Project Management

Make It OK to Speak Truth and Take Risks

Quint Studer

When Google conducted its internal research study Project Aristotle in 2015, it found that psychological safety—the belief that one can speak up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes without punishment or humiliation—was the most important characteristic in terms of what makes a team productive.  While everyone wants to feel safe at work, few things are more dangerous to the health of an organization than for leaders to surround themselves with people who only agree with them, or act like they do when in reality they don’t. 

People sometimes share with me that their job is to make the boss look good.I usually reply that it’s much more important for them to help the boss begood. If the leader is going down a wrong path, the people around them must be willing to speak up and push back. But when people don’t feel safe enough to tell the truth, this can’t happen, and you’ll never be a high-performing organization.

We may feel unsafe when a boss (or any coworker) yells, says hurtful or disrespectful things, threatens retribution, or makes irrational demands. The primitive part of the brain sees this behavior as life-threatening and the fight-or-flight response takes over. When this happens (or when we anticipate that it might happen), we can’t think, much less speak up when something is wrong. And so we don’t; we shut down and take the “safest” route.

There are many …

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"A behaviorist is someone who pulls habits out of rats."

- Anonymous