Unveiling The Dark Side: How Being Taken Advantage of ERODES Psychological Safety

One of the gifts that results from being intentional about creating Psychological Safety is that employees feel more comfortable contributing ideas, sharing feedback, and taking risks.

But when someone starts taking advantage of the people who are being vulnerable, it can put us right back at square one.

No alt text provided for this image

In this week’s scenario, Ryan is an experienced Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) facilitator who has volunteered to lead a training for his peers at work. Erin and Kelly kindly volunteered to support him but when it came time for them to work together, Ryan began delegating tasks that he really should have been doing himself and acting in ways that made his coworkers feel inferior, unappreciated, and undervalued. Check it out below!

This scenario is really hitting on a component of Psychological Safety called Contributor Safety. We experience Contributor Safety when our work environment extends us respect and permission to actively participate and perform in our role. But one way to ensure you DON’T have contributor safety is to treat people terribly in the times they do attempt to contribute.


⬇️ So here’s a few tips to point you in the right direction when it comes to Contributor Safety ⬇️

Encourage Open Communication

We want the people around us to feel comfortable expressing their opinions and ideas. In this situation, it would have been great if the three volunteers took time to clearly define roles and responsibilities to ensure they all understood what was being asked of them and for them to outline expectations for their work together.

Lead By Example

This could have been a great opportunity for Ryan to model what it looks like to ask for more support rather than dump his work and expect his peers to do the heavy lifting. I’m sure he wouldn’t have loved if they did the same to him. This is where that age old saying comes into play, “Treat others as you want to be treated”.

Provide Opportunities for Growth

All 3 employees were volunteers but clearly Ryan was running the show. But what sounds better? Whatever happened here or all 3 employees reporting back about how much they learned and what a great time they had collaborating on a project? These experiences are what we make them and this could have just as easily been a great growth opportunity to engage with each other and learn something new.

Recognize & Celebrate Contributions

Affirmations go a long way. Had Ryan gotten out of his own way, he may have been able to see how bright and capable his peers were. When someone is killing it – let them know! Get comfortable recognizing other team members for their achievements and really celebrating your success as a team. Make it normal to be proud about the great work you’re all doing.

& Here are a few questions to ask yourself about your contribution to contributor safety at work ⬇️

  • Do I give others autonomy to contribute in their own way?
  • Do I allow others to demonstrate their ability to deliver results?
  • How could this impact the way I interact with others at work?

This week’s scenario comes from our Interactions at Work Psychological Safety training. Our training consists of employee-centered Psychological Safety conversations and team building exercises which will help employee’s learn tools for managing stress, explore the consequences of what they say and do, consider the assumptions they make about those they work with, and redefine what it means to contribute to a psychologically safe work environment. Use the link below to inquire about training for your group!