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Genuine vs False Psychological Safety in Teams

Genuine vs Fake Psychological Safety

In the landscape of the modern workplace the concept of psychological safety has re-emerged as a cornerstone of effective teamwork yet it has become somewhat of a buzzword.

Psychological safety refers to an environment in which team members genuinely feel comfortable taking risks, expressing themselves, and being vulnerable without fear of retribution or judgment. It fosters open communication, trust, and ultimately leads to higher levels of creativity, productivity, and job satisfaction.

However, the absence of true psychological safety, often masked by a deceptive illusion of security and contrived cultures, can have profound and detrimental effects on teams.

The Significance of Psychological Safety contrasted to The Dangers of False Psychological Safety

Psychological Safety - Encourages Open Communication

Psychological safety creates a platform where team members can freely voice their thoughts, opinions, and concerns. When individuals feel safe to share their ideas without fear of ridicule or backlash, it encourages a culture of open dialogue. This not only leads to better problem-solving but also brings fresh perspectives to the table, enhancing the team's collective intelligence. Collective IQ rises.

False Psychological Safety - Suppression of Authenticity

False psychological safety often creates an illusion of security that masks a deeply ingrained culture of conformity. In such environments, team members may suppress their true thoughts and feelings, fearing the consequences of being authentic and rocking the boat. This leads to a lack of diversity in perspectives and stifles creativity and innovation. Collective IQ drops.

Psychological Safety - Promotes Trust and Cohesion

A team built on a foundation of psychological safety develops a sense of trust and cohesion among its members. When team members feel safe, they are more likely to support and uplift one another. This creates a positive feedback loop, reinforcing trust and ultimately leading to a more cohesive and harmonious working environment.

False Psychological Safety - Erosion of Trust

When a team believes they have psychological safety but encounters evidence to the contrary, trust erodes rapidly. False psychological safety can lead to a climate of uncertainty and mistrust as team members begin to question the authenticity of their interactions. This erosion of trust can have far-reaching consequences, including increased turnover rates and decreased job satisfaction.

Psychological Safety - Facilitates Learning and Growth

Psychological safety is conducive to learning and personal growth. When individuals feel secure in their team, they are more willing to take risks, try new approaches, and learn from their mistakes. This environment fosters innovation and encourages continuous improvement, which is vital for a team's long-term success.

False Psychological Safety - Stagnation of Progress

In teams where false psychological safety is prevalent, there is a tendency to avoid conflict or difficult conversations. This may create a superficial harmony, but it also stifles constructive criticism and necessary feedback. Without these vital components, progress becomes stagnant, and the team's potential remains untapped. Psychological safety is not a mere buzzword and should not be treated as such; it is a fundamental element for the success of any team. Genuine psychological safety empowers individuals to be their true selves, fostering open communication, trust, and personal growth.

People need to truly understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and those of others. Differing operating styles need to be understood and tolerated.

However, false psychological safety, often masked by a superficial veneer, poses significant dangers. It stifles authenticity, hampers progress, and erodes trust, ultimately undermining the potential of the team.

As leaders and team members, it is imperative to recognize the difference and actively cultivate an environment where true psychological safety thrives, enabling teams to reach their fullest potential. Develop real cultures instead of trying to superimpose contrived ones. Understand and tolerate different behavioural styles in teams.

At Sabre we use tools like the Belbin Model and its profiles and reports to reveal the actual culture that exists within a team, and the impacts of individual behaviours. This provides evidence-based insight, and a language to explore genuine psychological safety within the team.

To find out more contact us: T – 1300 731 381 E –


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