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4 Foolproof Ways to Make Sure You’re Creating a Psychologically Safe Workplace

4 Foolproof Ways to Make Sure You’re Creating a Psychologically Safe Workplace

As an independent pediatric office owner or administrator, you want your practice to thrive. One of the best ways to ensure that your business succeeds is having a high-performing team.

Recent research shows that high-performing teams have one thing in common: They work in a psychologically safe environment.

It’s kind of an awkward, fancy term. Essentially, it means the work environment is a safe place to ask questions, raise concerns, and share ideas without feeling fear.

Are you ready to learn about this important trend in job environments? Here are four ways to ensure your pediatric practice is a psychologically safe workplace.

1. Create an environment where people feel comfortable speaking up

Your pediatric practice’s work environment should be a safe space — one where your team members feel confident in pointing out something that’s amiss without fear of retribution.

For instance, a billing staff member is preparing a statement, and he or she notices there’s a code indicating a patient had a flu shot. The billing team member might ask a nurse for confirmation that the patient did, in fact, receive a flu vaccine. The nurse, who was in the room during the appointment, remembers that the intention was to give a flu shot. But the patient had a cold, so it didn’t happen.

Often, nurses feel intimidated by doctors and don’t speak up. Characteristics of a psychologically safe office include welcoming questions from nurses and other staff members. In this example, you would not want to bill for a flu vaccine that was not given, and you wouldn’t want a health record documenting that error, either.

2. Invite engagement and encourage risk-taking

It’s not possible to innovate in a restrictive environment. Creativity happens when people have the chance to think, talk, and let their ideas germinate. Help your team understand that you welcome innovative ideas. Invite your staff to voice their views without feeling insecure or embarrassed.

Perhaps your patient no-show rate has increased, and you ask your team members to brainstorm ways that remind patients and their parents about upcoming appointments. Respond productively; look for ways to say yes to your team.

If someone suggests an idea that doesn’t work out, have positive discussions about mistakes or problems. No shaming allowed. Use missteps and failures as opportunities to learn and do better next time.

3. Foster a culture of trust and mutual respect

As the leader of a pediatric office, the culture has to start with you. If someone has a concern, take it seriously and listen attentively. Don’t brush it off.

Strive to create a welcoming environment for all staff members and be open-minded and encourage different perspectives.  A person in a leadership position that takes the command and control approach does not create a psychologically safe work environment. The “all-knowing, I’m in charge, don’t question my authority” leadership style produces a staff made up of “clock punchers” who will be less likely to contribute to making the practice better.

In addition, invite your team members to offer solutions if they have a problem or if they spot an issue in the office. You could even consider implementing an approach where anyone who comes to you with a concern must have three possible solutions to the problem.

4. Ask good questions

Whether you’re talking with your team during an organized meeting or after a patient appointment, pay close attention to how you phrase questions. Small tweaks to typical questions can make a big difference in fostering a psychologically safe work environment where feedback is welcome.

  • At the end of a meeting, you might be tempted to say, “Does anyone have any questions?” Instead, rephrase with, “What have we talked about today that I can clarify?” This is a major shift. Not only is the second question more likely to invite engagement, but it also lets your team know that you don’t view yourself as perfect.
  • When brainstorming changes in processes or systems in your pediatric practice, you might be used to asking, “What do you think?” Rather, try, “How might this decision impact our patients? In what ways? What ideas do you have to resolve those?”
  • Sometimes, when you have a particularly engaging conversation with team members, everyone might be nodding and agreeing. Be sure to invite everyone to the discussion by posing this question: “Who has a different perspective on this topic?”

Want more tips on improving your workplace? Check out my four-step plan for building a team of top-notch talent for your practice.

Mary Ellen Harris, PhD
mharris@officepracticum.com


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