Want better work teams? Make sure they are psychologically safe.
Employee: Psychologically safe work teams allow employees to feel secure, challenge one another, and take risks in a non-judgmental and trusting work atmosphere.
Employer: Work teams that are psychologically safe tend to have greater learning behaviours and creativity. Psychologically safe work climates also moderate the relationship between task conflict and team performance.
Psychological safety is the notion that all members of a work team share the unspoken belief that their team is a safe place for interpersonal risk taking. Specifically, it is rooted in the notion that individuals on a team must feel psychologically safe in order to feel secure, capable of changing, and capable of challenging one another. This is not the same as group cohesiveness or interpersonal trust among colleagues; while it is true that team members must trust and respect each other in order for psychological safety to occur, psychological safety itself implies that team members are free to disagree with and challenge one another in a non-judgmental atmosphere. To date, research on psychological safety has provided important insights when it comes to team and organizational performance. Specifically, psychological safety has been shown to be related to team creativity and learning behaviour. A psychologically safe work climate was also found to buffer the relationship between task conflict and team performance, as teams that are high in psychological safety are able to critically discuss ideas and decisions without team members taking offence, which in turn boosts team performance. As such, future research on psychological safety in teams is likely to yield further insights regarding the benefits to both employees and their organizations.