In the hustle and bustle of the modern workplace, there’s a subtle undercurrent that often goes unnoticed, yet it holds immense power. We’re talking about psychological safety, a concept that, when nurtured, can transform the dynamics of a team.

Imagine a workspace where every opinion is valued, where you can voice your thoughts without the fear of being shot down. This is the essence of psychological safety. It’s more than just a feel-good factor; it catalyzes innovation and collaboration.

Harvard Business School Professor Amy Edmondson, a pioneer in this field, eloquently described psychological safety as a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up. It’s about creating a space where diverse thoughts aren’t just tolerated but celebrated.

But why should organizations pay attention? Well, the numbers speak for themselves. A staggering report from Gallup revealed that only 8% of U.S. workers strongly believe that their opinions matter at work. This disengagement doesn’t just lead to a lackluster work culture; it costs the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

Navigating the nuances of a workplace can be akin to walking a tightrope. As we begin to dig into what psychological safety is, it’s equally crucial to start by understanding what it isn’t. Let’s unravel the layers that obscure the path to a psychologically safe environment.

importance of psychological safety in the workplace

Exploring the Absence of Psychological Safety

It’s easy to mistake conformity for psychological safety. However, these are two distinct realms. A workplace absent of psychological safety is one where dissent is stifled, and the fear of retribution looms large.

Consider when disagreements are met with a cold shoulder or, worse, punitive measures. In such spaces, employees walk on eggshells, suppressing their authentic selves to fit into a mold crafted by unspoken norms and expectations.

The Undermining Forces

So, what undermines psychological safety? The culprits are often socialized pressures that subtly dictate how one should behave. These unwritten rules create an environment where members of a team feel compelled to don masks, concealing their thoughts and feelings in fear of negative consequences.

For instance, the belief that “leaders always have the answers” or “admitting a mistake is a sign of weakness” can lead to a culture where individuals are hesitant to voice their concerns or share ideas. This stifling atmosphere not only hampers creativity but also sows seeds of discontent, leading to burnout and disengagement.

The Cost of Silence

The repercussions of a lack of team psychological safety are profound. When employees are hesitant to share their insights or challenge the status quo, opportunities for innovation and improvement are lost. The silence that pervades such environments is not a sign of agreement but a symptom of a culture that hasn’t embraced the richness of diverse perspectives.

In essence, understanding what psychological safety is not helps us to appreciate its value better and guides us in fostering a workplace where every voice is heard, respected, and valued.

Q&A: Unraveling Psychological Safety

To delve deeper into the concept of psychological safety, let’s explore some frequently asked questions and identify signs that indicate the presence or absence of psychological safety in a workplace.

Q: What exactly is psychological safety?

A: Psychological safety refers to an individual’s perception of the consequences of taking an interpersonal risk. In a psychologically safe environment, employees feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear of retribution or judgment.

Q: Why is psychological safety crucial in the workplace?

A: Psychological safety fosters an atmosphere of trust and openness, leading to increased creativity, collaboration, and overall productivity.

Q: How can leaders foster psychological safety within their teams?

A: Leaders can encourage open dialogue, admit vulnerability, celebrate diversity, and provide training to ensure a psychologically safe environment.

Talent Development in the Age of AI


workplace psychological safety

The Significance of Psychological Safety: A Cornerstone for Thriving Workplaces

Why Psychological Safety is Indispensable in the Workplace

Psychological safety is not merely a bonus in the workplace; it’s an essential element. It lays the foundation for trust, nurtures open communication, and cultivates team effectiveness. When individuals feel secure in sharing their thoughts and ideas, the workplace transforms into a vibrant space of creativity and collaboration.

Edmondson’s insights resonate deeply here. She emphasizes that the fear of speaking up can be so overwhelming that it inhibits cognitive processes. This apprehension stifles the creativity and innovation that are vital to an organization’s growth.

Google’s Project Aristotle: A Case Study in Team Psychological Safety

Google, in its quest to understand the dynamics of effective teams, embarked on an initiative known as Project Aristotle. The tech giant delved into a myriad of factors, from hard skills to soft skills, in an attempt to decipher the secret sauce behind successful teams.

The results were enlightening. Google found that the linchpin of high-performing teams was not their skills or resources but the presence of psychological safety. This environment of mutual respect and openness allowed team members to take risks without fear of backlash.

