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  • Writer's pictureGeoffrey Wade

Accountability for results & psychological safety can go hand-in-hand

Updated: Apr 23

Manager holding a team meeting

One of management's biggest misconceptions about #psychologicalsafety is the balance between psychological safety and accountability. Many managers fear that creating psychological safety in their workplace means leaders will reduce their focus upon key results and key behaviours. They have the illusion that somehow increasing psychological safety will lessen the emphasis on accountability for results. This is a misreading of how psychological safety works.

To address this concern, Amy Edmondson, the lead researcher in the psychological safety field, created a matrix with psychological safety on the y-axis and accountability on the x axis. It’s a framework leaders can leverage when they think about psychological safety. The 4 zones are:

  • Apathy Zone (low psychological safety and low accountability) When leaders are authoritative, emotionally volatile and closed off to their direct reports.

  • Comfort Zone (high psychological safety and low accountability) This is where the combination of high psychological safety with low accountability backfires.

  • Anxiety Zone (low psychological safety and high accountability) Unfortunately this is where many companies operate. Where employees are afraid to speak up for fear of ridicule.

  • Learning Zone (high psychological safety and high accountability) This occurs when a team leader creates stretch goals and challenges direct reports to improve while creating a supportive environment.

In any organisation there will be a mix of quadrants.



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