Sat. May 21st, 2022

I shall miss Andrew Hill’s musings on management. His latest article “Why being a manager matters more than ever” (Work & CareersApril 4) references one of the popular management fads in the organizational psychology literature of recent years – that of “psychological safety”.

For those unfamiliar with this term, it carries the idea that people need to feel that they can speak up and challenge their manager and colleagues in the workplace. They will more

likely own up to errors, support organizational learning and improve their performance. It also generates a sense of feeling valued.

But here’s the rub. It’s also about the ability to tell managers how they are a nightmare to work for. That we think they’re bullies, arrogant and are defensive about feedback.

Not many managers want to hear that. So a collusive game gets played, one where consultants sell leadership programs advising clients about the value of creating a “psychologically safe” culture, while their clients lap it up. Then nothing happens in the workplace, because leaders want “conditional” psychological safety in their teams, where people can speak up, as long as they are not too honest.

Cynical? Perhaps. But it’s consistent with stress in the workplace not really improving over the past decade, and the quality of management not really improving either.

Paul Berry
London SW15, UK

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