Three Techniques to Destroy Psychological Safety



By Mei Lin

Plano, Texas, USA

Who doesn’t want to work or lead a smaller team?

I don’t know about you, but I know I want to be in a great team, lead amazing transformations, create a positive impact, and the work could be well compensated.

However, it is more complicated than you could imagine. Top companies and researchers are working hard to crack the secret.

As Project Management professionals, Agile has been a trending buzzword in many industries. Psychological Safety is one of the most critical core values for Agile. The maturity of its organization’s Psychological Safety directly impacts how the team interacts and communicates, embraces the trusted environment, is eager to be responsive, willing to adjust behavior for better results, feels motivated, and continually seeks excellence.

Psychological Safety 

Kahn William stated that “Psychological safety is being able to show and employ oneself without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career” in 1990, in the article “Psychological Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement at Work.”

Also, Psychological safety was defined as “a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking” by Edmondson, Amy in the 1999 article “Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams.”

When the Team feels they could work and perform without fear of negative consequences, the environment will boost creativity among employees and foster positive possibilities for mental health and their projects.

Let’s imagine you are walking toward a conference room.

Your manager and directors are reading your proposal. Suddenly, you found an admirative error. From the moment you realize it to the conference room. What might be in your mind?

Your heart rate goes up from 80 to 180 per minute; you are stressed out and praying for them to overlook the mistake and give you some blessing on their feedback. The good idea might go nowhere due to this admirative mistake. 


You look at the mistakes and know they will focus on the overall project and ask you to clarify the error. You are not worried about negative feedback because you know we are working for the same Team, and the mistake is easy to correct before release. A good idea is a good idea. The feedback loop is critical to making it a great idea.

In this scenario, you can see from the lens of psychological safety readiness for this Team. After the great success of the Google’s Project Oxygen research, the People Analytics team at Google applied the studies trying to discover further the secrets of an effective Team in 2012. Goggle published the result of Project Aristotle in 2016 based on 180 teams identified 180 teams in various projects stated that the most critical factor in building high-performance teams is with higher psychological safety.


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 14th UT Dallas PM Symposium in May 2022.  It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers.

How to cite this paper: Lin, M. Y. (2022). Three Techniques to Destroy Psychological Safety; presented at the 14th University of Texas at Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, TX, USA in May 2022; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue XII, December. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/pmwj124-Dec2022-Lin-three-techniques-to-destroy-psychological-safety.pdf

About the Author

Mei Lin

Plano, Texas, USA


Mei Lin is an Agile Hybrid Project and PMP certified Project Management Professional who is passionate about implementing digital technology and infrastructure solutions with global teams that bring value to organizations. She builds empowered and collaborative teams that focus on delivering on-time, on-budget, and value, based on understanding the needs of the business and team members first.

Mei Lin is Immediate past president of the PMI Dallas chapter and holds the following certifications: PMI – PMP®; PMI – ACP®; PMI – PBA®; Agile Hybrid Project Pro Micro-Credential; Disciplined Agile Senior Scrum Master; Certified Disciplined Agile Instructor;
Lean Portfolio Management; Toastmasters Distinguished Toastmasters (DTM*2); Six Sigma Black Belt Professional; Six Sigma Champion; Lean Six Sigma Green Belt; Lean Management.

She is an author, speaker and innovative, growth-oriented, multilingual servant leader. She is a continuous improvement enthusiast and a lifelong learner, who also cares about other people, the earth and the environment.

She can be contacted at mei.lin.pmp@gmail.com