Playspace is safe for people to bring their whole selves to work.

Chapter 4 of Pamela Meyer’s book Playspace is titled “Playspace is Safe Space.”  This is a very important topic that merits attention and requires careful consideration.  I appreciate that Dr. Meyer includes this in her book and does not treat this as a one-way street, from supervisor to employee.  This is such a dense chapter I find myself struggling to compress all its insights into one post.  This post focuses on the relationship of safety and trust.

When Dr. Meyer refers to safety she means psychological safety.  She provides the following definition for psychological safety, the “sense of being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences to self-image, status, or career.”  When a person has this type of safety they feel more at ease in the workplace and more comfortable taking risks.  Dr. Meyer goes on to list four psychological risks identified by Amy Edmondson of Harvard School of Business: being seen as ignorant, incompetent, negative, or disruptive.

I can’t think a person who enjoys being thought of as ignorant, incompetent, or negative.  I know a few people who like being thought of as disruptive.  However, in the context of this chapter the author is making the point that a person who wants to contribute in a positive way needs to feel like they are being treated fairly.  An organization will not get the best of anyone who is typecast in the ways listed above.  In today’s economic climate fresh ideas are the lifeblood of continued success.  Fresh ideas mean somebody is taking a risk.  A culture that promotes reasonable risk taking, sharing and learning needs to be safe.  Cultures that allow a person to feel safe to express his or her true self and take risks without fear promotes trust.

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