Psychological safety and the successful workplace


Aamna Mohdin writes for Quartz earlier this year on Google’s research efforts to identify the keys to creating successful work teams. The answer turned out to be pretty simple:

Google’s data-driven approach ended up highlighting what leaders in the business world have known for a while; the best teams respect one another’s emotions and are mindful that all members should contribute to the conversation equally. It has less to do with who is in a team, and more with how a team’s members interact with one another.

Consequently, says Mohdin, “Google now describes psychological safety as the most important factor to building a successful team.”

Or, to put it another way, it’s about valuing human dignity on the job. It’s about embracing the Golden Rule at work. It’s about trying to be inclusive and fair.

The flipside, of course, is when incivility, exclusion, harassment, and bullying enter the picture. Psychologically safe organizations have a culture that discourages these behaviors, but what happens when they occur? The true authenticity of that culture is revealed by how these situations are handled, individually and organizationally.


Hat tip to Cosette Chichirau for Quartz piece on Google.

3 responses

  1. This touches on why there is so much risk in healthcare. Lucian Leap Institute at The National Patient Safety Foundation identified that psychological safety was considered optional if not absent in the healthcare setting. This was often tied to the self interest of management. Through the Eyes of the Workforce, 2013. “Psychological Safety is a basic precondition of a safe workplace…disrespectful treatment of workers increases the risk of patient injury.”

  2. Interesting and very believable report. When I was the target of a bully at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho between 2004 and 2006, I was told by the Human Resource manager that the bully “…doesn’t have to be nice to you.” That, even though we were required to work and interact together. Of course that comment violated the Customer Service Standards which state that employees are to “treat each person the way you want to be treated.” And as in all bullying situations it’s much more than just about being or not being nice. Bullying injures people and sometimes the injuries are permanently disabling. In the setting of a medical center bullying jeopardizes patient care. Much bullying is permitted and encouraged by incompetent or unethical human resource departments, as I was to find out frequently during my experience there. Thanks for the article.

  3. Experienced a similar reaction from HR as Leonard above. Ended up leaving the job. Should be such common sense but in a world where employees are seen as disposable. I do not feel hopeful that things will improve unless the directive comes from the top and HR depts. become more skilled and braver in addressing abuse in the workplace. I think they play the CYA game and one should never forget HR is management’s advocate – not the employee’s!

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