If you think that looks don’t matter, this research will blow your mind!
Psychological safety is the #1 factor for team effectiveness and opens the door for a company culture that encourages innovation and collaboration by making it safe for every individual to speak up. A culture that supports and enables such action does not punish, demean, or humiliate anyone for having a differing opinion or making a mistake. Rather, employees are more empowered and encouraged to think creatively.
Researchers from Harvard Business School sough to understand how nonverbal behaviors could lead to employees feeling improved psychological safety in-the-moment.
Diversity bias has systemic workplace effects such that:
- Women report lower psychological safety than men at work and greater issues about mistakes being held against them and less safety to taking risk.
- Younger employees have a higher concern to negative consequences of making mistakes.
- Minority and BIPOC groups report higher anxiety linked to exclusion and discriminatory behaviors.
In numerous experiments with different methodologies, nonverbal cues were used to measure conversational dynamics and more willingness to speak up in a group setting. The experiment measured relationships with diverse individual characteristics both in group and virtually.
The results showed that a higher measure of eye gaze (compared to medium and lower levels) – specifically between a leader and the recipient who was silent in meetings – led to increased feelings of psychological safety, lower feelings of ostracism, and triggered more participation and willingness to speak up.
Additionally, the outcomes showed that the effects were stronger for racial minorities and more introverted members.
The gift of applying conscious empathy is that leaders become more aware of utilizing effective empathetic behaviors.
The link between nonverbal behaviors improving conversation and communication from another illustrates the power of leaders signaling attention, respect, and acceptance to team members. Being seen and heard is measurably meaningful and the improved psychological safety helps employees to thrive.
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