• Joshua Ehrenreich

Seriously, does psychological safety matter that much?

Updated: May 4, 2020

Psychological safety—the belief that one's work and team-environment is safe for interpersonal risk-taking—is all the buzz. You may have read about Google's Aristotle Study, heard it from Harvard professor Amy Edmondson (check out this great HBR interview), or seen it on one of the many different professional development sites you follow.

These articles all stress the importance of creating an environment where one is confident they'll be free from ridicule or embarrassment for sharing an idea or asking a question becomes all the more critical.

Just how critical? Well, there's been a lot of research on this, in a variety of industries in countries around the globe. Here are eight reasons why cultivating psychological safety is mission-critical for all people and thought leaders.

  1. Teams high in psychological safety demonstrate more team learning behaviors like information sharing, brainstorming, and solution suggesting. These teams also exhibit more problem-diagnosing behaviors rather than instituting workarounds.

  2. A work environment with high psychological safety has been shown to help employees overcome a lack of confidence to speak up.

  3. Different studies have shown that psychologically safe teams produce better results, this has been shown to be the case in terms of a manager's assessment of results, in terms of an employee and team's self-assessment of results, and in terms of return on investment for innovation efforts.

  4. Speaking of innovation, psychologically safe teams focused on R&D as well as process innovation, have been shown to innovate more than their less safe counterparts.

  5. With all these benefits, you'd expect employees on psychologically safe teams were more engaged—well, you'd be right. Psychological safety is actually a predictor of employee engagement.

  6. It also has been shown to help employees better deal with the effects of dispersion (such as the oh-so-relevant, remote office environment).

  7. Psychological safety has been demonstrated to be a productive driver between conflict and performance—conflict on teams with high psychological safety led to better performance and lower performance for teams with low psychological safety.

  8. Anyone work with a cross-functional team? Psychological safety is a crucial factor in accomplishing successful results for expertise-diverse teams.

And the benefits go on.

You can increase your team's psychological safety in a range of ways—from proactively acknowledging that failure can (and will) come to implementing structures and processes to create space and time for feedback and discussion to responding with empathy and curiosity.

Have more questions about how to get started? Want to know a bit more on one of these bullet points? Let's talk! I love thinking about and creating great employee cultures.

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