What Psychological Safety Is

What is Psychological Safety?

Psychological Safety refers to an individual's perceived confidence that they will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up or sharing ideas within a group or organisational setting. When employees feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to speak up about safety concerns, share information, and collaborate effectively, leading to improved decision-making and problem-solving.

Improving Psychological Safety can positively impact a company's Safety Culture by creating an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing and addressing safety issues. By creating a supportive and safe work environment, organisations can foster a culture of safety that benefits everyone.

To achieve this, organisations can encourage open and honest communication, promote a culture of respect and trust, and ensure employees feel supported and empowered to speak up about safety concerns.

Improving Psychological Safety can positively impact a company's safety culture by encouraging open communication, promoting respect and trust, and empowering employees to speak up about safety concerns.

A lack of Psychological Safety at work can inhibit team learning and lead to in-groups, groupthink and blind spots.

We believe you cannot have a robust Psychological Health and Safety conscious workplace without Psychological Safety.

In summary, Psychological Safety refers to an individual's confidence to speak up or share ideas without fear of punishment or humiliation.

Why Psychological Safety? A Little History

The journey started in the early 1960s and was first known to be mentioned by Schein and Bennis. Then, Psychological Safety was defined as a group phenomenon that reduces interpersonal risk. To quote Schein and Bennis's paper "Personal And Organisational Change Through Group Methods: The Laboratory Approach" in 1965, Psychological Safety reduces "a person's anxiety about being accepted and worthwhile".

During the 1980s, the world witnessed several disasters, such as the Chornobyl Power Plant in Russia and the Piper Alpha Oil Rig disaster in the North Sea, UK. Both killed many people. Whilst there were many issues in both cases about design, process and procedure, the culture in both did not encourage speaking up about mistakes or raising concerns. Add to that a fear of authority.

In 1990, William Kahn renewed general interest in psychological safety with his paper "Psychological Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement at Work", describing Psychological Safety as the ability to "employ or express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally". Around this time, the focus on Safety Culture was emerging.

In the late 1990s, through the work of Amy C. Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, codified the term Psychological Safety.

The definition given by Amy Edmonson is "a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes."

In 2013, Google's Project Aristotle, led by Julia Rozovsky, Psychological Safety was defined as the third most important factor in high-performing teams. The project was a turning point for Psychological Safety. It was enough proof that feeling safe to be yourself as part of a team, where you can contribute your ideas, admit mistakes, challenge others respectably, and try without fear of failure, is one of the most powerful aspects of human performance.

More recently, in 2020, Dr Timothy R Clark, founder of Leaderfactor, wrote his book The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, the path to Inclusion and Innovation based on his experience in high-hazard industry and research. Here we are introduced to the vital concept that Psychological Safety is a condition in which one feels included and safe to learn, contribute, and challenge the status quo-all without the fear of being embarrassed, marginalised, or punished in some way.

At Safety Collaborations, we are certified coaches and practitioners for implementing the 4 Stages of Psychological Safety Team surveys and consulting.

We chose this path as the model makes sense and is a practical and different way to transform a Safety Culture into a Culture of Safety and Care.

Image of the 4 Stage of Psychological Safety and explanation

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And discover how we can work together to improve your Psychological Safety.

Let's have a conversation

And discover how we can work together to improve your Psychological Safety.

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