How psychological security impacts the performance of a work team

Contrary to what many people think, the effectiveness of a work team does not depend on having only the “star employees” of the company. In fact, a study conducted by Google analyzing more than 180 teams showed that the most important thing is not the individuals but the quality of the interaction between them.

What is psychological security?

According Paul Santagata, Google’s Industry Director, “no trust, no team.” While 5 common dynamics were discovered among the most effective teams, what most impacted on their performance was a high psychological safety index. Psychological safety is the belief that one is safe to take risks, and will not be punished when making a mistake. It's that simple.

It happens that people tend to avoid doing things that can negatively influence how others perceive their competence at work. While it is a form of self-protection, teamwork can be negative. People who do not feel psychologically safe prefer not to comment, propose ideas or expose that they detected an error. On the other hand, psychological security promotes risk taking, the development of ideas, creativity and, consequently, increases employee commitment. All these behaviors help the company to achieve great discoveries and continue to improve in the long term.

Then psychological security promotes the development of ideas increasing the value of the company for innovation, and also generates greater commitment in employees, reducing the rate of resignations and absences due to illness.

How it impacts on a team

For psychological security to emerge between a group, teammates do not necessarily have to be friends. But nevertheless, They must be socially sensitive and ensure that everyone feels heard. It is also not necessary that there be no challenges for people to feel safe. It is precisely in this type of environment where the ability of people to feel comfortable taking risks, deciding fast and participating, is most needed. Biology shows that an environment, without being threatening, such as an agile culture, helps increase oxytocin in the body. This hormone is a neurotransmitter that is involved in behaviors related to trust, altruism, generosity, bonding, caring behaviors, empathy or compassion, and in the regulation of fear, eliminating paralysis responses.

The best tactic to establish psychological security is for the leader to be the example of the desired behaviors. The work of modeling norms is the most important duty as a leader so that they allow: to protect the different voices of people, but also to make them work together.

In this context, the professional recommends modeling the following behaviors:

A team is a group of individuals who voluntarily give a measure of control to their peers. But that only works when people feel they can trust each other. If you teach them to interact the right way to an average team, they will do things that no superstar could achieve.

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