Psychological Safety

What is Psychological Safety?

Psychological safety refers to the degree to which team members feel that they are able to take smart risks and share their opinions within their team without facing negative consequences. Teams with strong psychological safety feel comfortable taking risks knowing that their team will not hold mistakes made "in good faith" against them and, similarly, feel comfortable sharing their opinions even when they run counter to the predominant perspective on the team. 

Psychological Safety was first conceptualized and studied by Harvard researcher Amy Edmondson (1999), who pointed to it as a critical factor for high-performing teams. More recently, Google's research project to identify characteristics of high-performing teams identified psychological safety as their top indicator of the performance of a team. 

Teams with strong psychological safety are less afraid of the negative consequences that may result from taking risks, making mistakes, and being candid with one another. Because of this, these teams are more likely to share their opinions when they differ from one another (e.g., avoid group think) and take initiative when it matters most. 

Why does Psychological Safety Matter?

Teams that feel empowered to share their perspectives with each other when their opinions differ from the rest of the group are able to more fully leverage the knowledge and talent that each member brings to the team. These teams are more likely to take initiative and to consider the full picture of each situation. This in turn enables the team to innovate and find effective solutions. 

Psychological safety is also critical to a team's ability to give and receive candid, respectful feedback. If your organization is looking to build a more feedback-centric culture in which employees feel comfortable sharing and receiving feedback when they see fit, we recommend taking a look at employee perceptions of psychological safety as a starting point. 


How does Psychological Safety relate to Diversity and Inclusion? 

Psychological safety is a key component of Diversity and Inclusion efforts. Highly inclusive teams tend to have strong psychological safety--- inclusive teams are by definition those in which members feel empowered to share their opinions and perspectives, even when they differ from the rest of the team's. Furthermore, teams that are empowered to share their unique perspectives with each other are in the best position to reap the benefits of having a diverse team. Diverse opinions, experiences, and knowledge can be better leveraged if team members feel comfortable speaking up and are accustomed to considering alternate viewpoints. 

How to Measure Psychological Safety

The Quantum Workplace Psychological Safety Survey is a 13-question survey that assesses the degree to which team members feel that that can share their perspectives, take risks,  and share their opinions and perspectives. Traditionally, psychological safety assessments focus on perceptions at the team level, but our Psychological Safety Survey includes questions that measure employees' perceptions of psychological safety both within the context of the organization overall and within the context of the specific team that the survey-taker belongs to. You can launch the Psychological Safety survey to your organization overall or to specific teams. When reviewing your results, we recommend focusing your data analysis at the level of teams rather than within the organization overall. While it's valuable to have an understanding of the level psychological safety throughout your organization overall, any action that you take to improve psychological safety will be most effective within the context of a specific team. 

Launching the Psychological Safety Survey

 To view or launch the Psychological Survey survey, open Administration and select Surveys & Pulses.

Then, click New Survey to view all Quantum Workplace Best Practice Templates.