Too Much Psychological Safety Affects Work Quality



Although practicing excellent psychological safety has its advantages, having too much psychological safety at work can have the opposite effect of improved job performance.

This was one of the main conclusions reached about psychological safety and how effective it is, according to new research that was published earlier this year in the Harvard Business Review.

The idea of psychological safety is to establish a setting in which people can express themselves without worrying about hurting other people. Numerous studies have connected safety to advantageous outcomes like increased creativity, greater openness to asking for assistance, and learning new things.

Related link: Workplaces In Australia Encouraged To Prioritise Worker Welfare

Peter Cappelli, the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and the Director of its Center for Human Resources, and Liat Eldo, the Managing Director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and an Assistant Professor at Tel Aviv University, stated that psychological safety is not a “either/or” outcome but rather a matter of degree. Both authors questioned how beneficial psychological safety may be. “If we are only looking at averages, situations where it may be highly advantageous can disguise other cases where it may possibly be harmful,” they stated.

Therefore, Professors Cappelli and Eldo examined the value of psychological safety in front-line jobs. They discovered that when one went from medium to high levels of work, one’s performance at work decreased. This might be the outcome of people taking needless chances in settings where leaders encourage the assumption that “no bad ideas” exist.

According to both authors, “collective accountability—the idea that workers are held jointly accountable for performance even when they are not held individually accountable—provides evidence in favor of the hypothesis that high psychological safety is linked to environments where being held accountable for errors is low.”

The authors came to the conclusion that while extremely high levels of psychological safety may be detrimental in certain occupations, extremely low levels are still concerning and should be addressed in any workplace. 

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