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Safety View: Psychological Safety

By Tamara Parris
Published: May 13, 2020 | Last updated: November 4, 2021
Key Takeaways

We will be addressing several questions about psychological safety (PS). Is it an important aspect of workplace safety? What are the potential benefits of learning how to engender PS? What do we mean by PS? Have we addressed the downsides and limitations of PS so that we don't get blindsided by unintended consequences?

Join us on the Safety View as Laurin Mooney, Rosa Antonia Carrillo and Tamara Parris host a special session on psychological safety.

In the session we (our community) will be addressing several questions about psychological safety (PS). Is it an important aspect of workplace safety? What are the potential benefits of learning how to engender PS? What do we mean by PS? Have we addressed the downsides and limitations of PS so that we don't get blindsided by unintended consequences?

Rosa and Tamara are both early adopters, (See Rosa’s 2016 article) but recently it seems to be everywhere and we fear it might be getting watered down and misinterpreted. We don't want it to become another "safety culture", where people use it to explain things that are not otherwise making sense to them. It seems that once we find a label we can check it off our list of worries. Is it just us, or are others sensing the same thing?

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This is a call for community members who have knowledge and strong opinions about the direction that the topic of psychological safety is taking.




Session Chat:

00:36:40Paul Daly:The number of people who confused psychological safety v psycho-social risks surprised me recently when doing a workshop.
00:37:12Paul Daly:Come to Ireland if you like the showers... we have enough rain to go round!
00:37:24Dorien Janssen:Or The Netherlands
00:37:56Bruce OBrien:https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/10-health-system-ceos-pledge-to-improve-healthcare-worker-protections.html?origin=BHRE&utm_source=BHRE&utm_medium=email&utm_content=newsletter&oly_enc_id=5423D6635290J2J
00:38:41Gary Wong:Thanks, Bruce!
00:42:25Paul Daly:@Rosa... That word you were reaching for might be included here? https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/scandinavian-words-262506
00:44:38Paul Daly:https://www.psychologytoday.com/sites/default/files/attachments/31881/managingwbraininmind.pdf
00:45:37Bruce OBrien:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_safety
00:47:13Paul Daly:https://peakon.com/blog/employee-success/william-kahn-employee-engagement/
00:47:26Michael Ruane:Humiliated or validated and encouraged
00:49:01Phillip Harris:Having something to lose.
00:52:16Rosa Carrillo:@michael Ruane. Yes also validated!
00:52:54Martha Acosta:There is also an aspect here with respect to innovation and learning that involves disruption and being uncomfortable with being uncomfortable.
00:54:11Rosa Carrillo:@True Martha. That really applies in safety because we may not be inclined to connect socially but it is very important!
00:56:41Gary Wong:Being introduced to Psych Safety reminded me of “I’m OK, you’re OK” transactional analysis I encountered ~1967
00:57:10Tanya Hewitt:Alvesson and Spicer called this Functional Stupidity, Margaret Heffernan calls this Willful Blindness, Pat Lencioni calls this "quitting and staying" - it's all part of the same thing.
00:59:52malcolm.jacobs:A good topic, Rosa comments mirror some of my feelings from working with a CAST system of the military.
01:02:41Paul Daly:A curious bunch!
01:02:50Bruce OBrien:I have found that an approach of “communicating that someone is thinking differently” is an inclusive way of dissenting. Sometimes the language matters.
01:02:54Diane C:A question is "how to build it?"
01:03:08Martha Acosta:I'm still curious about the multiple levels of analysis.
01:03:19Phillip Harris:I still don't understand how it relates to some national cultures
01:03:21Cary Usrey:Understanding the concept and employing it in a larger organization or a process is much more complicated. As Diane said, 'how do you build it'?
01:03:25Maria R. Lopez:How do you create it?
01:03:41Dorien Janssen:How to create psychological safety in a group where you know people view you as less worthy.
01:03:50Tanya Hewitt:How do you deliver news that no one wants to hear?
01:04:25malcolm.jacobs:There is diversity of cultures how do I know I am including everyone where they feel they are recognized
01:05:00Gary Wong:Does management fear finding out what’s really happening currently? That way they can plead plausible deniability.
01:05:03Bruce OBrien:What type of process is a good one to practice PS?
01:05:26Andy Barker:Absolutely
01:05:38Andy Barker:I don’t know how to do thumbs
01:05:58malcolm.jacobs:not sure how to apply the thumbs up
01:06:22Gary Wong:Thumbs. up icon isn’t working on iPad
01:06:23janet:yes!
01:06:25Martha Acosta:click on the happy face at the bottom of your screen for the thumbs up.
01:06:37Michael Ruane:refers to dynamics within a group and appears to be dependent on how we sense others peoples psychological make up. yet Lisa Feldman Barrett would suggest humans are terrible at this
01:06:40Bruce OBrien:Sorry folks, I need to leave. Have a great day!!
01:06:56Paul Daly:There is no thumbs down option (just sayin'!)
01:07:23Dorien Janssen:Isn't the difficulty with the question 'do you feel psychological safe?' that the answer is always 'yes'? Whether it is true or not?
01:08:26Paul Daly:Good point @Dorien!
01:08:58Paul Daly:There is great psychological safety in this session... does everyone agree??
01:09:29Dorien Janssen:I do agree.
01:09:46Rosa Carrillo:I agree!
01:10:06Martha Acosta:My current hypothesis is helping people take risks. So I think the safety professional view of risk needs to change.
01:10:18Rosa Carrillo:@Phillip go ahead and post!!!
01:10:38Gordon Walsh:Martha, can you elaborate on that?
01:11:10Andy Barker:@Martha - is that risks with information?
01:11:15Tanya Hewitt:Absolutely - we need to change the direction - from push to pull (whatever the change is) - silence is just silence, NOT consent.
01:11:35Paul Daly:Agree @Martha... all too often our risk discussions focus on the negative aspects and less often on the reward aspects of risk.
01:11:36Phillip Harris:I agree that this is now ok to challenge as I have been asked and given permission to do so.
01:11:45Gordon Walsh:Agree Tanya!
01:11:47Martha Acosta:It's emotional risks... I agree with what was said about creating challenges for people.
01:12:52Gary Wong:I believe the willingness to share stories is PS. We know that happens between people who trust each other.
Think of your own family. What stories do you share with your spouse, children, bros, sisters, etc.?
01:13:23malcolm.jacobs:There must be inclusion within the organization employees need to feel they are effective not a focus on efficiency but giving credit for quality.
01:13:46Daves iPhone:Dr. Tim Clark’s 4 Steps to Creating PS is a great “how to book”
01:14:10Tanya Hewitt:Absolutely @Gary! Stories are how we effectively communicate.
01:15:10Martha Acosta:In safety, I thnk we think we are reducing risk but we aren't we are creating an environment where we can take risk by mitigating the consequences and I thnk we can do that with emotional risks when creating psychological safety.
01:16:01Martha Acosta:I agree. Norming might be dangerous in complex systems.
01:16:25Gary Wong:@Tanya. So let’s collect stories that being told everyday. Let’s collect them anonymously and share them up and down the “safety spear”.
01:16:29malcolm.jacobs:Great incite Michael
01:17:40Martha Acosta:^^^
01:18:19Gary Wong:All orgs are complex adaptive systems. PS is complex, messy, entangled.
01:18:24Tanya Hewitt:Margaret Heffernan had said that this whole idea of psychological safety could be perfect in a company, but if that company is in a society of high unemployment and low job security, it doesn't matter what the company does - the overriding societal pressures of keeping a job will trump everything.
01:19:05Rosa Carrillo:Practice empathy
01:19:06Christine Roe:Humble, curious,
01:19:23Gordon Walsh:I will try to bring a thoughtful less direct tone.
01:19:30Michael Ruane:people speak up and their concerns are not adressed so they stop speaking up. That is a design issue not a confidence/safeety issue
01:20:33Janice Fingler:Does "talking" need to be the way we communicate? We attach different meaning to words that are cocktails of many others. Could switching to visual representations help?
01:20:48Rosa Carrillo:@michael Ruane, Why would someone not address a concern?
01:20:49Paul Daly:Speak up can't work unless someone is listening up imo. The old adage of response matters...
01:20:52Tamara Parris:create space for respectful disagreement of various views.
01:21:41janet:I agree Martha, we can’t assume what respect or curiousity looks like for others..
01:22:30Paul Daly:Respectful disagreement.. like that @Tamara
01:23:13Tanya Hewitt:the kind truth is another term
01:23:17Paul Daly:But my door is always open... for solutions!
01:23:20Tamara Parris:Tuckman's Model for Nurturing a Team to High Performance > https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_86.htm
01:23:42Martha Acosta:@ Paul LOL!
01:26:13Michael Ruane:if I am injured I call 911 and in toronto an ambulance will arrive and I will be taken to hospital. If I call 911 in Somalia I will not get a response so I will not call. They don’t have the resources to do so. Most organizations are designed to have a similar response to peoples concerns as one would have to dealing 911 in Somalia
01:26:48malcolm.jacobs:Great opportunities to improve our work environment what can we improve.
01:26:56Susan Brissette:I don't think we can progress effectively towards true psychological safety in the workplace without considering the impact of increased political polarization, systemic racism, homophobia, cancel culture, etc outside the workplace. How can we reconcile any disconnect? Especially when the power dynamic in many safety critical industries in North America is one where leadership is predominantly (white cisgender) male. What additional structural mechanisms are required to level the playing field to enable psychological safety?
01:27:48Gary Wong:There is a mindset that
01:27:54Janice Fingler:I've stopped mentioning "psychological safety" and instead starting with where business leaders are - risk.
01:27:58Tanya Hewitt:This is why I have been saying that reporting systems are not software - they are complex sociological systems that can make things worse if you do not do your homework first and have a clear understanding of why you want such a system in the first place.
01:28:01Martha Acosta:^^^ Agree Susan. I've been asked to speak to Psychological safety in D&I programs as much as Insustrial Safety programs.
01:31:30Gary Wong:There is this mindset that it’s up to Management to listen and “fix” the problems. But we also know Mgmt is overwhelmed and under-resourced. So let’s break the paradigm. Change Management as Command & Control to Communicate & Coordinate. This is the Team of Teams concept.
01:31:54Tanya Hewitt:We care so much about money and productivity, we need to put caring for people at the same level.
01:32:39Martha Acosta:@Gary, making management the fixers is driving down and innovation and learning in the organization.
01:34:25Andy Barker:Which is why “speaking up” is an outdated concept
01:35:15Janice Fingler:Yes Diane - creating conditions for opportunities for exchanges. That's obliquity - an indirect approach to systemic change.
01:35:22Tanya Hewitt:But let's take a look at the job descriptions and performance expectations for management / leadership positions - we tend to revere credentials, technical knowledge - why not the concepts we are talking about here?
01:36:43Andy Barker:@Diane, agree with you - it is good to see the “human” in those that we work alongside - makes it much easier of you “listen” too!
01:37:47Phillip Harris:@Tanya, I am having some positive movement within the Industry.
01:38:20Tanya Hewitt:Great to hear @Phillip!
01:39:18Janice Fingler:That's interesting Gary. How often do we consider the context of managers/leaders and their constraints. Are we creating space for them and how?
01:40:30Tanya Hewitt:Wonderful discussion everyone! See you next time!
01:41:15Phillip Harris:Thank you all I have to leave.
01:41:20Gary Wong:@Janice: I’m curious how managers feel “They’re OK but I’m not OK”. We need to give them space to share their stories just like anyone else.
01:41:40Eric Buschard:Thanks everyone. Got to go.
01:41:47Janice Fingler:Sometimes nothing has to have on the corporate side in advance of crickets - it can also be in our own stories, experiences.
01:42:03Christine Roe:Thank you! Great discussion.
01:43:06Susan Brissette:Great discussion - thank you for providing so many stimulating insights and ideas!
01:45:01Rosa Carrillo:Thank you for coming Susan.
01:45:18Rosa Carrillo:Have a great day everyone!
01:45:27Rosa Carrillo:Or have a great evening!
01:45:38Joe Drago:Great discussion. Thank you.
01:45:46Dorien Janssen:I agree Andy. I am an optimist too after reading this book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52879286-humankind (Please don't order it at Amazon :) )
01:45:57Gary Wong:Controversial idea? If whatever reason Management is reluctant to listen to stories, don’t stop. Find another sponsor - Union, retired employees wishing to protect their pensions, employee themselves. This is a Glassdoor approach
01:47:08Martha Acosta:I love the idea of the group phenomenon of bravery! Great discussion! Thanks all! Love the posistive anchor from Paul!
01:47:41Dorien Janssen:Yes @Gary, we have to keep telling the stories.
01:47:57Rosa Carrillo:Thank you for coming Martha!
01:48:05Tamara Parris:Want to share our sponsor Safeopedia.com is having two workshops happening this month! https://bit.ly/3vLvCg3https://bit.ly/3urL1BR
01:49:05hhederström:Many thanks for an interesting time
01:49:40Maria R. Lopez:Great discussion, thank you!
01:52:26Martha Acosta:Kahn comes from organizational change, Amy comes from organizational Learning. A bit different in the phenomenon they are studying.
01:53:38Tamara Parris:Thank you @Martha - exactly!
01:54:05Paul Daly:Thanks everyone, got to go... this has been very helpful! Take care.
01:54:30Gordon Walsh:thanks everyone
01:55:18Janice Fingler:thanks!


