The Growing Psychological Safety Disconnect Between Leaders And Employees

Psychological Safety is a top attribute of high-performing teams yet there is a growing disconnect between leaders and their employees

Psychological safety, defined simply, is the ability to say or do hard things without the fear of retaliation at work. In a competitive labor market, it is a must-have, not a nice-to-have. As Google found in their Project Aristotle study, psychological safety was the top attribute of high-performing teams.

New research supports the need for more psychological safety

New research from Wiley found that leaders tend to overestimate psychological safety on their teams compared to their team members. According to an interview with Mark Scullard, senior director of product innovation at Wiley, “at its core, psychological safety is about feeling valued.”

Wiley’s research also found that 89% of executives agree that their unique skills and talents are valued on their teams. Comparatively, 82% of team members agree they are valued. Yet, when you dig deeper into the behaviors that are associated with psychological safety, there is a disconnect between perceptions and reality. Individual contributors rated psychological-safety factors eight to twelve percentage points lower than their leaders, indicating discomfort around bringing up tough issues at work. Specifically, when you unpack the attributes of psychological safety:

  • 42% of managers feel psychologically safe compared to 57% of executives
  • 40% of leaders agreed that if they made a mistake, it would be held against them
  • 53% of employees feel safe to take a risk versus 76% of executives
  • 68% of employees agreed that no one on their teams would deliberately undermine them

Scullard recommends that leaders proactively look for….


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