How can we create psychologically safe workplaces?

How can we create psychologically safe workplaces? Click here to watch Amy Edmondson, Professor of leadership at Harvard, speak for 11min. She is author of ‘The Fearless Organization’ (2018) and explains: “psychological safety is a belief that you will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes”. Her research initially pointed to “better teams making more mistakes not fewer”!? However, on delving deeper, she found that better teams were not actually making more mistakes; rather they had a “climate of openness” that enabled them to discuss mistakes, understand them and address the root causes.

Amy Edmondson found three things nurture a sense of safety: (1) frame challenges and mistakes to be opportunities for learning, recognising that we’re facing great uncertainty in the world and that we need interdependence within organisations; (2) acknowledge your own fallibility, which encourages others to speak more openly and creates safety; (3) be curious and ask a lot of questions which leads people to respond and discuss what is going on. She explains that great teams will have people bringing their “full selves to the workplace”. In the diagram below she summarises how teams with high motivation and accountability, along with high psychological safety, enable people to be in the “learning zone”, reducing traits such as anxiety.


The working title for our book is: ‘The Change Maker’s Guide to New Horizons’ with subtitle, ‘Organising differently for sustainable futures’. Last week we had a zoom call with various people involved. We find it an inspiring example of people “bringing their best work”. We have over 15 people involved. We have nine draft chapters completed. It is a major undertaking. Everyone is contributing on a voluntary basis. A very big thank you to all involved. We’re aiming to have it finalised by mid 2020.

Edmund Burke quote: ‘no passion so effectively robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear