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  • Writer's pictureGeoffrey Wade

How often have you seen leaders destroy psychological safety at work?

Updated: Apr 23

Psychological safety (PS) describes people’s perceptions of the consequences of taking interpersonal risks in a particular context. First explored by organisational researchers in the 1960s, PS garnered renewed interest in the 1990s, which has continued to the present day. Recently interest in PS has peaked because in 2018 Google published the results of a four-year study to find out what differentiated great teams from not so great teams. They found that the biggest differentiator by far between excellent teams and not so good teams was psychological safety.

Manager at desk looking worried

That's very important for people in any organisation because we think of Google as full of very smart people who wouldn't have a problem sharing what they're thinking. But it turns out, even at Google, the willingness to speak varies greatly from team to team, and that makes all the difference.

We live in a knowledge economy; one where the it is the ideas that people bring that really adds value. So, you need to hear from people, and yet, the research data, tells us that in many companies half the employees feel they can't speak up safely at work. That means you are losing enormous value. If you aren't hearing from people, you may be missing out on a game-changing idea that could become part of a new product or a new service, or you might miss an early warning of a threat in the market that someone saw, but felt it was not safe to bring the bad news to their boss.

How often have you seen leaders murder the messenger?

It is your leaders who can to create #psychologicalsafety at work. The ability for your people to come to work and speak up about what they know, what they don't know, what they see, what they're worried about, is absolutely mission critical to success in your business.

It makes a big difference when your leaders takes responsibility for psychological safety and acknowledge, "I can see that there were things that I did that made it difficult for you to come to me," rather than, "Why didn't you come to me?" You can assume that your people are well-intentioned and smart (after all - you recruited them). So if there isn’t psychological safety there, then that is on your leadership.



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