High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It

Psychology has many ways to prove to us the inherent need humans have to feel safe, why we literally think poorly when we do not feel safe and think savvy when we do. The flight or fight response, which can save and has undoubtedly saved many a cave-dweller, back in prehistoric times, is less useful in the office milieu. Instead of a saber-tooth tiger, we may hear a complaint from a higher up, or think that we perceive a competitive threat in a fellow worker, and get that same flight or fight response our ancestor did when faced with the tiger. Only the response, which is geared to push out rational thought and encourage running or fighting is no longer a viable response today. So being unafraid is better. Feeling safe is best. In fact, positive, upbeat and ebullient emotions have been shown to broaden the mind and promote resilience. This can be fostered by team-building that refuses to instill blame, that promotes problem-solving as an ‘us against the problem’ thing, not as a ‘what are you going to do about it thing,’ and promotes interaction by seeking feedback where possible.

Reflect on these key points:

  • 1For a high performing team to be its best its members need to be able to act without fear of punishment.
  • 2Fear, while useful for ancient man encountering predators, is no longer very adaptive to modern work conditions.
  • 3To create trust and cohesion in your team, work on problem solving as a collaborative agent, not as an accuser or punishment-doler.

“Ancient evolutionary adaptations explain why psychological safety is both fragile and vital to success in uncertain, interdependent environments.”

Read the full story: https://hbr.org/2017/08/high-performing-teams-need-psychological-safety-heres-how-to-create-it