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Psychological Safety

What is Psychological Safety?

Sharing ideas and new insights, tracking down and exposing mistakes, asking uncomfortable questions, and introducing disturbing facts are all behaviors that are useful for learning something new and innovating. However, such behaviors are also socially risky. Other team members may feel attacked, or accuse the person introducing these disruptions of incompetence. Teams where it is possible to take this social risk have a high degree of Psychological Safety.

Why is Psychological Safety important?

The more the tasks and boundary conditions of a team change, the more important is the ability to develop further and thus also psychological security. Support for the relevance of psychological safety is provided, among other things, by an internal study on team performance at Google with over 180 teams. Measurement data was collected and interviews were conducted to find valid predictors of team success. (Rozovsky, 2015 , Duhigg, 2016). Psychological Safety was identified as the most important predictor.

The most important scientific publications on Psychological Safety

Edmondson (1999) defines psychological safety as a shared assumption that this team provides a safe environment to take interpersonal risks and shows that it is the most important prerequisite for team learning and innovation. 

She is not the first researcher to describe this concept. As early as 1965, Schein und Bennis described the importance of a climate that encourages experimentation and reduces the fear of learning new things. This, however, was primarily concerned with individual perceptions during organizational change. Thus, Edmondson (1999) was the first to examine psychological safety at the team level. 

A summary of previous research on psychological safety is provided by Frazier et al. (2017) in a meta-analysis that confirms the importance of psychological safety for both individuals and entire groups.

Our contribution

All studies to date have been concerned only with describing what psychological safety is, what behaviors it involves, and what positive effects are associated with it. The only exception is the question of how psychological safety can be influenced by the selection of team members. 

There was no tested and validated team development instrument, targeted to increase Psychological Safety in Teams kann. As a result of our project we provide such a training program on this website.

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