Psychological Safety Newsletter #39: Diversity and Ethical Behaviour

Training, Workshops, Exercises and Tools

Psychological Safety Newsletter #39: Diversity and Ethical Behaviour

two things at once

Welcome to the psychological safety newsletter and thanks for subscribing. You are awesome. This week includes Diversity, Unethical Behaviour, Machine Learning, Lean Startup, and travelling in sound! Enjoy, and have a wonderful day!

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This newsletter is sponsored by Conflux.

Conflux is the leading business consultancy worldwide helping organisations to navigate fast flow in software. We help organisations to adopt and sustain proven, modern practices for delivering software rapidly and safely.

Blameless post-mortems are a common practice in IT, but are we really making the most of them as opportunities to learn, or has it just become something that we do out of habit? In this article, Sophie Weston, Principal at Conflux, looks again at the reasons for holding post-mortems, explores what goes into making a successful post-mortem, and explains why the blameless bit really does matter.

Psychological Safety In the Workplace: 

The Lean Startup framework was conceptualised by Eric Ries, and is defined as “an institution of people organized to make a new product or service in incredibly uncertain circumstances.” The practice of applying small and rapid experiments in order to quickly understand customer needs is central to the Lean Startup methodology, and this great article by Adil Addiya articulately describes why a culture of psychological safety is fundamental to the approachLean startup and Psychological safety. How to accelerate innovation by eliminating fear?

Judge the members of a team based upon the process not the result. I love this, and it speaks to a previous cartoon I shared in issue 23 about not judging a decision based on its outcome. Good article, and worth a quick read.

Here’s a great piece about psychological safety in healthcare from Brendan Murphy: “Resident physicians should not be expected to have every answer. They should be allowed to ask the tough questions. And, when necessary, residents should feel comfortable speaking up.” How psychological safety can help resident physicians flourish.

I love this from @thepresentpsychologist – we can be many things at the same time

Here’s a fab piece from Charity Majors, about the pressures of being on-call in a tech team. I’ve personally witnessed the long-term damage to psychological safety on a team that can be wrought by ill-applied on-call processes and procedures. This article highlights the need to identify and resolve systemic, technological and organisational dysfunctions before attempting to “solve” them through having people on-call. Being on-call is psychologically expensive and can be physically hard too, particularly for anyone with caring responsibilities, neurodiversities, or simply going through a hard time. 

In Canada this year, the Ontario government proposed Bill 27, the Working for Workers Act. This new legislation would, among other things, introduce the “right to disconnect” for workers in the province. This is a really positive and interesting move, and should improve psychological safety through providing assurance to employees that they can disconnect from work without fear of negative consequence.

“Innovators need to work free from the fear of failure, in an environment that encourages learning and embraces risk as a necessity. They should be empowered to observe and interact with customers directly, instead of relying on assumptions and metrics alone to guide their decisions.” A good short read from Thoughtworks’ Tobias Soffner.

Psychological Safety Theory, Research and Opinion:


 This is an excellent piece on the the impact of diversity on teams and how it changes over time. Diversity on a team can improve outcomes by reducing groupthink and maximising the breadth of ideas and perspectives, but it can also have a negative impact through impacting the natural heuristics of team members. This article makes a key point of the necessity for early interventions at the forming and storming team phases, which is exactly what I suggest in the Psychological Safety Action Pack 🙂 

“…over time, the bearings of your moral compass will shift toward the culture of your organization or team.” Here’s a great article about The Psychology Behind Unethical Behavior, by Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg. And just like the above piece, suggests combating this by creating formal and social contracts that obligate both you and your colleagues to do right. It also reminds me of this piece I wrote about behaviours that damage psychological safety.

This paper: The Values Encoded in Machine Learning Research, is excellent. Abeba and their colleagues point out, articulately and with strong evidence, that “societal needs are typically very loosely connected to the choice of project, if mentioned at all, and that consideration of negative consequences is extremely rare.” This paper reflects the (increasingly?) polarised spectrum of sociological and “hard science” approaches: ML and AI are becoming increasingly popular as tools in organisational management and change, but we’re in for a rough time if we ignore the sociological aspects and unintended consequences of such approaches.

Things to do and try: 

This “Global Diversity Calendar” by Diya Khanna is an amazing piece of work, and includes everything from International Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31st) to the International Day of Rural Women (October 15th).
Ok, this is blatant self-promotion and not much to do with psychological safety, but I also think it’s a really lovely thing and I hope you do too 🙂 I love recording the ambient sounds in various places my partner and I travel to, and sono.life is where the recordings live. You can listen to the sounds of a mountain stream on the Isle of Skye, distant piano practice in Paris, or the bustle of a busy Morroccan market. Despite the travel restrictions we’re under at the moment, with this, you can experience a little travel through sounds around the world 🙂 

This week’s poem:

Deep Dark Wells“, written by Harvey Thomas Young.
(The lyrics for “Deep Dark Wells” came from a postcard that Young was going to send to his brother Norbert, who was in prison for bank fraud.)

From deep dark wells comes pure clean water
And the ice will melt as the day gets hotter
And the night grows old as the sun climbs into the sky

When now is then and tomorrow’s coming
And where you been
Starts me in something
As long as you can, just keep stumbling ahead

As long as you’re not finished, you can start all over again
As long as you’re not finished, you can start all over again
You can start all over again

As long as you’re not finished, you can start all over again
As long as you’re not finished, you can start all over again
You can start all over again

From deep dark wells comes pure clean water
And the ice will melt as the day gets hotter
And the night grows old as the sun climbs into the sky

And as long as you’re not finished, you can start all over again
As long as you’re not finished, you can start all over again
You can start all over again

Listen to Joe Pug perform “Deep Dark Wells”, and read the backstory by Michael Corcoran.

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