Importance of Psychological Safety at IRP
I’d like to talk to y’all more about the subject of psychological safety and its importance here in our community space. For those who don’t know what psychological safety is, it is a SHARED belief in a group that a given environment is safe for people to take interpersonal risks and make mistakes without incurring personal loss or punishment. Shared, meaning that we are in the collective agreement and a GIVEN environment or space is safe for people to screw up, learn and do better without personal damage.
All of us are learning many new things regarding the publishing industry, writing, social justice, equitable spaces and culture as we create our work, it’s imperative there are spaces allowed to discuss, share and take risks on our writing. As creatives, this is key to innovation. As a community, this is key to equity and inclusion. Perfection doesn’t exist and we are all works in progress. We grow from learning, failing, unlearning, and applying what we learned.
What does psychological safety look like here?
Members are able to give and receive feedback. Whether it’s on a critique or a process or even how something is discussed.
Members feel safe raising issues and concerns with the community
Members feel safe disagreeing with another’s approach or stance on a topic
Members ask for clarification without feeling it reflects poorly on their intelligence
Members feel safe asking difficult questions about our topics, standards and mission of IRP
Members feel safe offering solutions to problems and given an opportunity to voice that
Members feel safe admitting to mistakes, hold themselves accountable for mistakes and given room to rectify that mistake.
Members feel safe asking IRP leadership and other members for help.
This above must be our shared belief of what psychological safety means here.
If you don’t feel like it’s safe here to do the above, I would like to find out what and why so I can help improve that.
Now, we need to discuss the other part of the definition: our given environment
I want our entire Slack community to have psychological safety, and to do that, we also have to abide by my motto: “First, do no harm.” What I mean by that is if we are to make it safe for people to make mistakes, how do we protect those who may be impacted by our interpersonal risk-taking?
There are a few things we must do (some we do already) that will help here:
Create agreed-upon channels where certain topics are isolated from general discussion so members can opt-in to those topics
Content Warnings on discussion topics or questions so people can opt out the conversation.
Approach questions with a “seek to understand” first. Many topics require a nuanced discussion, which may not always come across in text.
If you realize something you said was in bad form or from a place of ignorance, your apology should be transparent in why it was bad form and how you plan to mitigate your bad take (get more information, remove your post, combination of both, etc.)
When someone screws up, what matters is changed behavior. Dragging people from sun up to sundown isn’t proven to invoke changed behavior. Remember, we’re all just a text or tweet away from being in the hot seat for something.
We all agree that topics such as basic human and civil rights (BLM, LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive rights, etc.) simply aren’t up for debate here. Full stop. The vast majority of our community identify with many intersections of historically ignored and disenfranchised groups. We matter. This is our space and we don’t have time to debate our existence. This is one scenario where I will boot a member from the space without blinking.
Psychological safety is a collective belief that a team is a safe place for you to be who you are, ask questions, share your ideas, or challenge the status quo. While trust happens between two people, Psychological Safety is something that the entire team provides. However, both complement each other. If team members don’t trust each other, how can they trust the whole group?
Other Articles for further reading:
Psychological Safety first: building trust among teams
Offenses are a violation of people and relationships. Offenses hurts individual victims, communities, and offenders and creates obligations to put things right. Restoration means repairing the harm done and rebuilding relationships in the community.
Victims and the community are central to the justice process. All parties should be a part of the response to an offense—victim (if they choose to be involved), community, and the offender.
A primary focus of a justice process is to assist victims and address needs. The victim’s perspective is key to determining how to repair the harm resulting from the offense.
The secondary focus is restoring the community to the degree possible. The offender has a personal responsibility to victims and to the community for wrongs committed. Parties involved in the restorative justice process share responsibility for repairing harm through partnerships for action. The community has a responsibility for the well-being of all its members, including both victims and offenders.
All human beings have dignity and worth. Victim and offender are both able to move forward with respect, and dignity, and are re-integrated into the broader community as much as possible.
Adoption of Restorative Justice Practices at IRP
Building this community has been a great adventure in my own "great unlearning" journey and the more I grasp the philosophy behind abolitionists and how we as a society dole out justice, the more I'm inspired to integrate these ideas into our community. As a consultant, I must've reviewed countless code of conducts, rules, laws, bylaws, and complaint codes in organization and all of them are created from a traditional criminal offense philosophy: (What code was broken, Who did it, What do they deserve?)
My rough spot with this was always the same question: What does the victim need? In fact, in my DEI consultant work, I found there's very little attention or informed consent given to the victim at all. They tend to be forgotten in our traditional playbook of crime & punishment. In fact, my mother used to say, "the last people the justice system actually cares about is the victim." I thought she was just being cynical, until I got older and frequently saw this in real-time. Where the offender is given more platform and voice than those who were harmed by the offense. It's still the case now where we as a society get so obsessed with the villanization and criminalization of a person, we forget to include the community and offer support for the victim so they can heal. As the young folks say, "It didn't sit right with my spirit." However, so many organizations also adopted this process that it seemed impenetrable to change.
That is, until I started learning about restorative justice practices and philosophy.
So, what is Restorative Justice?
Restorative justice seeks to examine the harmful impact of an offense and then determines what can be done to repair that harm while holding the person who caused it accountable for his or her actions. Accountability for the offender means accepting responsibility and acting to repair the harm done. Outcomes seek to both repair the harm and address the reasons for the offense, while reducing the likelihood of re-offense. Rather than focusing on the punishment meted out, restorative justice measures results by how successfully the harm is repaired.
Additionally, restorative justice seeks to include those most directly affected by an offense in the justice process, namely victims and survivors. Rather than a process focused on the offender, restorative justice focuses on those who have been harmed and the harms they have experienced. In the restorative justice process, victims are empowered to participate more fully than in the traditional system. Likewise, the community plays an important role in the restorative process by establishing standards of conduct, helping to hold an offender accountable, and providing support to the parties involved and opportunities to help repair the harm that has occurred. The opportunity to express the harm a victim has experienced, full participation in decision making, and support from the community all aid in the healing in the aftermath of a serious offense.
During the "unlearn" I had a lot of sticking points I had to work out with restorative justice. So I'm happy to share the myths I had to bust to get onboard.
Restorative Justice isn't "soft." At first, that was my big sticker. It "felt" like in order to do this we were asking for "less punishment" or reprecussions for the offender, which in my line of work meant that racists and toxic leaders would "get off easy." I had to sit in on some community circles where they worked out the accountability needs of the offender and no---this isn't soft. What was refreshing was the care involved to remember both the victim and offender are human beings and focusing on the needs of the victim who holds ALL their agency. This was another sticker for me, but throughout the whole process, the victim got to decide how much they wanted to be involved in the process, if they even wanted to open a dialogue with the offender, and what they believed would support them as they healed.
Learning from how school systems are adopting this practice has inspired me to look at the Inclusive Romance Project as an opportunity as well to integrate this behavior into our organization.
This ties so close to psychological safety, it ain't even funny, but of course for this to have a chance requires base-level mental safety for the community, the victims and offenders to have willingness to restore the relationships and the respect in order to progress further.
I've realized that the fear of "making a mistake" or "getting it wrong" is a valid fear in a society that seeks to strip away the humanity of both the victim and the offender, without any opportunity to help the community heal nor allow the offender a transformative path to be welcomed back into the community.