The objectives of the autism and neurodiversity civil rights movements overlap significantly with the interests of those who advocate for greater levels of psychological safety in the workplace and in society in general. To appreciate the significance of the overlap the following working definition of psychological safety comes in handy:
Psychological safety is a condition in which you feel (1) included, (2) safe to learn, (3) safe to contribute, and (4) safe to challenge the status quo- all without fear of being embarrassed, marginalized or punished in some way.
In the workplace the topic of psychological safety is relevant to all industries and sectors.
… innovation is almost always a collaborative process and almost never a lightbulb moment of lone genius. As the historian Robert Conquest once said, “What is easy to understand may have not been easy to think of.” Innovation is never easy to think of. It requires creative abrasion and constructive dissent—processes that rely on high intellectual friction and low social friction.
Creating and maintaining a psychologically safe environment is fundamental for the flourishing of all staff, yet in most organisations psychological safety is the exception rather than the norm. Observations from a study of redesign projects in the UK on improving the capabilities of organisations in the NHS illustrate why the importance of nurturing psychological safety can not be overstated:
“Our analysis suggests that while engaging experts it is also necessary to manage ongoing collaborations between them as the service redesign process unfolds. Interprofessional health-care work is high-stakes and ‘fraught with tension and anxiety’. Individual jobs, contracts, issues of governance, compliance and patient care are simultaneously in question. The transformation manager describes: ‘challenges, disagreements, debates, … change is frightening, it can make you feel a bit insecure’. Stakeholders were well aware of the challenges, describing how vested and competing interests mean that having everyone ‘around the table had got that sort of political aspect to it’. These concerns could prevent ‘properly discussing’, interpreting and critiquing different forms of evidence, Moreover, during these redesign efforts, experts came and went. This meant that ongoing attention to managing collaborations appeared to be very critical.”
Further examples from:
- The education sector
- The software industry
- The healthcare sector
Given our first hand experience with innovation in these sectors and our involvement in autistic self advocacy and neurodiversity activism, the S23M team has decided to conduct a global survey on psychological safety in the workplace. The resulting data will be of particular interest for autistic and otherwise neurodivergent people who are experiencing bullying and more or less subtle forms of discrimination at work.
We intend to share the results and collaborate with researchers who focus on psychological safety, diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The survey data will also be a valuable source of relevant background information for the Neurodiversity Documentary project.
You can assist our effort by participating in the survey, and by encouraging your friends to participate in the survey. The survey only takes between 2 to 5 minutes to complete and is accessible here.
- The survey is completely anonymous, without requesting any identifiable information about specific companies or individuals, so there is no risk for organisations or individuals to find themselves exposed in “below average” territory.
- The most effective way to encourage participation in the survey may be via informal channels and trusted personal relationships that sidestep top level management and human resource departments, which are often forced to perpetuate the party line that “everything is under control”.
Related food for thought on psychological safety in our society:
- Arguably the most high profile example of the consequences of a lack of psychological safety.
- Examples from the world of Open Source Software that illustrate concerns about the super-human scale aspect of our civilisation. Conflicts easily get out of hand whenever organisations grow beyond trusted relationships at human scale [Dunbar’s limits] and when there is an absence of strong social norms against wielding power over other humans.
- Autistic mutual aid – a factor of cultural evolution - May 7, 2023
- The possibilities and limitations of human agency - May 4, 2023
- Hypernormative Culture Awareness Month - April 2, 2023
What happens when an autistic individual gets thrown into a virtual environment and the people who wrote that environment are very abusive and it’s unsafe in there but there’s more, what if those people refuse to let the autistic individual out of the virtual environment. Is that a crime and what happens to the mind of the autistic individual? Just cause it’s a virtual environment and the abuse happens in the virtual world and there is constant trauma in the life of the vr, since a person does not forget what happens in a virtual world, what kind of damage would that do to the autistic individual’s mind. Does the damage done stay in the virtual world since it’s psychological? It may not be physically hurting them but what happens to their mind. A person could go into a virtual world normal but have so much trauma done to them in the vr world and especially knowing that they are trapped in that virtual reality and are constantly told that they can’t get out. Can this actually do enough damage to mind that it would kill the person eventually? Is it against any laws to put someone with autism in a virtual world without their consent or permission and then have them constantly abused in the vr environment?