The term psychological safety was first introduced by Amy C. Edmondson and defined as “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves”
However, the concept of psychological safety may be misunderstood, and we can ask ourselves the opposite question: what psychological safety is not.
According to Amy C.Edmondson, psychological safety is not about being nice, it is not a personality factor, it is not a another word for trust and it is not about lowering performance standards.
It is not about being nice
In a team, psychological safety doesn´t mean comfort, total agreement or granted support of your opinions. On the contrary, it means honesty, openness and sincerity. It is about ensuring an environment where disagreement can be expressed to improve and where conflict is not avoided but faced and solved with candor, openness and mutual respect.
It is not a personality factor
Psychological safety is not about extroversion or introversion. We shouldn´t assume that people at work doesn´t express themselves because of their personality traits. Different studies have shown that in a psychologically safe environment people speak up no matter their personality.
It is not another word for trust
Psychological safety is not a synonym for trust. There are two main differences between these two concepts. Psychological safety is experienced at a group level and describes a temporally immediate experience. In contrast, trust is experienced between two individuals or parties, for example, you can trust a specific colleague or company and describes an expectation, and it is related to the future. In words of Amy C. Edmondson: “trust is about giving others the benefit of the doubt, and psychological safety relates to whether others give you the benefit of the doubt when, for instance, you have asked for help or admitted a mistake”
It is not about lowering performance
Psychological safety is not about becoming less demanding. Psychological safety and performance standards are two different but interrelated dimensions that will affect our final performance. For achieving the best performance, we need a high psychologically environment with high performance standards.
These two dimensions are interrelated because if we lose psychological safety or we lower standards or both we will lower our performance, meaning our capacity of learning, improving, innovating and engaging.
Summarizing Amy.C Edmondson ideas we want to emphasize the importance of knowing what psychological safety is, but also what is not, because psychological safety is a crucial element to improve the experience of simulation and in our case to achieve the best results for the SAFETY project.
Written by Cristina Ibañez on behalf of Barcelona Team from Hospital Clinic for SAFETY Project
- The fearless organization. Amy C Edmonson. Publishded by J Wiley and Sons. 2019. Pages 15-19.