Josh Levs, Amy C. Edmondson

Psychological safety has received significant attention in recent years. Harvard Business School professor Amy C. Edmondson, credited with coining the term, has defined it in these pages as “the belief that the environment is safe for interpersonal risk taking. People feel able to speak up when needed — with relevant ideas, questions, or concerns — without being shut down in a gratuitous way.”

But I’ve found that although businesses routinely tell employees that all ideas are welcome, many have not addressed the most pressing concern that takes that safety away: career repercussions. Far too many employees have seen that people who never challenge the status quo are cheered on as “team players,” and thus work their way up the ranks to powerful, high-paying executive positions. By the same token, employees who challenge leadership on how part of the organization is run often find themselves turned down for promotions — or even out of a job — not long after.

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