It’s all fine and dandy to talk about feelings, isn’t it? But Google, like any other company, is in the business of making money. So the question is: does psychological safety impact the bottom line?

The answer is a resounding yes, and in more ways that one would imagine. 

According to Google researchers, “individuals on teams with higher psychological safety are less likely to leave Google, they’re more likely to harness the power of diverse ideas from their teammates, they bring in more revenue, and they’re rated as effective twice as often by executives.”

In the body of research on the topic, the findings were that psychological safety:

Improves team learning which improves team performance.

Studies in a variety of fields (such as healthcare, production, product development) suggest that psychological safety is a prerequisite for teams to learn and work together effectively, especially when collaboration is critical to achieving a goal. 

Google, too, found that psychological safety impacts their bottom line. According to Julia Rozovsky, a People Analytics Manager, Google sales teams that don’t feel psychologically safe miss their target revenue by 19 percent. On the other hand, teams that feel safe exceed the target revenue by 17 percent. This happens when team members feel safe enough to ask for help, to admit a mistake and to try on new roles. As the team learns through these behaviors, it becomes more effective. 

Stimulates creativity and innovation. 

If the team members feel psychologically safe, they’re more likely to think of new ideas and to bring them forward. By mitigating the risk of speaking up in a highly hierarchical work environment (such as a hospital), researchers found that psychological safety stimulated both the generation of innovative ideas as well as integrating them into practice.  

Decreases resistance to change.

In a study of cardiac surgery teams described in Professor Edmonson’s research, teams with greater psychological safety were more likely to engage in process innovation, a factor which positively correlated with successful implementation of new technology in their hospitals. To put it simply, psychological safety promotes team learning, which, in turn, enables the team to adapt to change easier. 

Increases employee retention.

If team members feel that their concerns are heard and their viewpoints are considered, then they’re less likely to leave the team. On the contrary, if members constantly feel like they’re put down by their managers and that the team norms create an unsupportive behavior, they’re more likely to become disengaged, to underperform, and to quit. 

Your turn

Can you think of other effects that psychological safety has on the way a company conducts business?