Conflict Resolution Vs Psychological Safety

What if I told you that we don’t have psychological safety in teams because the method of resolving conflict in organizations has not altered in the last 100 years and is sadly lacking? And we could achieve psychological safety with the possible overhauling of this antiquated process.

“Ha!” I hear you say rhetorically. “That would be too simple! You mean all we have to do is focus on revamping conflict resolution, and we would have psychological safety?”
Yes, that is what I am theorizing, especially with how we tackle our minor conflicts in teams. Spats, as it were before disputes or major conflicts arise.

Please hear me out. Who can deny that our biggest fear or concern for our team’s safety is when we have disagreements? That is when conflicts are more likely to arise. This fear of conflict and the behavior associated with it either exasperates or stifles our interactions. I believe this is the fear Amy Edmondson discusses in her book “The Fearless Organization.” Still, for some reason, she and other experts in this area do not seem to be focused on revamping how we resolve our minor conflicts in teams. Instead, we hear the same old platitudes that have been around for quite a while now:

“A culture of trust & respect fosters psychological safety.”
“It’s important to create a safe space to speak their mind.”
“Creating a supportive environment is crucial for success”
“Communication is key for psychological safety”
“We need to have checks and balances”

My favorite definition of psychological safety comes from the paper in 1965 by EDGAR SCHEIN & WARREN BENNIS 1965:

Psychological safety is an atmosphere where one can take chances…without fear and with sufficient protection.”

Perhaps if the focus was on offering team members the sufficient protections necessary to tackle conflict behavior, from a twenty-first-century perspective, we might have psychological safety—worth a try. Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Here is my proposed solution to tackle our minor conflicts and to achieving a level of psychological safety sufficient enough to improve our team collaboration skills radically.

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