Blog 14.4.2020

Maintaining psychological safety at workplace in a deviant situation

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Since returning from maternity leave, I have experienced a strong feeling of psychological safety at work. (Side note: The situation was probably the same even before the parental leave, but my new life started when my son was born, and I don’t remember anything before that.) At Gofore, I have a permission to be, to say, to be heard. Gofore has felt like a home base where I am taken care of and where I am appreciated for who I am.

When the COVID-19 situation boiled over around the world, I was still living in my own personal bubble thinking: no such problem will affect me in my happy warm-milk-scented life.

Boy, was I wrong.

When the Finnish government first suggested isolation and remote work, the feeling was quite absurd. I was used to working remotely for a couple of days a week, but to stay away from the office all together – really? Gofore reacted fast. We were immediately informed that, from now on, we will have a Remote First policy. I felt at ease after that, because I didn’t need to be guessing. I wasn’t a headless chicken running against walls anymore – I knew what was expected of me and where I was expected to be. Most of all I got the feeling that employee health and safety comes first.

I dare to talk: The feeling of participation and belonging

Since then, the communication has been just as timely and robust. At Gofore, we communicate a lot, in many channels, and always interactively. I often tell applicants in job interviews that, at Gofore, everyone has the right to know what is going on in the company and what will be going on. The feeling of participation and belonging has been more important than ever, and it hasn’t only been highlighted in our working community but in social media as well.

If, aside from this COVID-19 situation, we think about the psychological safety that Gofore offers to its employees, it has always been invested in, developed, and people have been quite self-sufficient in bringing that feeling to their own teams. It’s a fantastically liberating feeling when you dare to talk – even when what you are saying isn’t all gummy bears, rainbows and streamers of joy.

Only a few days ago I had to question some of my colleague’s words, just to bring a new perspective to the matter. My teammate, who has recently started working at Gofore, and who was present at the conversation, was wondering afterwards at how great the conversation had been. In her previous job, no such conversation could have been had without someone getting offended or hurt. I myself am very opposed to any conflict and my natural instinct is to rather leave things unsaid, so opening up a conversation like that tells a great deal about our culture. I believe the conversation was ended with heart emojis.

Psychological safety – I’m accepted for who I am

Even previously, I have heard a lot of wondering about our Slack culture – how we can discuss almost anything, even personal matters. The topics are variable, and feedback is sometimes given in brutal honesty. Sometimes talking about topic X opens a long discussion about topic Y. This is strongly connected to psychological safety. When you feel good in the workplace and you trust the people around you, you feel comfortable opening up new sides of yourself. Baring your soul, if you will.

One of the greatest things about my own team is the fact that we can share our fears, anxiety, fatigue and even talk about health, family life and personal weaknesses. The environment feels safe when you don’t constantly have to push yourself like crazy, even when you feel exhausted. I have also gotten more feedback than ever in my life. It feels extremely good because it builds confidence in myself and in what I am doing – I’ve got this!

Communication and ways of doing it are developed and strengthened constantly, and respectful ways of communicating are emphasized. In our almost 600 expert organization, there are countless different personalities, and not all of them can get along – nor do they have to. This is why it is vital that the company appreciates diversity, highlights individual strengths, and offers everyone ways to be heard. Everyone is accepted for who they are.

Me and Gofore: Trust goes both ways

In job interviews, I often get the question: “Why is Gofore a good workplace for you?” My answer is always the same: mutual trust. I feel that Gofore trusts and believes in me. I get to do my job the way I see best, when I see best, where I see best. I have the freedom to make decisions, purchases and development. My judgement is trusted. My professionalism is trusted. I am trusted. At the same time, Gofore has earned my trust. I strongly believe in Gofore – in us.

In the prevailing exceptional circumstances, I have been especially proud of Gofore’s integrity. Of course, the situation caused a scare at first. Will there be layoffs? Our competitor began those negotiations; are we next? Panic. However, for now, everything has continued as business-as-usual and that is awesome! After the initial shock, the feeling of safety has returned, and fear isn’t constantly present. We have made it for now. You will never know what happens in the future, but at least we can all be grateful that our well-being has been considered along the way and Gofore has done everything so that everyone could keep their jobs.

And – as if just staying afloat wasn’t enough – Gofore has also offered different ways to make remote work easier. Displays, chairs and other tools have been transported to employees’ homes if they didn’t have their own car. It is okay to have summer vacations already; hours can go negative and several childcare options are also available free-of-charge. Incredible.

It has been great to see how Gofore has maintained its place and the trust in its employees, despite difficult times. That, if anything, fosters the feeling of psychological safety in the future.

Iina Korpivaara
Talent Management Specialist

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Iina Korpivaara

Advisory and Design

Iina is a Talent Management Specialist at Gofore, dreaming of developing well-being at work and renewing recruitment processes into a more agile way of doing things. Iina has been working in recruitment all her adult life, in different industries. At Gofore, Iina is responsible for the recruitment of designers, project managers, management consultants, agile coaches and service architects.

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