Building Psychological Safety Through Training Interventions: Manage the Team, Not Just the Project

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication






Background: Successful team collaborations require psychological safety (PS)-a measure that addresses how individuals perceive their own behaviors in a team, allowing members to be comfortable being themselves. Technical communication curricula do not engage deeply with managing the socioemotional components of collaboration. Literature review: Scholarship addressing hundreds of teams with thousands of members concludes that psychological safety has a direct influence on task performance. Few studies track psychological safety across a team's lifecycle, and different professions exhibit a wide range of PS values. Extensive research indicates that collaboration can be improved by training. Research questions: 1. Will a targeted training intervention produce higher levels of psychological safety? 2. Does team duration affect teaming success as exemplified by psychological safety, satisfaction, and cohesion? Methods: Our multisite longitudinal study surveyed 215 students in 50+ short- and long-term teams to understand the effects of a specific training intervention (a PS learning module). Results and discussion: Training had no significant impact, but targeted training might still increase psychological safety. Short-term teams experienced significantly better psychological safety over long-term teams, and psychological safety improved the more time members spent in teams. Comparisons within longitudinal intervals were also significant, indicating that different team contexts influenced our results. Implications and future research: Results suggest that incorporating team-specific training may facilitate building a personal awareness of interdependence among team members. Moreover, research should account for contextual differences and use longitudinal team self-assessments. Future research should concentrate on identifying a range of viability for PS useful in benchmarking.