“Low levels of psychological safety can create a culture of silence. They can also create a Cassandra culture – an environment in which speaking up is belittled and warnings go unheeded.”
– Amy C.Edmondson
This blogpost is based and inspired by Amy C. Edmondson and her book the fearless organization. If you haven’t read her book, or seen one of her talks you definitely should!
We will link a talk at the bottom for all of you interested in learning more about her work.
But for now, let’s dive right into the topic.
First of all, if we remember a time in our life where we haven’t spoken up or shared our thoughts, let’s look at what that looked like (I think most of us can quickly come up with such a situation):
Usually these are situations, where we were not 100% sure that our topic would matter. Maybe we doubted that we were right about the matter at all or we didn’t know if it was the right place or time to bring the matter up.
In her talk, Amy points out that in most of those cases the benefit of these matters would’ve been with the organization. But only if you were right. And in how many cases are we sure to be 100% right? Well right…
And what happens, if we remain silent? Well then it is our gain. We stay safe for another moment, another day. We don’t open up for exposure, we don’t make ourselves vulnerable. And that is 100% certain.
Of course our gain is way smaller than bringing value to the organization, raising awareness regarding a very specific or important matter, but there is one and it is a 100% sure one.
On top of that comes hierarchy which then ends up in a situation where team members often feel like it’s impossible to raise their voice (Listen to her example at 11:05 if you want to listen to an example where the consequences couldn’t have been more severe).
So it all comes down to interpersonal risk (more on the topic: https://www.jstor.org/stable/2666999?seq=1).
No one wants to look incompetent, negative, uncertain. As a result we create strategies to avoid that others might think so. And this results in: Silence.
But if you want your team to thrive, if you want to grow as an organization, if you want to succeed as a company, it is absolutely critical to pick your team’s mind.
You need the ideas. Not all of them will be good ones. Lot’s of them might be nonsense. But there will be brilliant ones and you want to make sure that your team feels like they can share their thoughts.
This will be only possible if management/team leaders create a culture within their team and their organization where people feel safe.
If you want to learn more how to implement such a culture within your company, I highly recommend “The fearless organization” by Amy C. Edmondson.
If you want to start today with your team or make a first step and make a difference immediately, fraankly will be your tool of choice to create a safe space where your team can share thoughts and rate ideas without ever fearing negative consequences.
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Link to the talk:
The Fearless Organization: Amy Edmondson