5 “Dangers” of Psychological Safety

I married my high school sweetheart. Neither of us had any idea what we were getting into. It’s been delightful until this afternoon.

My bride came to my office to let me know she was taking a walk. It seemed innocent. The trouble started after she bent to kiss me. She pulled back my electric heater that was warming my bare toes as she stood. She did this instinctively and without permission.

She touched my heater without thinking because of psychological safety. Image of a bright flower.

While she walked away, I casually asked, “What gives you the right to touch my heater?” She said, “It was too close to the desk.” We both laughed. I said, “That’s not what I asked.” We laughed with more gusto and then she flashed a smile. Her smile is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. She knows her smile turns me to playdoh and that ended the conversation.

She touched my heater – without thinking – because of psychological safety.

Psychological Safety:

Psychological safety is the belief that you speak up without fear of embarrassment, retribution, or punishment.

Read, The Fearless Organization, by Amy Edmondson.

5 “Dangers” of psychological safety:

  1. Honesty. People will speak their mind.
  2. Creativity. People won’t tow the line. They will offer interesting alternatives.
  3. Initiative. People will do things without permission.
  4. Feedback. You will know where you stand.
  5. Disagreement. Bobble heads will stop bobbling.

Bonus: People will touch your toe-heater without asking.

Sentence starters that build safety:


  1. “I value your perspective and want to hear your thoughts.”
  2. “Mistakes happen. It’s important to learn from them.”
  3. “We’re in this together.”


  1. “What can I do to build psychological safety on our team?”
  2. “How can I support you?”
  3. “What do leaders do that makes it uncomfortable to speak up?”
  4. “What are you learning?”

How might leaders build trust?

Still curious:

How to Build Teams that Trust Each Other

Let go – 4 Remedies for Exhausted Control Freaks

Where Talent Thrives or Dies – How to Build Effective Teams

Psychological safety and leadership development