What Psychological Safety Is - and Isn't
Every Workplace Code of Conduct I help business either craft during the Start-Up phase, or when tasked to advise them on upgrading their existing code incorporates a provision of ensuring their workplace culture is 100% committed to providing Psychological Safety for all employees equally, without hierarchal separations.
I firmly believe that you simply cannot have an inclusive workplace culture of integrity without it. Nor can you have a healthy and functional family, friendship, or relationship without feeling psychologically safe.
But just like what happened when mindfulness became popularized and a hot "buzzword," suddenly everyone's an expert looking to cash in. And just like what happened with mindfulness, there are many misconceptions about what Psychological Safety Is - and Isn't.
To keep it simple, here are two lists to help eliminate confusion and mis-application, offered by Dr. Amy Edmondson, author of The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth, and Dr. Timothy R. Clark, The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation.
What Psychological Safety Is
• an environment where anyone can offer ideas or suggestions without fear or embarrassment
• people feel able to contribute without being shut down in a gratuitous way
• people are held accountable without being attacked
• an environment where "speaking up" about uncivil, divisive, discriminatory, or illegal behaviors by anyone is welcomed and protected from fear of retaliation or retribution
• respectful disagreement and debate is welcomed, and having difficult conversations is simply part of humans working together
• vulnerability is rewarded and provides the support to allow everyone to safely feel included; to learn; to contribute; and to challenge the status quo
• when people trust and mutually respect each other and feel safe, even obligated, to be candid and open - and not tell people what they want to hear
• giving people the power to avoid preventable failures
• making excellence (not perfection) a rewarding experience
• employees feel free to share vital information, and report mistakes
• an environment where it's safe to fail, and be encouraged to find the lessons learned and gift of insights
What Psychological Safety Isn't
• about "being nice"
• a shield from being held accountable for poor behavior or performance
• "coddling" or preferential treatment, and treating some people with more respect than others
• consensus decision making and veto power by anyone
• self-directed empowerment
• political correctness or used as a political weapon
• people offer unequivocal praise or unconditional support for everything you have to say
• becoming “comfortable” at work
• a "personality factor"
• another word for trust
• helping people feel better about themselves
• just being polite
• forcing people to speak up