Psychological safety enables individuals to behave authentically, take risks and express themselves candidly. In the workplace, psychological safety captures how comfortable employees feel as team members. Timothy Clark gives four elements of psychological safety:
- Being included
- Feeling safe to experiment
- Challenging the status quo
This is done through four pillars:
- Capability – colleagues’ competence, knowledge and skills
- Consistency – how dependable colleagues are when making commitments
- Caring – connections to colleagues that are based on genuine warmth and emotional support
- Candor – communication with honesty and integrity
Psychological safety, Reflexivity and a Learning Culture
Reflexivity is the extent employees reflect upon the work tasks they have completed and identify ways of improving performance – it is the information-processing activity. Using reflexivity, employees develop a better sense of what is done, why and how, and can adjust their behaviors and actions accordingly. Reflexivity is a powerful process that can drive performance in a learning culture that requires psychological safety to flourish. When employees reflect upon their work tasks, they need to have a deeper and better understanding of what they have done, what was done well and not as well, why they engaged in these behaviors, and changes and adaptations needed to result in better performance. People are not likely to engage in reflexivity unless they feel psychologically safe to take interpersonal risks, speak up, and admit failures without feeling uncomfortable or fearful of status and image loss.
Clark, T.R. 2020. The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety. Oakland, CA: Barrett-Koehler
Edmondson, A. 2018. The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation and Growth. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons
West, M.A. 1996. Reflexivity and work group effectiveness: A conceptual integration. In M.A. West (Ed.), Handbook of work group psychology. Chichester, UK: Wiley.
Zak, P.J. 2018. “The Neuroscience of High-Trust Organizations.” Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research 70(1): 45-48