Do you feel psychologically safe at work?


I was on the Paul Henry Show last week talking about how to tell when you have outgrown your career, (the link has disappeared from the Newshub site, so I can't share it for now). We were discussing the importance of finding where the challenge actually comes from; ie it might not be your career per se, it might be

  • The industry I bashed it out in recruitment for a few years then realized it just wasn’t for me long term)
  • A personal shift for you eg you decide that you want to choose a slower pace of life, and leave the big city (check out this great story, the book is about to be released about Angela’s move from working at Louis Vuitton to managing a homestead)
  • You! As in some of us spend our lives shuffling from one career to another in a fog of discontent, when actually the careers we choose are not the problem, we are!!
  • The people you work with It might actually be the people, or more likely your boss, who drive you away from an otherwise completely fulfilling career.

It was this last point that really got me thinking. According to Gallup, 50% to 70% of people resign from a role because of a bad manager

Have a think about that! It’s criminal!

A few years ago, I had the absolute pleasure of being the ‘Kiwi Manager’ for the wonderful experience company ‘Red Balloon’. It was such a fun and fulfilling role, supporting companies to look at how they engage their teams (and with only 24% ofworkers engaged according to Gallup and 16% of them actively disengagedit was a great area to be focusing on). For a couple of years, I lived and breathed engagement and fulfillment in the workplace and observed the extraordinary Naomi Simson drive a true representation of creating a highly engaged company herself.

It still eludes so many companies, this engagement beast. Even Google admit to wrestling with it, and conducted over 200 interviews across two years, to see what makes a great team. Click here for the study, but the guts of it came down to

1. Psychological safety – Can we take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed?

2. Dependability - Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?

3. Structure and clarity - Are goals, roles and execution plans on our team clear?

4. Meaning of work - Are we working on something that is personally important for us?

5. Impact of work - Do we fundamentally believe that the work we are doing matters?

Not wanting to ‘just take a survey’ Google decided to do something about it, and they created a tool called the gTeams exercise, which is essentially a 10 minute pulse check on each of these areas along with some face to face conversations. Over 3000 Googlers have to date used the tool, and sense of psychological safety is up (although not massively, only 6%).

What’s interesting is that psychological safety was way more important than anything else. And when I think about how often I have heard how bullied people feel in the workplace recently, I am not surprised.

Don’t put your head in the sand about psychological safety! 

In my last blog, I shared my 'tolerations matrix' with you. Amazing things have shifted for people getting clear on what they are tolerating personally, and even though some initial decisions have been tough, they now know that they are living their truth. The same goes for looking at what you are tolerating at work. Bullying is a massive problem for us, so start to notice what is going on around you, and if you feel that yours or someone else’s psychological safety is questioned, talk to someone about it!


Posted on March 8, 2016 .