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According to Harvard Business School, professor Amy Edmondson, defined psychological safety as “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.”

We can’t deny that we have all been labeled as ‘green’ crew as we jumped onboard our first yacht. Being ‘green’ can certainly be overwhelming for some as you learn to navigate your department and responsibilities as well as finding your place within an established team.

As ‘green crew’, at some point we would of either been inspired by influential leadership or haunted by poor leadership and this can subsequently shape our own perceptions of leadership and the attributes we choose to adopt as our own.

Recently, I interviewed Gemma @theyachtstew – we discussed bullying and the disruption it can cause within your personal life and professional career. In our upcoming vlog, Gemma shares for the first time publicly, her experience as a victim of bullying which left her with severe anxiety to the point that she was shaking at her morning pre-brief team meetings. Gemma fortunately realised that this sort of behaviour from her superior was not acceptable and wisely resigned before the bullying got progressively worse.

I think we can all agree that safety is a number one priority when working as a seafarer. Without completing your mandatory STCW 95 and ENG 1, you are unable to secure a position onboard. What the industry neglects to observe is that psychological safety goes hand in hand with physical safety and therefore should be given equally enough attention. When an onboard culture supports dysfunctional attitudes and behaviours, it not only fuels a fear based culture but directly puts the crews’ physical safety at risk.

Research studies have found that where psychological safety was absent the occurrence of accidents increased due to the employees’ inability to ask for help.

This goes the same for yacht crew, if there is no tolerance for making mistakes, crew are less likely to reach out for help which may potentially lead to unsafe outcomes. When crew are not supported by their superiors but are rather shamed or blamed for making a mistake this can manifest into a volatile working and living environment.

It is crucial to promote a learning culture onboard, where mistakes are embraced rather than criticised. Interestingly, Amy Edmondson and Google both found in their respective studies that the teams which made more mistakes were in fact more successful.

Creating an environment in which people feel comfortable to take risks is key to fostering innovative workplaces. When workplaces encourage learning through failure you are likely to see an overall improvement in crew wellbeing, morale, engagement and productivity. The Crew Coach offers a suite of tailored workshops to assist crew in building a positive onboard culture and thriving workplace.

For inspiration see professor Amy Edmondson’s TEDTalk on “Building a psychologically safe workplace.”

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