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The Importance of Psychological Safety for Developers

The Importance of Psychological Safety for Developers
Psychological Safety as a Developer Retention Strategy

What is Psychological Safety?

Psychological Safety is the perception that you can express yourself openly and honestly, without the fear of negative consequences such as judgement, ridicule, or rejection. It is a feeling of security that allows you to take risks, creatively problem-solve, and make mistakes in order to learn and grow.

In a psychologically safe environment, people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, ideas and opinions with others, knowing that they will be respected and heard.

Why is psychological safety essential to your Developers?

Feeling psychologically safe in the workplace is essential to all employees, but especially to Software Developers for numerous reasons:

Employee Wellness and Job Satisfaction:

Psychological Safety is so important when it comes to building a positive and productive work culture and is a key factor in employee wellness and job satisfaction. Developers who work in a safe and supportive environment are far more likely to engage with their peers and add value through their ideas, than Developers who don’t feel safe and fear making a mistake. A safe workplace can contribute to Developers feeling more motivated, and being more productive, which leads to a better outcome for the company - everybody wins! 😊

Continuous Improvement:

In the tech space, there is always a need for improvement. Developers are constantly updating software, improving features and making the necessary changes to stay ahead of the trends. In a psychologically safe environment, Developers should be able to communicate openly about what is and is not working, as well as come up with new ways to improve something. This helps to create and nurture an environment of continuous improvement and growth.

Innovation and Creativity:

The field of software development is incredibly creative and innovative. A Psychologically safe environment should allow Developers to share their ideas and solutions without fear of negative repercussions. They should feel like they can explore various solutions to a problem, take risks on certain tasks, and experiment, which could lead to finding a better way to do something going forward.

Teamwork and Collaboration:

Software Developers often work in a very collaborative space, involving teams of other Developers, Business Analysts, Project Managers and Stakeholders. In a psychologically safe environment, Developers should feel that they can communicate and collaborate with all members of their team. This sort of environment fosters mutual respect and trust among team members, which in turn leads to a more positive outlook on teamwork and collaboration. Why is collaboration so important here? Because 2 brains are better than one.

How can you foster an environment of Psychological Safety for your Developers?

Here are a few tips on how you could foster an environment of psychological safety in your workplace:

1. Encourage open and honest communication:

Create an environment where Developers can communicate, share ideas, concerns or opinions. You can start by being honest and open in how you communicate to them, showcasing how you wish for communication to be going forward. Honest and open communication both ways, can lead to mutual trust and respect.

2. Lead by example and allow for autonomy:

Leave micromanagement and Autocratic Leadership in the 90’s where they belong - this is 2023. If you want your Developers to feel safe, allow space for them to work autonomously, and model the behaviour you wish to see from them. Try to adapt a more Servant Leadership approach by being more transparent, approachable and open to feedback.

3. Check in with how you give constructive criticism and feedback to others:

Feedback is necessary in a software development environment to keep up with constant changes and updates that come along with any project. When giving feedback to anyone, think about the way you deliver it. Are you delivering your feedback in a constructive manner that can help someone to learn from their mistakes and grow in their position? Or are you sounding a bit more like a “Condescending Conny”?

How you deliver feedback can directly impact someone’s motivation and productivity in a team, which in turn could decrease the overall morale of the team. Have you ever tried asking someone how they would like to receive feedback?

4. Give praise where it is due and celebrate all wins:

Celebrate all the wins, both work-related and personal - this can help to boost morale and reinforces the importance of positive contributions. This can also help contribute to a sense of shared purpose among team members.

5. Acknowledge mistakes:

Mistakes are a natural part of any learning process. Encourage your Developers to acknowledge and learn from their mistakes, and create a culture where mistakes are seen as an opportunity for growth and improvement.

6. Provide support and resources for growth:

Make sure that you provide your Developers with the right tools and resources that are required to do their jobs and continue to grow. This could be in the form of:

- Providing all necessary equipment for them to work from home.

- Making sure the onboarding process runs smoothly and Developers know what is required from them.

- Making sure all Junior and Intermediate Developers have a Mentor within the company.

- Making sure all Developers feel supported in their roles; they have enough team members to support the workload, they can collaborate with others, and they can openly communicate if they need help.

- Look into providing Developers the opportunity to upskill through workshops, conferences, or additional studies.