Psychological Safety Is A Differentiator

A 2015 study by Google underscores the importance of psychological safety, identifying it as one of the fundamental dynamics that set successful teams apart from the rest. In environments where psychological safety was prevalent, teams were more cohesive, innovative, and, ultimately, more successful.

The emphasis on psychological safety is not just about fostering a positive workplace. It’s about unlocking the full potential of every team member and, by extension, the organization itself. By understanding and championing psychological safety, businesses can cultivate workplaces that are not just productive but also places where individuals have an incredible employee experience.

5 Characteristics of a Psychologically Safe Workplace: Unveiling the Elements of a Supportive Environment

A psychologically safe work environment is akin to a nurturing ecosystem where ideas flourish, and individuals thrive. But what does this environment look like, and how can we identify it?

Problem-solving teams need two critical things…. The first is psychological safety and cognitive diversity (Harvard Business Review), underscoring the importance of an environment where diverse thoughts are welcomed and respected. Let’s delve into the characteristics that define such a safe space.

Characteristics of a Psychologically Safe Workplace

1. Open Communication: In a psychologically safe workplace, communication is transparent and open. Team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, knowing their voices are valued.

2. Respect for Diversity: Cognitive diversity is celebrated, and different perspectives are seen as assets that enrich discussions and decision-making processes.

3. Emphasis on Learning: Mistakes are viewed as opportunities for learning and growth rather than failures that warrant punishment.

4. Supportive Atmosphere: Employees support each other, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie.

5. Encouragement of Risk-taking: Innovation is encouraged, and interpersonal risk-taking is seen as a part of the creative process.

Identify Red Flags

While understanding the characteristics of a psychologically safe workplace is essential, it’s equally important to recognize the signs that may indicate a lack of such safety. Being proactive in identifying these red flags can help foster a supportive environment:

1. Reluctance to Speak Up: In a psychologically safe workplace, employees feel comfortable sharing ideas. A hesitation to voice concerns may indicate a lack of safety.

2. High Stress Levels: A supportive environment promotes well-being. Persistent stress among team members could signal a need for improvement.

3. Frequent Conflicts: Regular disagreements within teams may suggest an absence of psychological safety.

4. Low Employee Engagement: A psychologically safe workplace encourages active participation. Disinterest in team activities can be a red flag.

By being vigilant about these signs, organizations can take timely action to reinforce the elements contributing to a psychologically safe and supportive environment.

Providing Psychological Safety In A Hybrid Work Model

The shift towards remote collaboration and hybrid work models has introduced new challenges in maintaining psychological safety, making it essential to adapt and integrate supportive elements seamlessly.

4 Characteristics of a Psychologically Safe Remote Workplace

1. Consistent Check-ins: A psychologically safe workplace, whether remote or in-person, ensures regular interactions. Virtual meetings can help employees feel connected and valued.

2. Inclusive Communication: A supportive environment utilizes tools that ensure everyone, regardless of location, has an opportunity to contribute.

3. Virtual Team-Building: Activities that foster camaraderie and trust among remote teams are characteristic of a psychologically safe workplace.

4. Adaptability: A continuous effort to adapt to changing work trends is a hallmark of a supportive environment.

By integrating these characteristics, organizations can ensure that employees, regardless of their work setting, experience a sense of psychological safety and feel supported and valued, regardless of their location.

A Glimpse into a Psychologically Safe Workplace

Creating a psychologically safe work environment requires fostering the shared belief that individuals can be themselves, voice their thoughts, and contribute to their fullest potential. By understanding and supporting these characteristics, organizations can create workplaces that are not only productive but also profoundly enriching for every team member.

Joe’s Transformation

In a global financial institution, Joe, a dedicated software developer, was known for his heads-down work. However, assessments revealed that his natural strengths leaned towards leadership. Recognizing this, the team decided to let Joe lead a standing five-minute meeting every day. This small change allowed Joe to tap into his leadership skills and significantly shifted his engagement levels. He began actively participating in discussions, spreading his energy to other meetings. This supportive atmosphere led not only to an increase in Joe’s engagement but also positively impacted the team’s overall dynamics and productivity.

Michael and Sarah’s Improved Collaboration

Another story that stands out is Michael, a small business owner, and his employee, Sarah. In team meetings, Sarah consistently rebutted Michael’s suggestions, creating tension. However, some coaching helped Michael understand that Sarah’s questions were aimed at understanding, not challenging. When Michael approached Sarah with empathy and curiosity, the dynamic shifted. Sarah felt heard, and her questions strengthened teamwork.

