It was an all-day companywide off-site meeting.  Every single employee had to be there. The purpose– give input on organizational goals and challenges.

We were put into random groups of eight persons.  One person in our group came up with what we believed to be an incredibly innovate idea.  So, we put our idea forward, and it proved to be incredible and innovative.  So much so that when the facilitator gave our senior leader credit for the idea, she took it.

Can you believe that? Our senior leader took credit for an idea that wasn’t hers. And she did it in front of all 200+ employees.

Compelled to right this wrong, I confronted her and said something like, “I’m not sure if you realize, but that idea the facilitator said was yours came from Joe, and I don’t think he gets enough credit for the work he does.  I thought you would like to know.”

Bad. Move. Jeannette.

There are two reasons it was a bad move–both have to do with psychological safety.

ONE. I realized very quickly that this senior leader was either not versed in or/and not interested in building a psychologically safe workplace. I found myself on her list of problem employees. This meant I received a lot of attention from her that isn’t the kind of attention you want.  Even worse, I wasn’t the first nor was I the last to be on that list.

TWO. I wasn’t cultivating psychological safety either.  Who was I to speak on behalf of my coworker without his permission? It wasn’t my place. I spoke up because I was offended, not because he was.  I wanted to protect what I though was important. Instead, I made my coworker uncomfortable by making his input public—input he preferred to humbly keep quiet.

I should have kept my mouth shut.

What a different outcome we would have had if our senior leader and I had used situational humility.


  • Keep your abilities and accomplishments in perspective.
  • Be okay with not having all the answers.
  • Don’t take credit for another person’s idea.


  • Recognize that it isn’t your job to speak for others.
  • If you want to swim in someone else’s lane so-to-speak, ask permission first.
  • Ask yourself, “Who am I really defending?”

When you open your mouth, do it with humility and do it for the right reasons if you want to build psychological safety where you work.

Want to learn more about cultivating psychological safety in your workplace? Email me: