How to Tell If a Prospective Employer Values Psychological Safety

Trishia*, one of my executive coaching clients, was driving the regulatory strategy for a global biotech company. At a recent cross-functional Zoom meeting, Gordon*, the VP of product development, publicly questioned Trishia’s approach. Trishia believed that Gordon didn’t understand the reasoning behind her proposal and was using the opportunity to flex his political muscle.

Whatever the reason behind Gordon’s actions, the situation caused Trishia to lose her feeling of psychological safety, which Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmundson defines as “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.” Since the meeting was virtual, with Gordon at the corporate headquarters in Boston and Trishia remote in San Diego, Trishia felt she had been publicly shamed — and without the physical proximity to quickly clear the air with Gordon.

Psychological safety has long been recognized as a…

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This article was written by Susan Peppercorn and originally published on hbr.org