Psychological Safety at Work – Join Our #MTtalk! » Mind Tools Blog
psychological safety at work

Psychological Safety at Work – Join Our #MTtalk!

August 28, 2018

Please Join Us!

What: #MTtalk

Where: Twitter

When: Friday, August 31 @ 1 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. BST, 10:30 p.m. IST)

Topic: Psychological Safety at Work

Host: @Mind_Tools

“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity.”
– U.S. author Roy T. Bennett

About This Week’s Chat

A while ago, I was working on a big project with a client. Because I was going to spend so much time with this organization, it offered me the use of an office at its HQ.

It wasn’t a very big company, but I was made to feel very welcome, and I had high expectations that it was going to be a great experience. That feeling lasted until my first meeting!

A mother and daughter, who were the admin team, sat side by side at the table, on the opposite side to everyone else, and glared around as if they were going into battle! In subsequent meetings, I realized that this was how they operated.

They made it clear from the start that they didn’t like the project we were working on. And they weren’t shy in declaring that they regarded my presence as a waste of money. They knew nothing about my expertise or experience, but they were confident that they could google whatever they needed to know and run the project themselves.

Because of their lack of understanding of the project, they queried every decision the team made, shot down ideas, and humiliated team members with their choice of words.

The team had to explain everything it did and wanted to do – from meetings to phone calls, campaigns to activations – to two people whose lack of knowledge meant that they felt threatened by the competence of the people around them. Needless to say, meetings were tense and unproductive.

At one point, I realized that, for the first time in years, I felt intimidated and uncomfortable to such a degree that I experienced the environment as “psychologically unsafe.”

What do I mean by that? Psychological safety is a collective belief or team norm that you will not be punished or humiliated when you make a mistake, ask a question, come up with an idea, or voice a concern.

That evening, I sat down and did a “balance sheet” exercise. I started with the knowledge that this project could potentially mean working in this environment for at least another year. I looked at what I was going to gain from the project against what the likely cost to my health, well-being and peace of mind.

I came to the conclusion that I had to get out.

The real deal-breaker was that they intimidated the CEO (who was also related to them) so much that he wasn’t willing to step up and defend the project, the project manager, me or anything we did. We were on our own.

At the next meeting I told them that I was withdrawing from the project. Afterwards it felt as if the proverbial weight had fallen off my shoulders.

“Psychological Safety at Work”

It was the first and only time that I ever stepped away from a project that I’d committed to. Although it wasn’t an easy decision, I was able to do it. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about the people who worked in that environment every day, because the basic elements necessary to create psychological safety were absent.

In our poll this week we asked what you thought would help make your workplace more psychologically safe. The top response was “equal respect for all,” with 31 percent of the vote. Click here to see all the questions and results.

In our #MTtalk Twitter chat this week we’re going to talk about psychological safety at work. We’d love you to participate in the chat, and the following questions may spark some thoughts in preparation for it:

  • What does psychological safety mean to you?
  • Why does having a psychologically safe work environment matter?
  • Is the “snowflake generation” too fragile/sensitive/victim-minded?
  • What’s the difference between trust and psychological safety?
  • What might negatively impact on the sense of psychological safety at work?
  • How might you deal with conflict among the team to ensure everyone “feels” heard and safe?


To help you prepare for the chat, we’ve compiled a list of resources for you to browse.

How to Join

Follow us on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the action this Friday! We’ll be tweeting out 10 questions during our hour-long chat. To participate in the chat, type #MTtalk in the Twitter search function. Then, click on “All Tweets” and you’ll be able to follow the live chat feed. You can join the chat by using the hash tag #MTtalk in your responses.

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