Welcome to the psychological safety newsletter and thanks for subscribing. You are awesome. This week has anti-racism, neurodiversity, digital transformation, UK politics, and some excellent engineering principles from the team at Artsy.
Enjoy, and have a wonderful day.
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Psychological Safety In the Workplace:
This piece by M K Menon about psychological safety in the workplace and anti-racism, in Lady Science is fantastic. It describes the transformation into an anti-racist culture, and highlights how the greatest benefit is the permission to discuss once-taboo topics, like the uptick in Asian hate crimes during the pandemic, or the history of Black people in this country. Doing so has deepened connections and improved feelings of psychological safety among teammates.
This is a great article by Catherine Harrison (it’s over a year old but I only just came across it), about psychological safety in the NHS. I appreciate how Catherine makes the point that creating organisational-wide psychological safety “…is complex work, but one simple step in the right direction is to reach out, and keep asking, and encouraging others to ask, ‘what do you need?’’ and ensure there are people to meet that need.”
I know I share a lot of Liz and Mollie illustrations but they’re just so good at demonstrating simple but important concepts, such as this:
Here’s an excellent piece on Neurodiversity and Psychological Safety at Work by Susan A. Fitzell: A company culture that values a gifts mindset understands how each individual contributes to the company’s bottom line while simultaneously protecting their workers’ psychological safety at work.
Psychological Safety Theory, Research and Opinion:
I wrote an opinion piece recently about Digital Transformation and Psychological Safety, which turned a little bit into speculation about the various organisational dysfunctions that “digital transformations” are often intended to mitigate. Fundamentally, any organisational transformation will fail unless the need for psychological safety is recognised and addressed. I expanded on these organisational dysfunctions on my blog.
During a discussion this week, the idea of unlimited leave came up (again), and I feel like it’s one of those pernicious little concepts that will never quite go away. The concept sounds fantastic – who doesn’t want unlimited paid leave? – but in practice it is highly problematic and often (always?) results in low psychological safety, anxiety amongst employees and a general reduction in the amount of leave actually taken.
Here’s an episode of the Dava Pamah podcast: Why Promoting Psychological Safety on Teams Is Harder Than You Think – And What You Can Do About It, with Yael C. Sivi.
Here’s some interesting UK politics, and a potentially excellent example (with somewhat distressing outcomes) of poor psychological safety in government – ministers didn’t feel safe to challenge assumptions and policy that they felt was wrong or problematic, which resulted in the UK adopting a policy of her immunity at the start of the pandemic. Dominic Cummings has stated that he was “incredibly frightened … about the consequences of me kind of pulling a massive emergency string and saying: ‘The official plan is wrong, and it is going to kill everyone, and you’ve got to change path,’ because, what if I’m wrong?”
Things to do and try:
This is excellent – The engineering principles of the Artsy.net tech team explicitly include psychological safety: “At it’s core, engineering is the practice of learning. To learn effectively and to be productive, engineers must feel safe asking questions and discussing mistakes.” I also really like their statement “Being Nice is Nice – There’s always a nice way to handle a situation, and we strive for that.” It’s often stated that psychological safety is not about being nice, and whilst that’s true, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to be nice.
This week’s poem:
Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Robert Frost
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
(P.S. If you have a favourite poem that you’d like me to share, please email me!)
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