When is Psychological Safety Helpful? A Longitudinal Study
Dobrow, Shoshana Ruth
Weiner, Jennie Miles
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CitationHiggins, Monica. 2020. When is Psychological Safety Helpful? A Longitudinal Study. Academy of Management Discoveries
AbstractPrior research has documented many benefits associated with team-level psychological safety. However, we know little about the boundary conditions of psychological safety, such as how it operates at the organization level and if and when it is helpful over time. In the present research, we explore how organization-level psychological safety, in conjunction with another aspect of workplace climate, felt accountability, impacts organizational performance over time. Our study is situated in the New York City public school system, a context rife with uncertainty and calls for change, including immense pressure on teachers to produce and improve student outcomes. Drawing on over 170,000 survey responses from teachers in 545 schools across three years, our multilevel analyses unexpectedly show that psychological safety is not on its own, nor necessarily, “helpful” with regards to organizational performance over time. Indeed, the best conditions for fostering organizational performance occurred when psychological safety was relatively low and felt accountability was relatively high. Thus, these two dimensions of workplace climate appear to be interrelated in critical ways over time, albeit unexpectedly. We conclude with implications of our discoveries for future research on psychological safety and felt accountability, and we propose new lines of research on the roles of interdependence, attention, and time for studying psychological safety at the organization level.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37366924
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