What is Psychological Safety?

imageMental Health is certainly a hot topic at the moment. Even the Safety Regulators are encouraging us to apply the same old ineffective safety methodologies to “fixing” the problem people. Emerging also are buzz words like “Mental First Aid” and “Psychological Safety”. The term “Psychological Safety” has been around for a while and was not necessarily all about Workplace Health and Safety. Of concern, is that ‘Psychological Safety’ is now rolling, verbatim off the tongues of BBS proponents, compliance crusaders, culture changers, zero zealots and even the Safety Differently & Safety 11 flocks.

Concerned that this is just another silver bullet or bandwagon to be jumped on, I asked the “thought leaders” on Linkedin for their definition and got some interesting responses:

  • It’s been around for a while. It’s not linked to health and safety per se. It is more about creating an environment where people are ok about calling out the BS, tackling the bullies, prepared to do things that might fail, not scared to tell truth to power. High in trust, etc. Here’s an article from hbr with some info that’s ok. https://hbr.org/2017/08/high-performing-teams-need-psychological-safety-heres-how-to-create-it
  • It is not a safety discipline although the concept could be used to benefit safety endeavours but it has to be a part of the corporate culture. Many people misuse the phrase because they misunderstand it or just read the headlines and assume the know the definition.
  • Safety are using it as another culture spin-off being to bolster the misunderstood “safety” culture paradox.
  • it’s not a new concept, in fact it’s something I’ve been talking about for years (you probably have too, even though you didn’t use this terminology). The term has become widely used after the release of Amy Edmondson’s book “The Fearless Organisation” – it’s a good evidence-based read, but for me tends to come back to trust.
  • I’ve been saying universities need to add a professional psychology class to their degree programs for safety professionals. Take your pick. Winning hearts and minds, making it personal, making safety a value rather than a priority, etc.. it’s all about getting the employee to truly buy-in to safety. “Making” employees work safe only goes as far as the eyes watching.
  • It’s about minimizing all the things that cause psychological stress.
  • became popular with Amy Edmondon’s books. Here are few nuggets from her first book “Teaming”, have not read her second book “The Fearless Organisation”. It is on the list: A climate in which people feel free to express relevant thoughts and feelings;  Makes it possible to give tough feedback and have difficult conversations without the need to tiptoe around the truth; People believe if they make a mistake other will not penalize or think less of them; Believe others will not resent or humiliate them when they ask for information;  People both trust and respect, and it produces a sense of confidence that the group won’t embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up;  Thus, psychological safety is a taken-for-granted belief about how others will respond when you ask a question, seek feedback, admit a mistake, or propose a wacky idea
  • Have a look at www.guardingmindsatwork.ca it is a pretty good site that provides some good tools. There are 13 different psychological factors, most of the overlapping other safety and leadership concepts. I used their assessments and the organization I was working for extracted good value from them. If not, still a good read
  • The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) released a standard on psychological health and safety.  I’ve heard that it’s the first of its kind.  You can get it for free from the CSA: https://store.csagroup.org/ccrz__CCPage?pagekey=content&contentkey=Z1003HealthandSaftey_EN
  • it is about trust and the ability to speak up without fear or favour. With out this people will take the least form of resistance and turn into yes people or silence.
  • Is this term new or re-packaged?
  • Have a look on YouTube for Simon Sinek’s video Start With Why and search for Dr Rob Long and his thoughts on the psychology of risk
  • Out of curiosity, I have been asking myself similar questions, and a few more. I can’t help thinking whether we have rebranded something that has been there for ages already (I.e. compassion, empathy, integrity… universal values). Reading the posts on this thread I am unable to get an unambiguous answer as to what it is. People talk about being yourself on a full-time basis, trust, speak out…Is that realistic in the corporate environment of western societies? Emotions are so powerful that at work we all have an on-stage and an off-stage self Finally, could anyone point me in the direction of journal and peer review papers on this topic please?
  • We just published a blog about it. Here is what we think about psychological safety. Psychological Safety is this sense that you can come into a room and you can be your full self. You can take risks and the consequences of taking that risk won’t be held against you in the future. Read more here: https://barclaysafetysolutions.com/how-to-create-the-best-performing-team/

9 Replies to “What is Psychological Safety?”

  1. Amazing how a qual and experience in safety makes one an expert in psychology and risk. As for LinkedIn, the pooling of ignorance comes to mind. One thing is for sure there is nothing psychologically healthy about the toxicity of zero. There is nothing more damning or destructive than such discourse. Indeed, one needs a mental health condition to thrive in it.

  2. The late Spike Milligan often proclaimed he had a certificate to prove his sanity yet zero harm ideology is so stupid that only a COHSProf or ChOHSP could believe it.

Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below