Why We Must Redefine Psychological Safety at Work.

The definition of what constitutes safety at work is too narrow, and as a result, we believe we have incomplete safety measures in almost all organizations.

Making physical safety a priority in any workplace should be the norm, especially when the job is inherently hazardous. We have access to the technology, knowledge, and right management philosophy to keep people physically safe.

Fortunately, over the last few decades, the highest occupation health and safety standards have become an intentional objective of the best organizations, rather than simply regulatory compliance.

Unfortunately, organizations in many developing nations still have a way to go, (you’ve likely seen YouTube videos of people working in horrendous, hazardous, environments).

Today, NO modern, global organization has any excuse but to demand the highest physical safety performance in all facilities including, but not limited to its subcontractors. Physical safety is ONE side of the subject, AND now we believe it’s time to add in psychological safety as well

We’ve spent time with the CEOs of two first-class organizations. Both compete in inherently hazardous industries. The first thing each leader talked about when we asked them how 2018 ended, was their focus on safety, and how proud they were of stellar results. This is great! However, when we ask top leaders in just about any organization about their psychological safety status, the typical response is “crickets” and blank stares.

Our recommendation: It is time for every organization to expand the safety focus to include psychological safety! 

The following quote is from Harvard’s thought leader, author, and top researcher on psychological safety, Amy Edmondson:

“In my research over the past 20 years, I’ve shown that a factor I call psychological safety helps explain differences in performance in workplaces that include hospitals, factories, schools, and government agencies. Moreover, psychological safety matters for groups as disparate as those in the C-suite of a financial institution and on the front lines of the intensive care unit… Psychological safety is not immunity from consequences, nor is it a state of high self-regard. In psychologically safe workplaces, people know they might fail, they might receive performance feedback that says they’re not meeting expectations, and they might lose their jobs due to changes in the industry environment or even to a lack of competence in their role. These attributes of the modern workplace are unlikely to disappear anytime soon. But in a psychologically safe workplace, people are not hindered by interpersonal fear. They feel willing and able to take the inherent interpersonal risks of candor. They fear holding back their full participation more than they fear sharing a potentially sensitive, threatening, or wrong idea. The fearless organization is one in which interpersonal fear is minimized so that team and organizational performance can be maximized in a knowledge-intensive world. It is not one devoid of anxiety about the future.”

Amy Edmonson

If you find this helpful, here are some things you might do: 

  1. Begin to really understand psychological safety, what it is, what it is not, how to assess it, and most importantly be willing to do something about it. 
  2. Put as much effort into promoting and measuring psychological safety as you do physical safety, and you will positively impact your organization more profoundly than you can imagine. This is a unique opportunity to be a pioneer on this matter!
  3. Read Amy Edmondson’s “The Fearless Organization.” Learn from the best.


The Team At Belongify


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