Small changes, such as understanding one’s strengths and fostering open communication, can impact employee retention, personal relationships, and overall well-being.

Building Psychological Safety: A 4 Step Blueprint for Success

How to Foster Psychological Safety in the Workplace

Creating a psychologically safe workplace is not a one-time effort but a continuous journey. Leadership plays a pivotal role in this transformation. Leaders set the tone for the organization, and their actions and attitudes can either foster or hinder the development of psychological safety.

Simon Sinek, a renowned leadership expert, encapsulates this idea perfectly: A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other. Trust is the bedrock of psychological safety, and leaders must actively work to cultivate it.

4 Actionable Steps for Leaders

1. Encourage Open Dialogue: Leaders should create an environment where open communication is encouraged. This means actively seeking diverse opinions and creating spaces for discussions. This aligns with the first stage of psychological safety, Inclusion Safety, as outlined by Timothy R. Clark in his book, The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, where individuals need to feel accepted and included.

2. Admit Vulnerability: Leaders can set an example by admitting their mistakes and showing that it’s okay not to have all the answers. This fosters Learner Safety, the second stage defined by Clark, where team members feel safe to engage in the learning process, ask questions, and make mistakes.

3. Celebrate Diversity: Embracing cognitive diversity and different perspectives can lead to richer discussions and better problem-solving. This step is crucial in establishing Contributor Safety, the third stage, where individuals feel safe to apply their skills and contribute to the team’s objectives.

4. Provide Psychological Safety Training: Equip your team with the knowledge and tools they need. Amy Edmondson’s book, The Fearless Organization, and her TEDx talk on building a psychologically safe workplace are excellent resources. Additionally, training can help teams reach Challenger Safety, the fourth stage identified by Clark, where individuals feel empowered to challenge the status quo and propose innovative ideas.

From my own experience, adapting my leadership style was a journey of self-discovery. I realized that by being more open and encouraging my team to share their thoughts without fear, we were able to foster a sense of belonging and safety. This shift not only improved our team dynamics but also led to more innovative solutions.

Consider Pixar’s “Braintrust” Meetings:

Pixar Animation Studios offers a brilliant example of psychological safety in action. Their “Braintrust” meetings are designed to provide candid feedback on ongoing projects. The environment is structured to ensure that the feedback is constructive and free from hierarchical constraints, allowing for honest discussions and creative problem-solving.

Building psychological safety is an ongoing process that requires commitment from leadership and active participation from all team members. By implementing these steps and learning from successful examples, organizations can create an environment where everyone feels safe contributing, leading to more incredible innovation and success.

Integrating Tools to Enhance Psychological Safety

Cultivating a supportive workplace is a nuanced endeavor beyond leadership initiatives and open communication. It involves embedding continuous learning and insightful tools into everyday work experiences. For instance, platforms like Cloverleaf can seamlessly integrate into daily workflows, offering insights to improve communication and collaboration among teammates.

In a supportive work culture, continuous learning becomes the norm. By understanding themselves and their colleagues better, individuals can foster an environment that thrives on mutual respect and openness. This shift is not just about personal development; it can shift the entire culture of organizations. When equipped with the right insights, teams can unlock fulfilling and productive dynamics to reap the benefits of psychological safety.

Accessibility to intuitive and actionable data is also crucial. Tools that provide easy-to-understand insights empower individuals and teams to make informed decisions, contributing to a more supportive and inclusive environment. These tools can be subtle yet powerful facilitators in fostering a culture where every voice is valued and authenticity is celebrated.

In essence, the journey toward a psychologically safe workplace is enriched by practices and tools that encourage understanding and open communication. By integrating platforms that offer insights into individual and team dynamics, organizations can take a holistic approach to building a culture where individuals feel valued, heard, and encouraged to be their authentic selves.

Conclusion: The Path Forward

In the dynamic and constantly shifting environment of modern workplaces., prioritizing psychological safety is not just a necessity but a commitment to fostering a culture of trust, innovation, and collaboration. As we navigate the complexities of team dynamics, leadership roles, and organizational goals, psychological safety is a beacon of hope.

Embracing Vulnerability

Brené Brown, a renowned researcher and storyteller, encapsulates the spirit of psychological safety when she notes, “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.” This sentiment resonates deeply with the ethos of a psychologically safe workplace. It’s about creating an environment where vulnerability is seen not as a weakness but a strength, where individuals are encouraged to bring their authentic selves to the table.

