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:
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.
Psychological Safety is the magic glue that makes transformative learning possible. Psychological Safety and reflexivity enables a problem solving culture.
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
Our organizations are either growing or they’re dying. The key thing that drives growth in organizations is when their employees are learning. To strengthen our organizations, our teams, ourselves we need to ensure our culture allows people to be exposed to new and challenging opportunities to learn.
We learn constantly. Most of that learning, however, is incremental, improvements that build on what we already know and do. We expand our knowledge and refine our skills in ways that strengthen our identities and commitments. This process sharpens competence and broadens expertise, and is key in building subject matter experts.
Incremental learning can allow people to grow in a workplace until they reach the limit on their resources for new learning – think of it as an S-curve. Eventually, there isn’t enough opportunities to learn. Furthermore, learning that broadens our expertise is valuable, but it is not enough. Incremental learning does not alter the way we see others, the world, and ourselves.
The second type of learning is called transformative, it changes our perspectives laying the foundations for growth and innovative leaps.
Both kinds of learning are necessary. Incremental learning helps us deliver, while transformative learning helps us develop. Both are necessary, but too often we allow incremental learning to be haphazard and make no space for transformative learning.
In both cases we need to build spaces to drive learning.
We often see incremental in our training programs, while transformative is critical for culture building.
Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Petriglieri, G., Petriglieri, J. L., & Wood, J. D. (2017). Fast tracks and Inner Journeys: Crafting Portable selves for contemporary careers. Administrative Science Quarterly,63(3), 479-525. doi:10.1177/0001839217720930