The Effects of Threat Sensitivity and Face Giving on Dyadic Psychological Safety and Upward Communication1

Authors

  • Renee Tynan

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Management University of Notre Dame
      Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to tynan.2@nd.edu
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  • 1

    This research was supported in part by a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship and is based in part on my doctoral dissertation in social psychology at Harvard University. I would like to thank Roger Brown, Richard Hackman, Kristin Van Amburg, Michelle Willard, Amy Edmondson, Judith White, and Sandra Collins for their invaluable contributions to this work.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to tynan.2@nd.edu

Abstract

The tendency for individuals in organizational hierarchies to fail to communicate negatively valenced information has been well documented, but the psychological mechanisms behind the phenomenon have not. With the increasing emphasis on organizational transparency, the need to understand why organizational participants regularly fail to transfer critical task-relevant information is pressing. Two measures of how individuals give (face giving) and react to (threat sensitivity) negatively valenced information are developed and are shown to significantly affect upward communication. These effects are mediated by 2 dyadic psychological safety constructs based on Edmondson's (1999) team psychological safety construct. Self psychological safety mediated the effect of supervisor face giving on admission of errors and help seeking, and other psychological safety mediated the effect of supervisor face giving and supervisor threat sensitivity on the likelihood that a subordinate will raise disagreement, give candid feedback, and point out errors to a supervisor.

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