What is Psychological safety and why is it important that we feel safe to speak up?
Psychological safety is broadly defined as a climate in which people are comfortable expressing and being themselves, more specifically when people have psychological safety at work they feel comfortable sharing concerns and mistakes without the fear of embarrassment or retribution. They are confident that they can speak up and won’t be humiliated, ignored or blamed, and they can ask questions if they are unsure of something.
It was identified by Google as the most important aspect of building a successful team as part of a two-year study – project Aristotle and was found to underpin the other four key dynamics: dependability, structure and clarity, the meaning of work and impact of work.
What happens when we don’t have psychological safety?
When we experience stress or fear at work, our amygdala is activated (the part of our brain that is responsible for detecting threats) this causes a physiological response and hormones are released which prepare us to have to fight, run or freeze, as our brain focuses on this it shuts down our ability to think strategically and shifts our behaviour from reasonable and rational to primal and reactive. Fear inhibits learning, and impairs analytical thinking, creative insight and problem-solving.
The most common triggers of our stress response in practice include:
Lack of respect
Unfair treatment (especially following an adverse event or near miss)
Not being heard