Date of Award

2020-01-31

Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Cheryl Getz, EdD Lea Hubbard, PhD Marcus Lam, PhD

Keywords

psychological safety, team learning, team performance, climate strength, team work

Abstract

The majority of today’s organizations rely on teamwork to drive innovation and achieve success. Evidence suggests that two constructs—psychological safety and team learning behavior—demonstrate significant predictive power on performance. Existing research posits that the more psychologically safe a team feels, the more it can learn, which enhances its performance. While organizational literature has established links among psychological safety, team learning, and team performance, the conditions under which these relationships are enhanced or diminished are less clear.

Recent studies indicate that climate strength is a factor that significantly influences the relationship between climate variables and outcomes. Climate strength refers to the degree of consensus of individuals’ perceptions of aspect of a climate, such as psychological safety. When a climate is strong, team members tend to agree on their perceptions of the climate. When climate is weak, team members tend to hold divergent perspectives of the climate. A knowledge gap exists regarding the moderating role of psychological safety (PS) climate strength on psychological safety, team learning, and team performance. In addition, little is known about the factors that affect PS climate strength in a team.

This study addressed these issues by employing an explanatory sequential mixed-methods approach at a multinational technology company. In the first phase, 94 individuals from 22 teams responded to a 40-item survey measuring the four dimensions in this study. In the second phase, 22 team members from three teams participated in interviews. Findings revealed that higher levels of psychological safety generated increased team learning behavior, which led to greater team performance. When teams had strong climates, they were more likely to exhibit higher learning behavior. When teams had weak climates, team learning behavior became less predictable. In addition, the findings led to the development of a model that illustrates five nested dimensions of influence on psychological safety climate strength. Despite a number of limitations, this study’s findings contribute to our knowledge of the significance of psychological safety climate strength, and they provide a model for scholars and practitioners to understand the factors that inhibit and enhance psychological safety, and ultimately, lead teams that thrive.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access

Department

Leadership Studies

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Available for download on Friday, December 11, 2020

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