So many people seem to be talking about psychological safety in organizational psychology circles lately. The idea has been around for the last 50 years. It can be defined as a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. That is, to construct an environment where it is safe to speak up without fear of negative repercussions.
The articles on the subject seem to focus on what I consider reasonably vague ways to foster PS, led by managers. Basically, psychological safety is being pushed as an idea to encourage organizations to use more soft skills to get team members to participate more in discussions and the decision-making process. I have a radically simple approach.
The Problem: Most people are reluctant to speak up with a novel or controversial idea because of the unfair pushback they are likely to receive. “Erk! That’s dumb. That will never work!”. Not having a procedure to counter such naysaying misbehavior means we have learned better to avoid any potential conflict.
The Solution: We agree to use a procedure to protect anyone in the team from unfair pushback when we speak up. That’s it! Nothing else is required to get psychological safety. We just need a tangible and measured approach to protect each other from unfair pushback.
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