After reading the characteristics of a psychologically safe environment in the previous lesson, you might think this type of team is a dream come true. You might also think that everyone is friends with everyone. That there are no problems to deal with and no stress to overcome. That the pressure to perform is low, and you’re free to make any mistakes you want, no questions asked. 

Not so fast.

According to research, psychological safety is not necessarily associated with team members being close friends. Nor does it mean that there are no problems. Or that there are no consequences for lack of performance and no accountability for mistakes. 

According to Dr. Amy Edmonson, from the Harvard School of Business, the mark of a good team leader is when “psychological safety is nurtured without sending the message that anything goes.”

Similarly, psychological safety should not be equated with group cohesiveness. Research shows that group cohesiveness leads to team members being unwilling to disagree and to challenge others' views. The closer we feel to our group members, the less likely we are to point out their mistakes or challenge their assumptions, which results in the phenomenon called groupthink. The desire to keep the status quo and safeguard the group’s harmonious functioning leads to poor decision-making, which may followed by unwanted consequences. 

Your turn

In the following lessons, we’re going to discuss ways in which leaders can foster psychological safety within their teams. How about trying to brainstorm and reflect on a few ways in which you think this can be done? Even if you haven’t heard of this concept before, try to use the knowledge that you've gained from the previous lessons to come up with a few behaviors and norms that a leader can establish in order to create a safe environment.