Quantum Monkeys Blog

When safety turn toxic

Last week we looked at the advantages of a culture of safety in my post Safety is not immunity. This week we will explore the pitfalls of a badly implemented safety culture.

I want to start by saying right from the get-go that a culture of safety is always more desirable than a culture of fear. That being said, it is possible to create a corrupted or toxic culture that gives the illusion of safety. Sometimes this false safety puts people in danger. Other times, it is the organization that is at risk.

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By Maurice Lefebvre, ago
Quantum Monkeys Blog

Safety is not immunity

Safety is one of the cornerstones of a healthy work culture. Without safety, you cannot expect to see responsibility, accountability or ownership in any measure above the strict minimum.

Still, we see many of our corporate clients dismiss the idea of creating a safe culture, lest their employees would have free reign and would avoid accountability for their actions. Employers would lose control! Chaos and pandemonium would ensue!

The problem is that safety is often confused with immunity or absolution. In an unsafe environment, where failure leads to witch hunts and retributions, it can be easy to make that jump.

In this post, I will go into what safety is and how it differs from immunity and absolution. The idea of safety is not … ahem… “a hippy concept not fit for a real business”. It is, in fact, a powerful tool that can be leveraged to spur innovation, excellence, engagement, and ownership.

To create a good work culture, safety is not an option. That’s why Joshua Kerievsky lists make safety as a prerequisite as one of Modern Agile’s guiding principles. That’s also why Jurgen Appelo makes it a central argument in his books Management 3.0 and Managing for Happiness, and why writers such as Daniel Pink, Dave Grey, Frederic Laloux, Lisa Laskow Lahey and Robert Kegan spend a large portion of their arguments on it. And yet, not one of them argue for a culture of immunity to consequences or absolution.

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By Maurice Lefebvre, ago