The Underpinnings of Digital Psychological Safety

Project Overview
The ways leaders communicate to their employees are critical to the success of their teams and their organizations. Being a people leader requires far more than a title. Leadership is influence and persuasion, and it is the way that leaders behave – and now digitally behave – that creates a cascade of positive outcomes at every level of an organization. While we all know that leaders matter – for their subordinates and the overall culture of an organization – research has shown that we have less clarity on what specific aspects of their digital communication are especially important. To encourage psychological safety, to give employees voice, to increase innovation, and to spur learning.
Thanks to emerging technology, we now have an opportunity to robustly analyze leader communication styles and determine precisely how they impact employees and organizational outcomes. This research project will explore the way leader communication impacts the employees and outcomes in your organization. Through your participation we can provide evidence and research about the state of leadership communication in your organization and tools and best practices to further improve leader communication and enhance your organizational outcomes.

This project will use previously collected, anonymized leadership communication data captured by Cultivate and connect it with current employee outcomes. By using multiple time points and multiple methods we can more precisely identify how leadership communication quality impacts people and their organizations. A short (10-minute), confidential survey will be sent to participating employees about their feelings about their job environment and experiences. When possible, we can also connect this data to objective organizational metrics (e.g. turnover, unit performance, etc.) to help illustrate the way leadership communication and employee experiences are impacting metrics of concern to you.

By participating in this research partnership, you will receive the results of your customized research study in either a report or slide deck. This report will illustrate the outcomes of the survey and provide recommendations and best practices based on the findings. You’ll also be helping UT Austin and the Center for Leadership and Ethics publish innovative and important scholarly work.

Privacy, Confidentiality, and Anonymity
The data collected by the researchers for this study will be aggregated and stripped of identifying information. We are interested in the broad trends, not individuals. The employee survey data will be anonymized and kept confidential even when we report our results. As part of academic publishing we will not report the names of the organizations we collected this data from. We take privacy and confidentiality very seriously and welcome questions about these issues.

Example Questions (will jointly be determined with research partner)

Relationship with Team Members/Supervisor

The following questions ask about your feelings toward members of your team, including your supervisor. Please use the scale below to indicate the degree to which you agree with each statement below.

Psychological Safety (Edmondson, 1999)
___ People on this team sometimes reject others for being different
___ It is difficult to ask other members on this team for help
___ No one on this team would deliberately act in a way that undermines my efforts
___ Working with members of this team, my unique skills and talents are valued and utilized

Perceived safety in speaking up (Detert & Burris, 2007)
___ It is safe for me to make suggestions to team members
___ It is safe to give my opinions to team members
___ It is safe for me to speak up around team members

Inclusion (Adapted from Brockner et al, 2001 OBHDP)
___ In general, I feel involved in decisions about things affecting my job
___ In general, my views about my job are considered
___ My views are taken into account when making decisions influencing my job
___ I feel my views about my job are heard

Perceived Peer Understanding [adapted from Patil & Lebel, 2018]
My team members…
_____ Are knowledgeable about what it takes to be in my role
_____ Are aware of the difficulties and challenges of my role
_____ Can picture the dilemmas I confront on a day-to-day basis
_____ Understand the complications that can arise in my job
_____ Understand that my job is hard in ways that are difficult to explain

Challenging Voice (Detert & Burris, 2007)
___ I challenge my supervisor to deal with problems around here.
___ I give suggestions about how to make this unit better, even if others disagree.
___ I speak up with ideas to address employee needs and concerns.

Withholding of voice
People at work often choose to not speak up about work-problems or possibilities for improvement. This next question asks you to consider how often you may have chosen to not speak up to others about work problems or improvement possibilities.

___ Although you had ideas for improving work processes, you did not speak up to your supervisor
___ You said nothing to your supervisor about potential work problems you noticed in the unit
___ You kept quiet instead of asking questions when you wanted to get more information about a work problem