Psychological Safety #10: Basecamp and Transforming Toxic Work Cultures

Training, Workshops, Exercises and Tools

Psychological Safety #10: Basecamp and Transforming Toxic Work Cultures

Three fundamentals of psychological safety


Thanks for subscribing to the psychological safety newsletter! This week we have some interesting controversies in leadership approaches at Basecamp and Away, how to measure and build psychological safety in short lived teams, and how to use humour to build psychological safety. Plus loads more.
 This week’s newsletter is sponsored by Red Hat Open Innovation Labs

A globally dispersed team. Eight weeks. One learning platform that can save lives. This is the story of how a team at the World Health Organisation worked with Red Hat Open Innovation Labs to build an idea into a working proof-of-concept. Watch this excellent video to find out more.

Join our Psychological Safety Community on Slack! Read more here: and sign up here:

Work and industry:

This erupted this week: changes announced at Basecamp and the way Jason and David lead and run the company have definitely polarised opinion. A lot of that debate has been focussed on how psychologically safe people, including people from diverse or disadvantaged backgrounds, may feel about the changes. There’s a great discussion going on at the psych safety community about this, head over and let us know what you think.

And in almost a mirror image of Basecamp, Jen Rubio of Away is taking on the challenge of transforming a “toxic” culture by encouraging feedback, communication, and a focus on values.

Here’s a super article from the LSE by Teresa Almeida and Cecily Josten about the use of humour to create psychological safety“Not a joke: leveraging humour at work increases performance, individual happiness, and psychological safety.”

Hospitality: Leadership Styles, Psychological Factors, and Employee Commitment to Service Quality in the Hotel Industry.

This is a really interesting take on virtual interviews, the “home field advantage” and psychological safety of both interviewees and interviewers. 

This is super useful about remoteemployee onboarding from Corine Tan & Annie Yan at Kona – how to onboard new (remote) employees in 2021


Testing Boundary Conditions in the Communication-Cohesion Relationship in Team SportThe Case for Psychological Safety


In this piece, Sebastian Bromelow, EDI Partner at Kingston University, writes that the metric-centric approach is not up to the job when it comes to equality, diversity and inclusion in higher education.

Personal Life:

Psychological safety with your partner – can we apply what works in the workplace to our relationship? 
How do we make sure our partners feel safe?


Psychological Safety and the Only Pyramid Scheme That Works – a great article by Evan Smith.


The disruptive physician and impact on the culture of safety – The disruptive physician is a growing problem in medicine. All too often, physician behaviour negatively impacts the delivery of quality patient care.

Theory & practice:

Are you leading a short-lived team, such as a project team or an event team? Here’s a great exercise to measure and build psychological safety with short lived teams.

Wellbeing isn’t just a nice fluffy exercise by the HR department – it’s a core part of leadership.

Great piece by Timothy Clarke of the “Four Stages of Psychological safety” book: How to spot a toxic culture in a job interview.

Challenging your own beliefs is a really powerful way to combat biases and learn how to create psychologically safe spaces for everyone: The Hidden Brain podcast.

There are more and more books being written on psychological safety – here’s a selection of the best ones.

Interested in the intersection of psychological safety, learning organisations, and resilience? Attend this Transformation Live event with Jabe Bloom.

This week’s poem:

Trust is an important component of psychological safety, but is often confused or conflated as the same thing.

Thanks to Stefan Magnusson in our community for suggesting this week’s poem about trust by Thomas Tranströmer: an excerpt from “Schubertiana“.

So much we have to trust, simply to live through our daily day without
          Sinking through the earth!
Trust the piled snow clinging to the mountain slope above the village.
Trust the promises of silence and the smile of understanding, trust that
          the accident telegram isn’t for us and that the sudden axe-blow
          from within won’t come.
Trust the axles that carry us on the highway in the middle of the three
          hundred times life-size bee swarm of steel.


We have a Psychological Safety Community! Read more here: and sign up here:

As always, check out, for more resources and articles. 
Read previous newsletters here, and get in touch if you’d like to share something in this newsletter.

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