“Psychological safety relates to a person’s perspective on how threatening or rewarding it is to take interpersonal risks at work. You might be thinking, “Is this just a fancy way of saying trust?” Although trust and psychological safety have a lot in common, they are not completely interchangeable concepts. A key difference is that psychological safety is thought to be experienced at the group level — most people on a team tend to have the same perceptions of it. While trust usually relates to interactions between two individuals or parties (Edmondson, 2004).” – Science for Work
For a team to be high performing, a shared understanding of what help is, how help is needed, and expected must be established. Four conditions align with psychological safety that, when fulfilled, will increase the trust and output of the team and team members.
Teamwork is the reciprocal relationships of helping a group of individuals complete a task or project that they could not complete on their own.
Much of the work of Managers, Specialists, and those who oversee large projects requires teamwork. Trust and knowing that the people on your team are working and giving their best to be helpful is needed for the team to work.
Think about a time when you were on a team and were doing your best, but someone else was slacking, riding the coattails of your hard work. That is harmful to the team and even more impactful on you want to do more work.
The reciprocation does not have to be equal by all parties because the skilled knowledge, authority, and accountability may not be equal. Each team member must feel they are getting as good as they are giving.
Role-relationships must be clear and distinct to create a work environment built upon the reciprocation of help and attracts the trust needed for the team and you to do your best work.
The team leader (Managerial-Leader, Project Manager, etc…) is accountable for establishing comfort with the work and team members. They can create this early by setting the conditions for team members to be psychologically safe with a reciprocal helping relationship with the team.
4 Areas of Psychological Safety on Teams
- What is my role in this team? Which of the many hats do I need to wear with this team project? Knowing roles and how they will interact are required; letting people know how they are expected to work together in cross-functional relationships will improve the team.
- How much control/influence will I have on this team? Do people have to do what I tell them to? Will I have to do what people tell me? Defined and shared control + influence of and on the team members will increase teamwork.
- Will this team meet my goals/needs? Goals drive what we do as individuals and organizations. People have individual needs and goals they wish to have fulfilled. Knowing what they are and creating a clear connection of how and if the group can meet them will build psychological safety.
- What will be the level of intimacy in this team? People want to know how much they will have to share and what is expected of the team. Knowing the level of intimacy, sharing personal things, and expected connections with others will increase the safety and output of the work.
When working and leading teams, make an effort to ask and respond to the four psychological safety questions above. The energy developing the team will yield results.
*The above items are from Edgar Schein, Helping. The comments in italics are my additional thoughts on the questions.