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Why Leaders Misunderstand Psychological Safety

Why Leaders Misunderstand Psychological Safety

by Starling Insights

Starling Insights Editorial Board

Jan 19, 2024


ICYMI: In this WorkLife article, journalist Jessica Davies examines the widespread misunderstanding of psychological safety in the workplace and its detrimental impact on team performance. A fundamental concept in business, psychological safety is crucial for optimal results and employee performance, enabling staff to voice concerns without fear of reprisal. However, a recent report by the UK-based consultancy Behave reveals that only 16% of HR executives clearly understand this concept. 

Dr. Alexandra Dobra-Kiel, Innovation & Strategy Director at Behave, explained that business leaders often misinterpret psychological safety as simply being kind or fostering a culture of "bringing your whole selves to work." Instead, at its core, psychological safety is about being comfortable with discomfort at work and bringing an obligatory candor to workplace communications. "[I]t has nothing to do with kindness. It is to do with candid honesty," Dobra-Kiel emphasized. “So if someone wants to speak up and speaking up would actually contribute to twice the performance, that person should do it. It's that radical candor that's truly at the heart of this concept.”

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