contribute as a full member of the team, using their skills and abilities to
participate in the value-creation process. They lean into what they’re doing
with energy and enthusiasm and have a natural desire to apply what they’ve
learned to make a meaningful contribution.
Why do employees dislike micromanagers? They don’t give the freedom
and discretion for employees to reach their potential. Why do employees
like empowering bosses? They encourage and draw out their team’s
best efforts. The more employees can contribute, the more confidence and
competence they develop. When contributor safety is created for others,
they’re empowered with autonomy, guidance and encouragement in exchange
for effort and results.
Stage 4: Challenger safety
Challenger safety satisfies the basic human need to make things better. It’s
the support and confidence needed to ask questions like, “Why do we do it
this way?” “What if we tried this?” or “May I suggest a better way?”
It allows employees to feel safe to challenge the status quo without retaliation
or the risk of damaging our personal standing or reputation.
Challenger safety provides respect and permission to dissent and disagree
when employees feel something needs to change and that it’s time to say
so. It allows them to overcome the pressure to conform and gives a license
to innovate and be creative. As the highest level of psychological safety, it
matches the increased vulnerability and personal risk associated with challenging
the status quo. When challenger safety is created, air cover in exchange
for candor is given.
Employees thrive in environments that respect them and allow them
to feel included, feel safe to learn, feel safe to contribute and feel safe to
challenge the status quo. If they can’t do these things, if it is emotionally
expensive, fear shuts them down. They’re not happy and not reaching
When an environment nurtures psychological safety, there’s an explosion
of confidence, engagement and performance. My challenge to
you is to crack your company open and take a look inside. If your people
can challenge the status quo and tell you when you’re wrong, you’re
on your way.
Timothy R. Clark, Ph.D., is the founder and CEO of LeaderFactor, a global
leadership consulting and training firm. An Oxford-trained social scientist and
sought-after international authority on organizational change, Clark is the
author of five books on leadership, including his newest release, The 4 Stages
of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation.
Psychological safety is a social condition
in which human beings feel included,
safe to learn, safe to contribute and
safe to challenge the status quo – all
without fear of being embarrassed,
marginalized or punished in some way.
38 | Quarter 3 2020 | saskheavy.ca