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Keeping Psychologically Safe in the Great Reintegration






There have been some BIG headlines about the return to work post pandemic. The standout themes are:


  • Adapting permanently to more working from home

  • Changing use of office spaces

  • Mental health and wellbeing of people as we reintegrate

  • Productivity as we transition to this new, changed way of working


We already know through research by Google (Project Aristotle), decades of research and the way this concept chimes so deeply with people that psychological safety is the cornerstone that teams need to be productive. It also has many of the elements that we need to navigate this next, important phase collectively.


The key elements of psychological safety are the concept of creating environments in which people feel safe to speak up and the less talked about idea of impression management. Edmondson defines, “Psychological Safety is a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking” which means they feel sufficiently safe at a group behavioural level to speak up about new ideas, about challenges to group think and about the things that are not going well. The killer principle here is that you can work on what people tell you but you can’t mitigate for the issues people don’t hear about. Sitting behind the overarching idea is Impression Management, the powerful, game changing idea that people are continually managing other people’s impression of them by avoiding being perceived as:


  • Intrusive

  • Incompetent

  • Ignorant

  • Negative


Ring true? I thought so. Now put psychological safety into the context of CoVid.


Fear - Edmondson’s most recent book was titled the Fearless Organisation. She wrote elegantly about how talented, smart people live in fear of tyrannical leaders, toxic teams and performance at all cost cultures. This fear propagates low levels of psychological safety and prevents teams from being able to work towards their true collective potential. Now we have a whole new level of fear to contend with in trying to coach and