The Power of Psychological Safety: A Conversation with Aashish Punjabi

In today's fast-paced world, the nature of work is evolving. One thing that remains constant, however, is the importance of feeling safe and valued at work. Aashish Punjabi, Chief of Staff at Juno and the co-founder of The Talent Deck offers his insights on this crucial topic.

The interview is edited for length and clarity.
All views are personal and not linked to any organization.

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Q: Aashish, could you elaborate on the concept of "psychological safety" in the workplace?

A: Absolutely. Psychological safety is like a protective bubble for your emotions and thoughts at work. Imagine a place where everyone, no matter their role or background, feels they can freely speak their mind, share their ideas, and ask questions without any fear. That's psychological safety. It's not just about physical safety, like having a safe building or equipment. It's about emotional safety. It's about ensuring that everyone feels they belong, that they are valued, and that their contributions matter. In simpler terms, it's about creating a friendly, open environment where everyone can be their true selves.

Q: What are the common issues companies, including Juno, face in ensuring this sense of safety?

A: Great question. Many companies, especially those that have been around for a long time, might resist change. They might have a mindset of "we've always done it this way," which can stifle new ideas and make employees hesitant to voice their opinions. This resistance can be a big roadblock to creating an open and inclusive environment.

Another challenge is leadership. Some leaders might not be approachable or might not prioritize open communication. This can unintentionally create an environment where employees feel they can't speak up or share their thoughts. Everyone has biases, and if these biases aren't checked, they can erode trust and safety in the workplace. These biases can lead to favoritism, sidelining certain voices, and not genuinely promoting diversity.

To truly cultivate a sense of safety, it's crucial for everyone in the organization, from the top leaders to the newest hires, to work together. It's not just about rules or policies; it's about changing the way people think and interact.

Q: How does this sense of safety impact creativity, innovation, and overall work quality?

A: Feeling safe has a huge impact on creativity. Think about it: if you're in a place where you're encouraged to share your wildest ideas, take risks, and challenge the usual way of doing things, you're going to come up with some pretty amazing stuff. A safe environment is like fertile soil for creativity. It's where new ideas grow and thrive.

When employees feel safe and trust their colleagues and bosses, they're more likely to stick around. They'll be more motivated, work harder, and be more willing to go the extra mile. This sense of safety and trust leads to better teamwork, more innovation, and a stronger sense of community.

Q: Are there certain industries or job types where it's harder to create this sense of safety?

A: Yes, every industry has its own unique challenges. For example, Web3 is super fast-paced. Things change quickly, and there's a lot of pressure. This can make it hard to prioritize psychological safety. On the other hand, older industries with strict hierarchies might find it tough to break down barriers and promote open communication.

But no matter the industry, the basic idea is the same: everyone deserves to feel safe and valued at work. At Juno, we're very aware of these challenges. We work hard to make sure everyone, no matter their role or how long they've been with us, feels heard and valued.

Q: How can companies check if their teams feel safe?

A: There are many ways to check. One simple way is to ask. Companies can hold group meetings, use anonymous feedback forms, or just chat with employees over coffee. At Juno, our leaders like to have direct chats with team members. This helps them really understand how everyone feels and what they need.

Q: How do different leadership styles affect workplace safety?

A: Leadership plays a huge role. Good leaders are like good coaches. They listen, they care, and they make sure everyone feels like part of the team. They set the tone for the whole company. If they're open, kind, and understanding, it's likely the rest of the company will be too.

But if leaders are distant, hard to talk to, or too strict, it can make employees feel they always have to watch their backs. This can lead to a lack of trust and teamwork.

Q: What can companies do to make sure their employees feel safe?

A: There's no one-size-fits-all answer, but here are some steps that can help:

  1. Leaders should lead by example. If they're open and understanding, others will follow their lead.

  2. Talk to employees regularly. This helps everyone feel connected and understood.

  3. Educate everyone. Workshops on fairness, kindness, and understanding can help everyone get on the same page.

  4. Reward employees who help others feel safe. This shows that safety is important.

  5. Promote teamwork. When everyone helps and supports each other, it creates a positive environment.

  6. Deal with problems quickly. If there's an issue, fix it as soon as possible.

  7. Look after employees' well-being. This could be through quiet rooms, yoga classes, or other support.

Q: Any tips for Web3 companies on this topic??

A: Web3 companies face unique challenges. Here are some tips:

  1. Encourage new ideas. Let employees try new things and learn from their mistakes.

  2. Share information. Keep everyone in the loop.

  3. Let teams make decisions. This gives them a sense of ownership.

  4. Value diversity. Different backgrounds and ideas make the company stronger.

Q: Any final thoughts?

A: Making sure everyone feels safe at work is super important. It's not just a nice idea; it's essential for a company's success. It's an ongoing job that requires effort, understanding, and care. By focusing on safety, companies can bring out the best in their employees and create a positive, productive work environment.

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Note: All views expressed in this interview are personal and not linked to any organization.