Here is the full text and summary of Amy Edmondson’s talk titled “Building a Psychologically Safe Workplace” at TEDxHGSE conference.
A nurse on the night shift in a busy urban hospital notices that the dosage for a particular patient seems a bit high. Fleetingly, she considers calling the doctor at home, to check the order.
Just as fleetingly, she recalls his disparaging comments about her abilities, last time she called him at home. All but certain the dose is in fact fine — the patient is, after all, on an experimental protocol, which justifies the high dose — she hits for the cart, gets the med and goes towards the patient’s bed.
Quite far from the urban hospital, a young pilot in a military training flight notices that his senior officer might have made a crucial misjudgment. He lets the moment go by.
Far from both of those stories, senior executive who has recently been hired by a very successful consumer products company to join the top management team, has grave reservations about a planned takeover. New to the team, feeling like an outsider, everyone else is so enthusiastic about the plan, he doesn’t say anything.
These are three episodes of workplace silence when voice was necessary. Voice would have been helpful.
Now, you may think, “If I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t do that.” Or you may be aware, as I am, of just how often this happens in the modern workplace. I’ve been fascinated by this problem for a long time.
WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?
It’s quite simple, actually. It turns out that no one wakes up in the morning and jumps out of bed because they can’t wait to get to work today to look ignorant, incompetent, intrusive or negative, right? No, on average we’d prefer to look smart and helpful and, you know, positive and helpful.