The path forward requires a commitment to continuous learning and development. Organizations must actively seek ways to embed psychological safety into their cultures, ensuring that it permeates every interaction, decision, and strategy. It’s about recognizing that the journey toward a psychologically safe workplace is ongoing and requires consistent effort.

A Call to Action

As we conclude our exploration of psychological safety, the call to action is clear. Organizations must prioritize creating environments where employees feel seen, heard, and valued. By doing so, we pave the way for workplaces that are not just productive but also nurturing spaces that foster creativity, innovation, and mutual respect.

In essence, the path forward is one of commitment and action toward ensuring that psychological safety is not just a buzzword but a lived reality in our workplaces. By embracing vulnerability, encouraging open dialogue, and continuously striving for improvement, we set the stage for a future where every workplace is a haven of psychological safety and collaborative success.

Leading people is no small feat, especially when you’re at the helm of a vast organization. As someone responsible for steering People Strategy in big enterprises, you’ve undoubtedly felt the weight of ensuring that every team member, from the fresher to the veteran, feels seen and heard. It’s not just about empathy; it’s about business. Research consistently shows that companies that actively foster a sense of belonging and inclusivity tend to outperform their competitors.

What happens when employees are heard and cared for in ways that are meaningful to them?

The best companies experience half the turnover as their peers and have employees who are six times more likely to help recruit talent. Eighty percent of employees on the best companies list look forward to coming to work and feel psychologically and emotionally healthy. Ninety percent say their company is a great place to work, and they feel cared for. At average workplaces, 52% of employees feel management sincerely cares about them as a person, and 57% say their workplace is great.Michael C. Bush

But how do we translate this knowledge into actionable insights and strategies? Drawing from real-life stories and grounded in expertise, this piece is tailored to help people leaders like you navigate these waters with confidence.

Key Takeaways

  • The Business Case for Belonging: Companies prioritizing belonging consistently outperform rivals with lower turnover and greater productivity, potentially saving millions annually.
  • Employee Well-being: A culture of psychological safety boosts innovation, reduces stress, and improves job satisfaction and health.
  • Retaining Leads To Loyalty: A strong sense of belonging is pivotal in reducing turnover and retaining invaluable expertise in the organization.
  • Inclusivity Beyond Team Cohesion: It’s essential to value every employee’s uniqueness, ensuring all feel seen and valued regardless of demographics.
  • Intentional Actions to Create Belonging: Strategic efforts, like appreciating individual contributions and empowering decision-making, create an environment where everyone thrives.
belonging in the workplace

Why is Belonging So Important in the Workplace?

1. Enhancing Psychological Safety Fosters Better Employee Well-being

A culture that promotes psychological safety is at the heart of every thriving organization. This term, popularized by organizational behavioral scientist Amy Edmondson, underscores the value of an environment where individuals feel comfortable taking interpersonal risks. But what does this have to do with belonging?

Belonging is more than just fitting in; it’s about feeling safe to be one’s authentic self without the fear of retribution or ostracization. When employees genuinely feel they belong, they are more likely to voice their opinions, express concerns, and share innovative ideas. This is deeply intertwined with their mental health and overall fulfillment.

An environment lacking in belonging can lead to feelings of isolation, stress, and burnout, ultimately hampering the mental wellness of the workforce. Recent studies suggest that employees in psychologically safe environments, characterized by mutual respect and trust, exhibit better health, lower stress levels, and higher job satisfaction.

2. Elevate Employee Engagement and Increase Job Satisfaction

A deep sense of belonging doesn’t just enhance mental well-being—it also supercharges employee engagement and satisfaction. Think about it: When you feel valued, heard, and genuinely part of a team, aren’t you more motivated to give your best?

Employees who believe they belong are more likely to go the extra mile, display loyalty to their organizations, and commit to their roles. Their satisfaction is tied to their paycheck and the deeper, intrinsic reward of being part of something bigger. A survey from 2021 indicated that employees who felt a strong sense of belonging were twice as likely to be highly engaged in their roles compared to those who did not.

3. Improve Retention Rates and Reduce Turnover

Retention is a pain point for many large organizations. Hiring high-potential employees is one thing, but retaining them? That’s a different ball game. Here’s where the magic of belonging plays a crucial role.