More About “The Safety View

Each one-hour session is hosted by an expert or stakeholder in safety performance. And each session invites all attendees to participate, listen, and learn from each other and through conversation and shared experiences. Collectively, we explore the human system’s impact on safety and performance - relationally, psychologically, and socially.

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We look forward to discussing this intriguing topic with you, and hope you are able to attend. However, if unable to attend, please know that all sessions will be available for view, by registrants and non-registrants alike, through the Safeopedia websitehttps://www.safeopedia.com/topic/182/safeopedia-podcasts

After a brief introduction to the topic and sharing of relevant research, the floor will be open for group conversation. We invite ALL to share their thoughts, and will openly embrace - actually encourage - different perspectives. We really want to hear from all, from those who can share measurable, scientific concepts, those who have knowledge gained from experience, and those who intend to learn and understand more.

Group Rules of Conduct:

➤Build each other up to encourage and grow our ideas. Our group goal is to learn, share and expand our views.

➤ If you disagree, first repeat what you heard and get acknowledgement that you understand what others have tried to propose.

➤Use "I think", "feel", "have discovered" during respectful rebuttals of others opinions and ideas.

➤ Be prepared to agree, to disagree as views will be different, from our own and we want to nurture others.

Hosts of the Safety View are:

Laurin Mooney High Reliability & "Speaking IN®" Coach, Laurin helps people learn, live, and love High Reliability Organizing. Her expertise is translating the why and how of HRO into models that are easy to understand and can be used by anyone, anywhere.

Rosa Carrillo author of The Relationship Factor in Safety Leadership, safety leadership consultant, MS in Organizational development.

Tamara Parris, Community Development, Bachelors of Social Work, Occupational Health and Safety, and Emergency Management.

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Written by Tamara Parris | CD

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Tamara Parris is the Director of Community Development at Safeopedia, and owner of EHS Professionals Group on LinkedIn. Her passion is working with other EHS Professionals to collaborate in thought leadership, networking and connecting our industry peers to resources that will increase profitability and safety practices within their workplaces. Tamara has been in the Health and Safety field for over 20 years, her industry experiences include the Construction sector, CCTV and Security, and Commercial Retail industries.

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