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Your Safety Net: Team Resilience Amidst Uncertainty by Building Psychological Safety

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

In our every day world, the significance of cultivating psychological safety within teams gains even more relevance during times of uncertainty, particularly with respect to team retention. This concept, extensively studied and shared by Dr. Amy Edmondson, revolves around fostering an environment where individuals feel empowered to voice their ideas, take calculated risks, and express vulnerability, all without the fear of backlash.


The nexus between psychological safety and team retention holds the potential to shape an organization's trajectory, influencing both its resilience and adaptability. Something every organization seems to strive for...


A positive example of this comes to us from the healthcare sector, where the University of Michigan Health System demonstrated the remarkable impact psychological safety can have on an organization. Seeking to enhance patient outcomes, the hospital recognized that fostering an atmosphere of open communication and shared responsibility was key to their success. By encouraging nurses, doctors, and support staff to collaborate without apprehension, they discovered a substantial decrease in medical errors and an improved quality of care.


Through the cultivation of psychological safety, healthcare professionals felt empowered to speak up about potential mistakes or complications, leading to much quicker resolutions while also creating space for continuous improvement. This approach not only bolstered patient trust and outcomes but also contributed to elevated team morale and retention.


The sense of being valued and heard empowered healthcare workers, leading to a heightened commitment to the hospital's mission--even amidst uncertainties like the COVID-19 pandemic.


On the other hand, a negative instance from the automotive industry underscores the repercussions of neglecting psychological safety. In the early 2000s, Ford Motor Company faced a series of quality issues, including the infamous Firestone tire recall. Amidst these challenges, reports came to light showcasing a corporate culture that discouraged employees from voicing concerns about design flaws and safety risks.


This lack of psychological safety fostered an environment of silence, where employees were hesitant to challenge superiors or bring attention to potential hazards.

The consequences of this were far-reaching... The company's reputation took a significant hit, leading to plummeting customer trust and a subsequent decline in sales.


The internal discord and frustration generated by the absence of psychological safety also contributed to a talent drain, as skilled engineers and workers sought better work environments. Can you blame them? Ford's failure to create a culture of open dialogue not only hindered its ability to address critical issues promptly but also eroded team morale and contributed to higher turnover rates.


In times like we find ourselves now, the potency of nurturing psychological safety during periods of uncertainty, particularly with a focus on team retention, becomes vividly apparent. The affirmative case of the University of Michigan Health System illuminates how a culture of openness and shared accountability fortifies both patient care and team cohesion.


Conversely, Ford's missteps underscored the detrimental fallout of ignoring psychological safety, leading to reputational damage, decreased employee commitment, and amplified turnover. As businesses continue to navigate economic uncertainty and general ambiguity, the intentional building of psychological safety emerges as an important factor in ensuring teams remain united, engaged, and resilient, poised to thrive amidst uncertainty.

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