Top Workplace Trend Number 8

Top Ten Work Trends Quarterly Updates

A diverse group of SIOP members are serving as Trend Champions for the people-related work trends that SIOP members collaboratively predicted to be the most impactful in 2023. Each Trend Champion has expertise in and professional passion for their trend subject. SIOP appreciates their service to the profession in providing quarterly updates on their chosen topics.

Find the full list of topics and links to the other Top 10 Work Trends here

Trend #8: Psychological Safety in the Workplace

2023 1st Quarter Update

I am sure that we are all familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, which refers to the factors that human beings require to achieve their optimal state of self-actualization. Safety and security sit at the foundation of the mix, which explores the tangible and intangible protections against accidents or harm. Amy Edmonson coined the term "psychological safety," which is "a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes, and that the team Is safe for interpersonal risk-taking."

We entered 2023 understanding the value of diversity and inclusion in fostering psychological safety. In Q1, research explored how psychological safety supports an innovative workplace where employees can freely contribute ideas and feedback. In the news, ChatGPT and artificial technology are the talk of the town and can lend insight into how fostering psychological safety can encourage employees to leverage these tools for creativity and ideation while still contributing value to their organization. What also persists, however, is mass layoffs and their effects on employee psychological safety.

As different organizations continue to announce reductions-in-force, the lack of job security is impacting employees’ willingness to take risks in the workplace and contribute to an innovative culture. At Google, specifically, employees expressed concerns regarding their observations that even high performers were impacted. Google executives argue that psychological safety is separate from and does not equal job security, but psychological safety is a feeling that the employee determines, not a tangible item that the organization hands out. The “last in – first out” principle of layoffs does not solely determine who gets let go. From the perspective of Google employees, being a “disrupter” appears to be part of the mix.

Google and other large corporations are not alone in their layoffs. For organizational leaders and I-O psychology consultants (internal and external), it is worth considering how these moments of uncertainty can be better managed so that it does not impact the employee experience. Even for organizations not facing these challenges, this begs for proactive consideration as to how they can assure their workforce that they are still safe to thrive, innovate and contribute value. Even if they are not [yet] directly impacted, employees can still be overwhelmed by their observations of what their peers in other companies face.

As we move into Q2 of 2023, organizations and I-O psychologists should continue exploring how psychological safety can be integrated, not separated from, other aspects of the workplace, even during times of uncertainty.  

Champion: Juliette Nelson

Dr. Juliette Nelson is an I-O Psychologist, Certified Diversity Executive (CDE®), published author, and entrepreneur with experience in program/project management, data collection/analytics, and implementing solutions to foster employee psychological safety, engagement, and performance. In her role as a Personnel Research Psychologist for the federal government, she is responsible for developing competency models and assessments to support employee learning and development. She also collaborates with cross-functional groups to leverage research and evidence-based and data-driven strategies to increase employee engagement, decrease turnover, and foster DEIA. As an entrepreneur, she produces services and products that encourage people to be purposeful in the different areas of their lives. Her life's work is all about ensuring that people have a safe space in which they can thrive and be their best authentic selves.