Psychological Safety #33: Learning From Incidents and Psychological Safety in the Military

Training, Workshops, Exercises and Tools

Psychological Safety #33: Learning From Incidents and Psychological Safety in the Military


Welcome to the psychological safety newsletter and thanks for subscribing. You are awesome. This week includes Nora Jones on incidents, psychological safety in the military, students and teachers, sociotechnical systems, acronyms, Flow, and the Maslach Burnout Inventory!

Enjoy, and have a wonderful day.

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Psychological Safety In the Workplace:
This is an awesome piece with Nora Jones, founder and CEO of I have a great deal of respect for Nora – she’s an incredible leader, a great technologist, and a lovely human being. Amongst a lot more, this piece specifically talks about technological incidents and how psychological safety is fundamental to learning from them: “My goal, as the person asking him questions after the incident, is not to interrogate him. It’s to make him feel like an expert. And so by making Jona feel like an expert, he’s gonna feel a lot more psychologically safe. He has a safe space with me to talk about this incident.

Colin Powell, the first Black Secretary of State, sadly died this week, and this seems like a good quote to remember and honour him by.

And this relevant piece about psychological safety in the US Army is absolutely excellent. “Start asking yourself some questions to build self-awareness of how your actions are either psychologically safe or dangerous. Do you scoff at mandatory training? Do you have favorites? Do you publicly praise others? Do you gossip? Do you own your mistakes? Do you suffer in silence? We must analyze how our behaviors fall on the spectrum of psychological safety versus psychological danger. … Soldiers are capable of doing amazing things because they know others “have their six.” I’ve also written about psychological safety in the military after speaking to a few veterans of various forces, and I’m trying to maintain a repository of useful sources on the topic.

In this article in NHS Employers, Michael West, senior fellow at The King’s Fund, reflects on psychological safety, compassionate leadership and inclusivity in teams.

We covered whistleblowing in a previous newsletter, but here’s a lengthy and in-depth piece from the CPA journal about whistleblowing: “For whistleblowing to have a maximal beneficial impact, on an organization and society at large, it is critical that internal auditors perceive a high level of “psychological safety” within a company.”

 Psychological Safety Theory, Research and Opinion:

If you’re into Agile systems development, or just interested in sociotechnical systems and psychological safety, this dissertation by Phil Hennel is worth a read. If that ticks your box, here’s a piece I wrote a while ago on psychological safety in Agile Teams.

This is interesting, Social Representations about Safety among Students and Teachers – examining how “real” safety in educational contexts (such as fear of shootings) and the role of the teacher in their eyes and those of students, impacts psychological safety.

Here’s a handy little resource from NLI – Four acronyms to help understand work and motivation: SCARF, SEEDS, AGES, and TAPSThey’re all useful models in different contexts, and I personally use the AGES model a lot in training sessions and workshops as a quick sense check to make sure attendees are in the best position to learn. 

This episode of “Remaking Manhood”: The Healthy Masculinity Podcast talks about improving the workplace, identifying and ending workplace bullying, and what psychological safety looks like through a lens of healthy masculinity.

Sam Crome wrote a good book reflection of Dr Edmondson’s “The Fearless Organisation” here, and whether you’ve read it or not (and if not, then you really must!), it’s a useful summary of the book.

Further sad news is that Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, famous for his theory of “flow”, has passed away at the age of 87. His research, and his book “Flow” (1990) is fantastic and contributed significantly to the theory of psychology in application to work, sport and play.

“Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act.”


Things to do and try:

Thanks to John Willis for reminding me of this: recognised as the leading measure of burnout, the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) was designed to assess burnout in professionals (and students, with a different test). The MBI-GS addresses three scales:Exhaustion measures feelings of being overextended and exhausted by one’s work.Cynicism measures an indifference or a distant attitude towards your work.Professional Efficacy measures satisfaction with past and present accomplishments, and it explicitly assesses an individual’s expectations of continued effectiveness at work.I’m interested to hear if any of you have tried this, and what your experience is of it.

This week’s poem: First Fig, by Edna St. Vincent Millay 

My candle burns at both ends;
    It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
    It gives a lovely light!


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