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Components of Psychological Safety: Challenger Safety

What would the world look like, feel like, if no one ever disagreed?

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Businessman fly with rocket during a race with opponents
. 3D Rendering
Businessman fly with rocket during a race with opponents . 3D Rendering

“Here’s to the rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”  

Rob Siltane

What would the world look like, feel like, if no one ever disagreed? What if no one ever challenged the status quo? It’s so difficult to imagine that world, that version of us. There would be no wheel, minuscule scientific advancement. Electricity? No. Organizations that pushed the world ahead of itself such as Apple, Microsoft, Tesla, NASA, the Red Cross? Nada. Forget about globalization or the discovery of America. As I sit here trying to envision it I realize just how impossible it is to imagine. I considered transportation and thought, ‘we would still be riding horses,’ then realized that even the first person who jumped on a horse would have been challenging that status quo! Without license to disagree or to try something new, we are stuck. Without the freedom to challenge, we go absolutely nowhere.

Challenger safety is defined as feeling safe to challenge the status quo and, in an organization, to do so with immunity from repercussion or reprisal. It’s a powerful asset when something needs to change and it’s time to say so. If you have challenger safety, you speak up because you have that license to disagree. You freely express ideas and attract inspiration; you expose problems and you identify solutions. 

Without challenger safety, progress is hindered. Your ability to uniquely contribute is devastated by communicating in ways that reinforce the status quo, despite what your gut may be telling you or what inspiration you have struck. 

As one of the four individual yet interrelated quadrants of psychological safety, increasing your challenger safety will enable you with the foundation and with the tools to likewise increase the inclusion, challenger, and learner safety of your environment. So start the conversation. Become someone who challenges the status quo, quickly advancing and progressing an organization or effort. Consider, what are three things you can do to foster challenger safety in your environment? For educational and professionally-vetted resources contact or for more information on Psychological Safety, click here. 

Michael Gillespie is the Founder of BlueEQ, a global consulting, training, and assessment organization focused on Emotional Intelligence and Psychological Safety.

Kaitlyn Dyshkant is a leading BlueEQ researcher, writer, and content developer.

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