Psychological Safety in the Workplace
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.
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.’’
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’’.