Brave Spaces in the Workplace

Creating Brave Spaces vs Just Safe Spaces in The Workplace

In today’s workplace, creating a safe space for team members to share their thoughts and ideas is crucial for fostering a positive and productive work environment. Safe spaces are great, but they’re not enough to create meaningful change such as advancing marginalized leaders. In order to truly encourage innovation, creativity, and learning, it is important to create brave spaces where individuals feel comfortable being vulnerable and encouraged to engage in difficult conversations. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between safe and brave spaces in the workplace, and provide practical tips for creating a culture of bravery within your organization to be inclusive.

What’s the difference between safe and brave spaces?

A safe space is typically defined as an environment where individuals feel physically and emotionally secure, and where they are free from judgment, harassment, and discrimination. In a safe space, individuals feel comfortable expressing themselves and sharing their experiences. A safe space is undoubtedly essential for building trust and establishing a sense of community among teams.

On the other hand, a brave space is a place where individuals feel encouraged to speak up and share their perspectives, even when they might be outside the norm, uncomfortable, or challenging. In a brave space, individuals are expected to speak freely, confront their biases, challenge their assumptions, and engage in constructive dialogue. A brave space is where individuals feel empowered to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from one another.

Limitations of Safe Spaces

While safe spaces are necessary, they can often be limiting. In a safe space, individuals may be hesitant to express their true thoughts and feelings out of fear of offending or triggering others. This fear of causing harm may result in self-censorship and a lack of honest and open dialogue. It’s essential to create an environment that not only promotes safety but also encourages individuals to engage in difficult conversations and explore differing viewpoints.

Benefits of Brave Spaces

In the workplace, creating brave spaces can lead to increased productivity, innovation, and growth. When team members feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their ideas, it can lead to more significant brainstorming, problem-solving, and collaboration. Brave spaces can also foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement, where individuals are encouraged to challenge their biases and expand their understanding of others.

The 6 Pillars of Creating Brave Spaces*

To create a brave space, it is important to prioritize these six pillars. They can help establish an environment that promotes openness, growth, and deeper engagement in the workplace.

  1. Model Vulnerability: Vulnerability breeds innovation, creativity, and accountability. To create a brave space, model vulnerability with boundaries by asking questions and sharing your story.
  2. Perspective Taking: Our personal lens is shaped by our unique life experiences, and it’s important to listen to others’ truths and accept their experiences as valid. Although we don’t have to adopt their point of view, we should approach it with curiosity and strive to comprehend their perspective and the reasons behind it.
  3. Embrace Fear: Fear can limit growth, but also lead to self-discovery. Taking risks to introducing new ideas creates teachable moments. Overcome fear by reframing your mindset and challenging yourself.
  4. Critical Thinking: Critical thinking involves evaluating beliefs and actions, allowing for diverse perspectives and complexity in discussions. Stay open to questioning and the possibility of limited thinking. Don’t take critique personally, but use it to expand your thinking.
  5. Examine Intentions: Checking our intentions helps us set boundaries and be accountable for our words and actions. Ask if what we share advances dialogue or is self-serving, promoting self-awareness.
  6. Practice Mindfulness: Intentional presence at the moment helps to quiet your mental chatter and emotions when dealing with difficult topics in the workplace, allowing space for 1-5.

*Developed by Victoria D. Stubbs, LICSW, LCSW-C Clinical Instructor & Teaching Support Program Coordinator

‌In conclusion, creating a safe space is critical for establishing a sense of community, inclusion, and trust in organizations. However, it’s equally important to create brave spaces where individuals, especially marginalized team members feel encouraged to express their opinion, engage in difficult conversations, and challenge biases.

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