Employees who don’t feel they belong or are not valued are more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. Most of the time, it’s not always about better compensation or a fancier job title. More often than not, the underlying reason is the lack of connection, recognition, or a sense of purpose in their current roles. Businesses that prioritize belonging can experience a significant drop in turnover rates, saving them not only monetary costs but also the invaluable experience and knowledge that employees carry with them.

4. Significant Surge in Overall Productivity

Lastly, let’s talk numbers. While belonging might seem like an abstract concept, its impact on productivity is tangible. Employees who feel they belong are not just happier; they’re more productive. They collaborate better with their peers, show increased creativity, and tackle challenges with greater resilience.

When employees genuinely experience belonging, the positive impact on an organization’s financial health is profound. A strong sense of belonging has been associated with a remarkable 56% boost in job performance, a notable 50% decrease in the likelihood of turnover, and an impressive 75% fewer sick days taken. To put this into perspective, for an organization with 10,000 staff members, these benefits translate to an annual financial saving exceeding $52M. – Harvard Business Review

The correlation is evident: when individuals feel valued and know their contributions matter, they bring their A-game to the table.

Talent Development in the Age of AI



Understanding the Current State of Your Company Culture

Understanding Workplace Belonging:

Fostering a sense of belonging in the workplace might sometimes come across as intangible or trivial. Perhaps you’ve questioned its significance, wondering, “Is it genuinely essential? How do I cultivate it, and how can its impact be measured?” The answer lies in our innate human desire: our yearning to connect, to be recognized, and to form bonds and attachments. This longing for belonging is a profound and primal motivator.

A Personal Reflection on Belonging:

Reflecting on my journey, working at Cloverleaf has been incredibly fulfilling. My immense pride in being associated with the organization stems from our achievements and the deep belonging I feel here. My teammates appreciate me for who I am, celebrating my unique attributes that, in different contexts, might have been perceived as “too much.” My enthusiasm, ambition, and compassion are accepted, celebrated, and harnessed here.

Still Not Convinced About The Importance Of Belonging? Consider This…

To understand the gravity of belonging, think back to your early years, perhaps junior high. For many, it was a time characterized by the intense desire to fit in and the crushing weight of exclusion when one didn’t.

Remember that feeling? The stark difference between the warmth of inclusion and the cold sting of isolation? That’s the magnitude of belonging we’re discussing here.

Belonging isn’t just about avoiding exclusion. It’s about the positive affirmations we receive when someone appreciates our quirks, laughs at our jokes, or supports our endeavors. It’s about feeling valued, cherished, and seen. In the workplace, it’s about recognizing every individual piece and understanding how indispensable it is to the bigger picture. That’s the essence and impact of belonging we aim to cultivate in our professional environments.

3 Areas Of Focus For Creating Belonging In The Workplace

1. Assess Your Employee Experience

Belonging isn’t just a term; it’s a heartfelt sentiment. It encapsulates the emotions of being seen, valued, and supported. Our day-to-day interactions play a crucial role in fostering this sentiment. It’s interwoven in the way people communicate, share ideas, and engage with one another during team meetings and even informal check-ins.

An effective way to understand this more deeply is by diving into the employee experience. You don’t need an elaborate survey or a webinar to start. Instead, initiate an open conversation with a teammate. Encourage them to share their experiences, perhaps shedding light on instances where they might’ve felt isolated or excluded. Discover their perspectives on these feelings and understand their methods of enduring such challenges. Such feedback is vital for our decision-making process to foster belonging.

Should you uncover instances of exclusion or isolation, it’s essential to correct this trajectory. By engaging in open communication, you can delve into the nuances of their experience. Ask them how they felt during these moments, how they managed, and what changes might enhance their well-being.

2. Appreciate The Uniqueness Of Each Individual On Your Team:

Remember, fostering a feeling of belonging is not just about team cohesion but also acknowledging and celebrating individuality. This act of recognizing each employee’s uniqueness—regardless of their demographics—is a testament to inclusive leadership and workplace culture.

Every individual wants their unique contributions to be seen and valued. By understanding and appreciating each teammate’s varied strengths, backgrounds, and personalities, we set a robust foundation for true inclusivity. Thus, belonging becomes about feeling seen, valued, and supported at every level.

