Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Creating or Nurturing a Positive Culture: Fostering Social Connections and Promoting Psychological Safety

Scott E. Friedman, Andrea H. HusVar, and Eliza P. Friedman

On last week’s installment of the blog we began discussing why creating a positive work culture is so important.

While the only limits to how positive cultures can be created or nurtured may be our imaginations, there are a number of recognized strategies that have been scientifically proven to provide benefits to individuals and organizations.

Over the coming weeks we’ll outline these strategies—beginning this week with 1) fostering social connections and 2) promoting “psychological safety.”

Fostering Social Connections

Positive social connections not only improve productivity, but may be essential to physical health as well. Family businesses can benefit by developing strategies to ensure positive social connections, such as organizing family picnics, holiday parties, and similar social events.[1]

Promoting “psychological safety”

An increasingly recognized business strategy is based on the concept of “psychological safety,” an environment in which co-workers feel comfortable taking risks, sharing ideas, and asking questions without fear of being embarrassed or punished for speaking up.  Particularly effective are practices such as promoting “turn-taking” in conversations and not expecting employees to put on a ‘‘work face’’ when they get to the office. An easy way for family businesses to establish “psychological safety” is to agree upon and implement a formal code of conduct and communication ground rules.[2]

Check back here next week, when we’ll be discussing another pillar of positive work culture: gratitude

[1] See Seppala & Cameron, supra note 127 (“Stress filled workplaces have been shown to increase unhealthy behaviors, such as excessive drinking and smoking. A large number of empirical studies confirm that positive social connections at work produce highly desirable results. For example, people get sick less often, recover twice as fast from surgery, experience less depression, learn faster and remember longer, tolerate pain and discomfort better, display more mental acuity, and perform better on the job.”); see also C. Nathan DeWall et al., When the Love Hormone Leads to Violence: Oxytocin Increases Intimate Partner Violence Inclinations Among High Trait Aggressive People, 5 Soc. Psychol. & Personality Sci. 691 (2014); Sarah D. Pressman et al., It’s Good to Do Good and Receive Good: The Influence of a “Pay it Forward” Style Kindness Intervention on Giver and Receiver Well-Being,  10 J. Positive Psychol. 293 (2015).

[2] See Tom Austin, Collective Intelligence Depends on Social Sensitivity and Balanced Conversational Turn-Taking, Gartner (Oct. 1, 2010),; Charles Duhigg, What Google Learned from Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team, N.Y. Times (Feb. 25, 2016),; Aamna Mohdin, After Years of Intensive Analysis, Google Discovers the Key to Good Teamwork is Being Nice, Quartz (Feb. 26, 2016),; see also Amy Edmondson, Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams, 44 Admin. Sci. Q. 350, 377 (1999) (finding that employees who have confidence that their employers or supervisors have their best interests at heart tend to perform better than employees who are afraid of their employers or supervisors).

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