Psychological Safety and Risk Reduction

When working with organizations on CREW projects, people talk about psychological safety. They do not actually use that term, but they do talk about feeling vulnerable when at work. They doubt that others will support them if they try something new or creative in their jobs. They feel afraid to bring any tough topics at a meeting for fear of being ignored if not mocked.

A sense of safety means that people are confident that they have the risks under control. Psychological safety does not require that they believe that all risks are eliminated. Careful action can reduce the frequency of hazards and the amount of harm they inflict. However, the most important thing is that people gain confidence that they can control those hazards. A sense of control reduces risk and increases the sense of psychological safety.

The most effective controls are group efforts. On the individual level, people can develop the capacity to respond effectively to criticism and to maintain their composure when in a tough interaction. However, the work world feels much more safe when people when others in the group are actively working towards the same goal of a safe and respectful worklife.

  1. Identify the Hazards. There is a lot to be gained by just talking about the psychological hazards within one’s work setting. Identifying the hazards makes them more controllable.
  2. Develop a Pre-emptive Strategy. An effective approach does not simply wait for bad behavior to happen, but gets out in front of the situation to develop a plan.
  3. Take an Active Role. The core element of a shared control plan is willingness to speak up for one another in tough situations. Thinking kind thoughts is easy; taking action makes the difference.

2 Comments

  1. Dear Dr. Leiter:

    Thanks for this valuable abstract of your core aportations to this subject. It usually takes several pages to me tryng to explain and to propose an action plan.

    My experience in different work environments in México has show me some cultural-grounded attitudes toward psychological safety. One of them is the role of “suffering as a value” in the evaluation of someone’s work performance: One must suffer enough to be accepted in the group, and to be evaluated as someone who really works. Thereby, being safe at work and not to avoid risks is unacceptable even for onself. A great amount of self-steem depends on it. One must “suffer to deserve” There’s a barrier for an efective risks assesment and movilization.
    I would like to know if it’s really different in another sociocultural environments.

    Thanks

  2. Heriberto
    I’ve certainly seen a long suffering attitude in some work settings in the USA and Canada, but I”m not sure that the attitude is widely shared. It does present a problem for work engagement when people have an ambiguous motivation for coming to work. Suffering may not e a road to greatness.

    Cheers,
    Michael

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