PSafe Project: Psychological Safety, Advancement and Review (PSAR)

Psychological Safety and the Perils of Silencing Dissent: A Rapid Review Meta-Analysis

13 July 2023

AbstractThe role of psychological safety in organizations is critical in fostering innovative thinking, encouraging transparent communication, and promoting employee engagement. Despite its importance, a culture of psychological safety may be jeopardized when dissenting voices are silenced. This paper provides a comprehensive examination of psychological safety and the dangers of suppressing dissent within organizations. Through a rapid review meta-analysis of key studies, this paper elucidates the concept of psychological safety, discusses the adverse impacts of discouraging dissent, and reveals the pivotal role of leadership in promoting a culture of openness and safety. Our findings underscore the importance of an organizational environment where dissent is seen as an opportunity for learning and growth rather than as a threat. Recommendations for future research are suggested to further expand the understanding of these phenomena and to explore effective interventions for creating psychologically safe workplaces. This research has important implications for organizational leaders, human resource professionals, and policy-makers seeking to foster a culture of psychological safety in their organizations.

KeywordsPsychological Safety, Dissent, Employee Silence, Leadership, Organizational Culture, Meta-Analysis, Employee Voice, Organizational Behavior


ISSN (Online): Pending


Psychological safety refers to an individual’s perception of the potential consequences of taking interpersonal risks in a work environment (Edmondson, 2004). This sense of safety can play a crucial role in nurturing a collaborative and innovative culture within organizations.

In tandem with the concept of psychological safety, this paper discusses the potential perils of silencing dissent within organizations. The suppression of contrarian views can significantly inhibit an organization’s capacity for innovation (Milliken et al., 2003).

Moreover, this study aims to bridge the existent gap in the literature regarding psychological safety and the dangers of silencing dissent. By compiling and analyzing various studies, this paper provides insights to help organizations foster psychologically safe environments where diverse viewpoints are encouraged and valued.


This research utilizes the rapid review meta-analysis approach. This approach accelerates the systematic review method, enabling the efficient synthesis of existing knowledge on a particular subject (Haby et al., 2016).

The rapid review meta-analysis involves defining the review’s scope, identifying relevant literature, assessing study quality, extracting data, and synthesizing and interpreting results. This methodology’s objective is to create a comprehensive understanding of the research field (Borenstein et al., 2009).

Applying this methodology in our research, we compile and analyze various studies on psychological safety and silencing dissent. Through synthesizing these studies, we aim to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of these topics.


Psychological safety has been identified as a key factor in cultivating trust within teams and fostering an environment where ideas and knowledge are openly shared (Edmondson, 2004). When employees perceive their workplace as psychologically safe, they are more likely to engage in behaviors that foster creativity and continuous improvement.

Newman et al. (2017) discovered a positive relationship between psychological safety and various organizational outcomes, such as job satisfaction and performance levels. They also found that psychologically safe environments lead to reduced employee turnover. Therefore, psychological safety is not just beneficial but strategically crucial for organizations.

In addition to this, when employees feel safe expressing their unique perspectives and ideas, organizations can tap into the benefits of team diversity (Nembhard & Edmondson, 2006). An environment steeped in psychological safety can drive innovation and adaptability, crucial attributes in the rapidly evolving business landscape.


The suppression of dissenting views can pose significant threats to psychological safety and overall organizational effectiveness (Milliken et al., 2003). When employees fear negative consequences for expressing dissenting views, an atmosphere of fear and conformity can develop, stifling creativity and growth.

Over time, the negative effects of silencing dissent can become more severe (Detert & Edmondson, 2011). Fear of potential repercussions may prevent employees from voicing legitimate concerns or innovative ideas. This can thwart the identification of potential risks and impede the constructive feedback loops necessary for an organization’s development.

Additionally, organizations known for suppressing dissent may harm their reputation, dissuading potential employees and partners (Detert & Burris, 2007). It is thus crucial for organizations to uphold diverse opinions and encourage dissent.


Organizations aiming to foster an innovative and learning culture must prioritize psychological safety. This kind of environment encourages the free exchange of ideas, supports diversity, and facilitates effective decision-making processes (Edmondson, 2004).

