to make people valued and give them the space to feel safe.
Unless and until we genuinely make an effort, “the elephant in the room” will remain to bother us.
It would be great to hear your views how you have addressed the elephant in the room.
Disclaimer : Reena is a fictional character.
Picture reference : The Creativity post.com