3. Value Work-Life Balance

The surge in remote work has opened up new challenges and opportunities in fostering belonging. Physical distance might lead to feelings of disconnect, but ensuring that the culture of belonging permeates even virtual spaces is essential. Regular one-on-one’s, team-building activities, and open channels for team members to experience remote collaboration can bridge this gap.

When an employee says, “My uniqueness was seen, and my team valued it,” it’s a testament to the effectiveness of your initiatives, whether in a traditional office or a remote setting.

Moreover, maintaining a work-life balance directly impacts an employee’s overall sense of fulfillment and peace of mind. By recognizing the importance of this balance, especially in a hybrid work model, leaders can reinforce the values of support and understanding, essential components for fostering high belonging.

10 Ways for Leaders To Foster Belonging and Inclusivity in the Workplace

A sense of belonging doesn’t just emerge; it’s cultivated through intentional actions and strategies. This section delves into practical tips that leaders can integrate into their management repertoire, ensuring that each member feels anchored, valued, and an integral part of the collective team journey.

Foster Belonging through Team Building:

1.See, Acknowledge, and Value Uniqueness:

  • Use resources like Cloverleaf to identify and acknowledge your team’s unique traits.
  • Go beyond recognizing to actively appreciate their contributions. This might include public affirmations like a shout-out in a Slack channel.
  • Instill a coaching approach to further draw out their best selves.

2. Support Growth and Provide Opportunities Aligned with Strengths:

  • Use tools like CliftonStrengths to understand strengths and leverage them.
  • Allow projects that ignite passion, tapping into individuals’ key strengths.

3. Engage in Authentic Conversations and Foster Genuine Presence:

  • Encourage open dialogues about feelings, values, and authenticity.
  • Prioritize genuine interaction, being fully present, and valuing the individual over the task.

4. Educate on the Value of Belonging and Balance with Productivity:

  • Emphasize how feelings can drive change and enhance productivity.
  • Recognize the balance needed between accomplishing tasks and valuing individuals.

5. Empower Employees to Shape Solutions:

  • Engage in collaborative strategy-building for fostering belonging.
  • Take feedback seriously, merging personal development opportunities with business needs.

6. Engage in Regular One-On-Ones:

  • Facilitate both peer and manager-employee interactions to strengthen team bonds.
  • Use themes or topics to guide deeper, more meaningful conversations.

7. Initiate Team-building Activities:

  • Encourage cross-functional brainstorming.
  • Host collective learning sessions like webinars for a shared experience.

8. Support Remote Collaboration and Engagement:

  • Create space for informal chats on platforms like Zoom or Slack.
  • Ensure proficiency with collaboration tools, offering regular training sessions.

9. Promote and Support Employee Resource Groups (ERGs):

  • Highlight different ERGs monthly, sharing their achievements and goals.
  • Encourage projects that align with both ERG goals and company culture.

10. Highlight Success Stories and Achievements:

  • Share stories that emphasize the organization’s values in action.
  • Provide platforms where team members can showcase moments of pride and support.

The steps outlined here serve as more than just directives; they’re a commitment to recognizing the multifaceted tapestry of individuals that make up a team. Leaders enhance productivity by valuing uniqueness, championing growth, creating spaces for authentic conversations, and crafting a nurturing environment where everyone thrives.

Final Thoughts

The heart of an organization lies not just in its operational excellence but in its culture. A culture of belonging is not merely a perk or a box to check off; it’s the lifeblood that fuels every contributor’s passion, commitment, and innovation. This sense of belonging, of feeling seen, valued, and supported, shapes not only individual fulfillment at work but the overall trajectory of a company.

To the leaders reading this: Your role transcends traditional HR tasks. You are the torchbearers of your organization’s culture. With the ever-evolving dynamics of the workplace, are we valuing the person for their work and as someone with intrinsic worth?

In the intricacies of your organization, every individual is a unique and essential piece. Your organization can truly realize its full potential when each person feels acknowledged, cherished, and valuable.

Cloverleaf: A One-Stop-Shop To Help Your People Be Their Best Selves

Do Cloverleaf’s assessments help with understanding neurodiversity?

While we don’t directly ask individuals about neurodiversity, the mix of assessments on the platform allows us to cover many of the behaviors and work preferences of neurodivergent individuals.

But first off, what is neurodiversity?

According to Harvard Health, neurodiversity is “the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways.”

