At BlueEQ, our research team has broken down the construct of psychological safety to further understand what makes it the number one driver of team performance. Psychological safety is rooted in emotional intelligence and is defined as an environment where it’s safe to discuss ideas, experiment, take risks, give feedback, and learn from mistakes. In this highly positive culture, trust is high and turnover is low. We call it a Blue Zone, and it’s a place we all want to work! We have identified four separate and yet related quadrants of psychological safety; each quadrant has its own foundational principle and is characterized by a unique behavioral response. 

The Four Quadrants of Psychological Safety

One of these quadrants of psychological safety is learner safety. Learner safety is a very precious asset to any individual or organization. It is feeling safe to engage in every aspect of the discovery process. Where there is learner safety, questions are comfortably asked and individuals feel safe to experiment by trying new things. Exploring – poking around – is encouraged! Learning from mistakes is cheered. New opportunities are examined.

During a meeting, if a coworker starts speaking on a topic you do not understand, with learner safety you would feel safe and comfortable raising your hand and asking questions, seeking clarification and understanding. In an organization that does not promote learner safety, you would feel uncomfortable and embarrassed asking questions and might not seek clarification at all – compromising whatever efforts are being made by the team.

If you do not have learner safety, then the risks of engaging in the learning process outweigh the benefits, quickly snuffing out any potential you once had.  

The more you experience learner safety then the easier it will be to collaborate, challenge, and include others – the other three quadrants of psychological safety – elevating your psychological safety as a whole to new levels!

So start the conversation. How will you become someone who is defined by learner safety? How will you contribute to the learner safety of your environment? What can your organization do to foster learner safety?

Michael Gillespie is the Founder of BlueEQ, a global consulting, training and assessment organization focused on Emotional Intelligence and Psychological Safety.

Kaitlyn Dyshkant is a leading BlueEQ researcher, writer, and content developer.