On the other hand, organizations must be cognizant of the risks associated with silencing dissent. A culture of fear and conformity, stemming from the suppression of dissent, can stifle innovation and hinder growth (Milliken et al., 2003). Hence, organizations should nurture a culture where dissent is considered a resource for learning and improvement, rather than a threat.

Leadership plays a significant role in developing and sustaining a psychologically safe environment. Leaders can model behaviors that promote psychological safety, such as fostering open communication, encouraging feedback, and demonstrating empathy (Newman et al., 2017). They can also establish norms that value dissent, fostering a culture of mutual respect and continuous learning.


This rapid review served as an introduction with the purpose of gleaning the surface on the concept of psychological safety in team dynamics, performance, and society. Moving forward, future research should delve into the strategies for cultivating psychological safety within teams to examine their effectiveness.

While the current body of research provides a foundational understanding of psychological safety and the dangers of silencing dissent, further investigation is warranted. Future research could examine the precise mechanisms by which psychological safety influences creativity and innovation.

It would also be beneficial to explore how organizations can effectively manage dissent to foster continuous learning and improvement. Longitudinal studies that track the impacts of fostering psychological safety and encouraging dissent over time may provide invaluable insights.

Additionally, studies focusing on different cultural contexts may illuminate how societal norms and values can influence the manifestation and importance of psychological safety and dissent in workplaces.

Likewise, it would also be worthwhile to investigate how different factors—such as cultural context, demographic characteristics, and industry type—interact with psychological safety. Furthermore, conducting longitudinal studies could yield valuable insights into the long-term impact of sustained psychological safety on team performance and societal dynamics.

Finally, utilizing a different methodology, such as that of a qualitative design, may provide a more in-depth and focused yield of understanding that could lead to new and undiscovered insight into the concept and understanding of psychological safety.


In conclusion, psychological safety and the freedom to express dissenting views are integral to creating a conducive work environment. Cultivating a work culture that prioritizes psychological safety fosters trust, enhances creativity, and facilitates the exchange of diverse ideas. Conversely, silencing dissent can negatively affect an organization’s growth, creativity, and adaptability. Therefore, organizations must intentionally foster psychological safety and value dissent as a resource for learning and improvement.


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Detert, J. R., & Burris, E. R. (2007). Leadership behavior and employee voice: Is the door really open? Academy of Management Journal, 50(4), 869-884.

Detert, J. R., & Edmondson, A. C. (2011). Implicit voice theories: Taken-for-granted rules of self-censorship at work. Academy of Management Journal, 54(3), 461-488.

Edmondson, A. (2004). Psychological safety, trust, and learning in organizations: A group-level lens. In R. M. Kramer & K. S. Cook (Eds.), Trust and distrust in organizations: Dilemmas and approaches (pp. 239-272). Russell Sage Foundation.

Haby, M. M., Chapman, E., Clark, R., Barreto, J., Reveiz, L., & Lavis, J. N. (2016). What are the best methodologies for rapid reviews of the research evidence for evidence-informed decision making in health policy and practice: A rapid review. Health Research Policy and Systems, 14(1), 1-12.

Milliken, F. J., Morrison, E. W., & Hewlin, P. F. (2003). An exploratory study of employee silence: Issues that employees don’t communicate upward and why. Journal of Management Studies, 40(6), 1453-1476.

Nembhard, I. M., & Edmondson, A. C. (2006). Making it safe: The effects of leader inclusiveness and professional status on psychological safety and improvement efforts in health care teams. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 27(7), 941-966.

Newman, A., Donohue, R., & Eva, N. (2017). Psychological safety: A systematic review of the literature. Human Resource Management Review, 27(3), 521-535.

© 2023. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits the user to copy, distribute, and transmit the work provided that the original author(s) and source are credited.

V. S. Brown (vernon [ at ] is with the PSafe Project, Honolulu, HI 96818 USA

To cite this document:

Brown, V. S. (2023). Psychological safety and the perils of silencing dissent: A rapid review meta-analysis. Psychological Safety, Advancement and Review, 1(1), 3-5.

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