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Psychological Safety in the Workplace

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Fearful v Safe: the dominant behaviours

Psychological safety in the workplace is all about creating an organisational culture of candour and openness – where speaking up is encouraged and you feel safe to challenge upwards.

Performance improves in this kind of environment because team members feel "safe" to show vulnerability, take risks and be their best selves. 

Naturally, Indigo is excited to follow this growing field of research. We are currently trialling a new assessment tool - developed by David Lewis and Human Insight – following more PS research (outlined below). 


As well as giving a team a reality check of how psychologically safe it currently feels, the psychometric also defines how the team wants to feel ... and how to fill that gap.


The Quality of Interaction Report is a cumulative view of all the people (team members) taking the survey.  So the data provides an insight that enables you to lead specific and measurable change.  And the way to enhance the quality of interaction between people is to focus on individual behaviour and patterns of group behaviour.


So we look forward to reporting back our pilot project in due course.  



In 2018, further research by Alison Reynolds (Ashridge Business School) and David Lewis (London Business School) was published in Harvard Business Review. 

They highlighted six dominant behaviours that either foster a generative, psychologically safe, culture or erode quality interaction and encourage oppositional, defensive and uniform working environments.

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neon lit question mark
  • Hierarchical – using positional power to determine an outcome


  • Directive – telling people how to act 

  • Cautious – avoiding conflict and risk


  • Resistant – closed to new ideas or alternatives 


  • Controlling – micro managing others 

  • Conforming – behaving in a conventional and accepted way 

  • Curious – interested and inquisitive about the world 

  • Encouraging – reinforcing and supportive of people 

  • Forceful – high energy and committed to beliefs 

  • Inquiring – always probing and asking questions 

  • Experimental – taking action to try things out 

  • Nurturing – of people’s capabilities and ideas

Identified by pioneer Professor Amy Edmondson

Harvard Business School Professor Amy Edmondson first identified Psychological Safety more than 20 years ago.


And defined it as ‘‘a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.

‘‘A sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up,’’ 


Edmondson wrote in a 1999 study: "It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.’’ 


Read her most recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article

The secrets of Google's most effective teams

Amy Edmondson’s work was built on by Google researchers in 2012 when they set out to discover what makes successful teams at the tech giant.

Code-named Project Aristotle  

as a tribute to the philosopher's  quote, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts", Google researchers went on to join the dots.

Anita Woolley, the Aristotle Project Study’s lead author, stated that these team environments of psychological safety (safe conflict) are created by behaviours that generate traits like ‘‘conversational turn-taking’’ and ‘‘average social sensitivity’’.

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