Psychological safety is a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. It is one of the most important traits of high-performing teams.
As Harvard Business Review explains it, psychological safety allows for speaking your mind, sharing non-standard ideas, and sticking your neck out without fear of having it cut off — just the types of behavior that lead to market breakthroughs.
Cornell University conducted a study of psychological safety in work teams. Here is what they learned:
1. Team psychological safety affects learning behavior, which affects performance.
A climate of safety and supportiveness enabled team members to try new things and embrace error. Conversely, a lack of safety contributed to reluctance to ask for help and unwillingness to question the team goal for fear of sanction by management.
2. Team psychological safety is not the same as group cohesiveness.
Cohesiveness can reduce willingness to disagree and challenge others’ view implying a lack of interpersonal risk taking. Psychological safety, by contrast, is a sense of confidence the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up.
3. Team psychological safety is something beyond interpersonal trust.
Team psychological safety describes a team climate in which people are comfortable being themselves. All team members must hold a similar perception of safety. It’s not something that a boss can build with each team member individually.
We really liked the chart below — it connects ‘psychological safety’ to ‘business outcomes’ in a direct, intuitive way:
Illustration: a model of team physiological safety and learning behavior.
Teamraderie used the findings from academic research to curate a set of 45-minute experiences cultivating psychological safety:
Slurping olive oils (with the guidance from Certified Master of Olive Oil) is a fun way to do something unconventional together and foster a feeling of safety.
With the guidance from a Stanford Professor, a newly expanded team participates in three games that lead to safety, trust and authentic connection.
Reduce tension and create psychological safety with creativity-focused improv exercises. Do this immediately before your next brainstorming session.