As for how the Cloverleaf assessments apply, consider the example of a user who has Autism. This diagnosis manifests differently for each person. Let’s assume that for this autistic person, he or she is relatively anti-social around people he or she doesn’t know and is somewhat reclusive. These behaviors would present themselves as being very low or high on one or more of the existing assessments (e.g., very low on I of DISC, very high on I of 16 types, very low on approachability of culture pulse, etc.)

We haven’t yet done a large research project to map each neurodiverse category to specific assessments scores. Eventually, with the guidance and approval of an institutional review board, we could pursue such a project in order to help contribute to understanding this important question. Such a project would also help ensure we’re not missing anything behaviorally. But at a high level, it does appear that our assessments have many different types of neurodiverse behaviors that are already being covered. (Additional examples include but are not limited to Aspergers, ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia.)

Why not offer assessments that specifically address neurodiversity? 

Assessments can help uncover neurodiverse diagnoses, but these diagnoses need to be paired with behavioral observations and conversations with a medical professional. Additionally, it would be problematic to track such diagnoses in a platform where others would potentially have access to such information, because it might accidentally facilitate discrimination and/or biases. Our platform is purposefully neutral such that no one is targeted as “good” or “bad,” but just different.

Overall, I think that Cloverleaf helps facilitate the conversations that really need to happen among neurodiverse employees (and in many cases, the conversations these employees are afraid to have). Instead of neurodiverse people needing to explain their neurodiversity, all parties can instead focus on preferences and behavior (i.e., how they like to complete tasks and work with others). In other words, the reason why someone behaves a certain way shouldn’t matter (i.e., neurodiversity). What matters is that they do behave a certain way and that all parties should work better together to accommodate those tendencies and preferences.

Learn how to make Cloverleaf your coaching partner to understand the individuals and teams that you work with, drive conversations and even training sessions.

In this blog post, Cloverleaf’s Chief Research Officer, Dr. Scott Dust, discusses cognitive diversity. He explains research findings from his published work in Personnel Psychology, offers key take-aways for maximizing cognitive diversity, and then explains how Cloverleaf can help facilitate the process of cognitive diversity.

In leadership and team building settings we’ve all been taught to embrace cognitive diversity. But how does cognitive diversity help? And how do we pinpoint and leverage cognitive diversity? My co-authors and I recently published a paper in Personnel Psychology that addresses these questions.

Across two studies, using a total of 520 manager-employee dyads, we found that manager-employee cognitive diversity improves employee creativity. As diverse teams become more divergent on risk orientation, employees’ intellectual stimulation increased, which in turn increased their creativity.

Risk orientation—the tendency to take or avoid risks when making decisions or problem-solving —is commonly thought to be a precursor to creativity. Importantly, it didn’t matter as much whether managers or employees were high or low on risk orientation. What did matter was that the manager and employee were different on risk orientation.

Also interesting is that employees’ perceptions of their managers determined whether the intellectual stimulation stemming from cognitive diversity was realized.

When employees’ perceived that their managers were genuinely interested in and open to their perspectives and ideas, the beneficial impact of cognitive diversity was enhanced. Alternatively, when employees’ perceived that their manager was uninterested in their perspectives and ideas, the benefits of cognitive diversity disappeared.

The take-aways of this research are three-fold:

(1)   When two people work together that have a diversity of thought it facilitates intellectual stimulation, which entails rethinking assumptions and considering problems in new ways.

(2)   When people experience intellectual stimulation it facilitates the generation of novel yet useful ideas and initiatives (i.e., creativity).

(3)   The benefits of cognitive diversity in the work environment will only be realized when we perceive that the other party is genuinely open to our ideas and perspectives.

A key objective of the Cloverleaf platform is to enhance the likelihood that colleagues can capitalize on the benefits of cognitive diversity. To facilitate this process, we developed what is called the “Thinking Styles Comparison.”

On Cloverleaf’s team dashboard the user can select an assessment (e.g., DiSC, Instinctive Drives) and a team member comparison target. The user is then given a succinct report that helps them see how they can capitalize on their thinking style differences.

Cognitive diversity is important in work environments. At Cloverleaf, our goal is to help users make the most of these diverse viewpoints. Our hope is that this will lead to amazing teams that are not only more productive and make better decisions, but appreciate and respect each other’s different perspectives.

Liu, H., Dust, S. B., Xu, M., & Ji, Y. (forthcoming). Leader–follower risk orientation incongruence, intellectual stimulation, and creativity: A configurational approach. Personnel Psychology.