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Psychological safety at work: what is it? Defined and Procedured

Psychological safety at work: what is it? Defined and Procedured
Psychological safety at work: what is it? Defined and Procedured

Psychological safety at work is a crucial concept that describes the feeling of being able to speak up, take risks, and make mistakes without fear of negative consequences. It’s essentially a shared belief within a team or organization that individuals are safe to.

  • Express their ideas and concerns freely, even if they’re unconventional or challenge the status quo.
  • Ask questions and seek feedback, without judgment or ridicule.
  • Admit mistakes and failures openly, knowing they’ll be supported in learning and improving.
  • Take risks and experiment, without fear of blame or punishment if things don’t go exactly as planned.

Why is it important?

Psychological safety is fundamental for fostering a thriving workplace. When people feel safe to be their authentic selves and contribute fully, it leads to a number of benefits, including:

  • Increased innovation and creativity: Diverse perspectives and willingness to experiment lead to new ideas and solutions.
  • Improved collaboration and teamwork: Open communication and trust build stronger relationships and better teamwork.
  • Enhanced learning and development: Mistakes are seen as learning opportunities, leading to faster growth and development.
  • Stronger decision-making: All voices are heard, leading to more informed and well-rounded decisions.
  • Higher employee engagement and satisfaction: People feel valued and respected, leading to greater job satisfaction and commitment.

How can it be created?

Building psychological safety is a continuous process that requires effort from both individuals and leaders. Here are some key practices:

  • Leaders demonstrating humility and vulnerability: By admitting their own mistakes and flaws, leaders show it’s safe to do the same.
  • Creating a culture of open communication: Encourage active listening, respectful dialogue, and constructive feedback.
  • Celebrating diversity of thought and perspectives: Value different ideas and approaches, even if they’re not mainstream.
  • Focusing on learning and growth: Encourage experimentation and view mistakes as opportunities to learn.
  • Building trust and respect: Treat everyone with fairness and dignity, fostering a sense of belonging and community.

Remember, psychological safety is not about creating a “nice” workplace where everyone agrees all the time. It’s about creating a space where people feel comfortable being themselves, taking risks, and learning from each other.

What are the 5 steps to psychological safety?

1. Foster Open and Respectful Communication:

  • Encourage regular communication: Create spaces for open dialogue, like team meetings or anonymous feedback forums.
  • Practice active listening: Show genuine interest in others’ opinions and ideas, without interrupting or judging.
  • Embrace diverse perspectives: Value contributions from everyone, regardless of their position or background.
  • Address conflict constructively: Focus on solutions rather than blame, and prioritize understanding over winning arguments.

2. Set Clear Expectations and Goals:

  • Define success together: Collaboratively establish goals and metrics to measure progress, ensuring everyone understands what “winning” looks like.
  • Provide ongoing feedback: Offer constructive criticism and guidance in a timely and supportive manner.
  • Recognize and celebrate achievements: Acknowledge individual and team successes, big or small, to boost morale and motivation.
  • Show vulnerability and humility: Leaders acknowledging their own mistakes and imperfections fosters a sense of shared humanity and reduces pressure to be perfect.

3. Reframe Mistakes as Learning Opportunities:

  • Normalize failure: Create a culture where taking risks and trying new things is encouraged, even if they don’t always lead to immediate success.
  • Celebrate learning from mistakes: Focus on the lessons learned from errors, rather than dwelling on the negatives.
  • Encourage experimentation and innovation: Provide resources and support for trying new approaches, acknowledging that some may not work out.
  • Promote continuous learning: Offer opportunities for skill development and knowledge sharing, empowering individuals to grow and adapt.

4. Build Trust and Psychological Interdependence:

  • Demonstrate empathy and compassion: Show genuine care for colleagues’ well-being and challenges.
  • Practice gratitude and appreciation: Express sincere thanks for contributions and efforts, both big and small.
  • Offer support and assistance: Be willing to help others when they need it, fostering a sense of mutual dependency and collaboration.
  • Celebrate individual differences: Embrace diversity and promote inclusion, ensuring everyone feels valued and part of the team.

5. Lead by Example:

  • Leaders must actively model the desired behaviors: This means practicing open communication, admitting mistakes, valuing diverse perspectives, and fostering a supportive environment.
  • Walk the talk: Leaders’ actions should align with their words, demonstrating genuine commitment to creating a psychologically safe environment.
  • Delegate effectively and empower others: Trust your team members to make decisions and take ownership, fostering a sense of autonomy and responsibility.
  • Hold yourself and others accountable: Ensure everyone adheres to the agreed-upon values and norms that underpin psychological safety.

Remember, building psychological safety is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. By consistently applying these principles and adapting them to your specific context, you can create a more supportive, learning-oriented, and ultimately more successful environment for yourself and those around you.

What are the 3 fundamentals of psychological safety?

1. Interdependence and Connection:

  • This refers to the belief that everyone’s contributions are valuable and needed for success. It fosters a sense of belonging, trust, and mutual respect.
  • Team members feel comfortable being themselves, sharing ideas and concerns, and actively participating in discussions.
  • This builds a foundation of open communication and collaboration, where everyone feels like they can rely on each other.

2. Learning and Growth Mindset:

  • The environment encourages experimentation, risk-taking, and learning from mistakes. It’s not about being perfect, but about continuous improvement.
  • Team members feel safe to ask questions, admit mistakes, and propose new ideas without fear of judgment or ridicule.
  • This fosters a culture of curiosity, innovation, and adaptability, where everyone is encouraged to learn and grow both individually and collectively.

3. Vulnerability and Humility:

  • Team members feel comfortable expressing their vulnerabilities and acknowledging their limitations. Leaders are open to feedback and willing to admit their own mistakes.
  • This creates a more authentic and human connection, where everyone feels comfortable being themselves and not having to put on a facade.
  • This fosters empathy, understanding, and a willingness to help each other, ultimately leading to stronger relationships and better teamwork.

Remember, these three fundamentals are interconnected and work together to create a truly psychologically safe environment. By actively cultivating these elements, you can create a space where everyone feels valued, empowered, and able to contribute their best work.

It’s worth noting that some frameworks suggest additional elements like “challenge safety” (speaking up against the status quo) or “inclusion safety” (feeling accepted regardless of background). These are important aspects, but the three mentioned above are often seen as the core pillars of psychological safety.

What Is Psychological Safety, and Why It Matters at Work

Psychological safety at work is essentially a climate of trust and respect where employees feel comfortable taking risks, sharing ideas, asking questions, and admitting mistakes without fear of negative consequences. In simpler terms, it’s the sense that you can be yourself and voice your thoughts freely without worrying about being judged or punished.

Why does it matter? Because it has a significant impact on individual and organizational outcomes:

For individuals:

  • Increased engagement and motivation: When employees feel valued for their contributions and feel safe to speak up, they’re more likely to be engaged in their work and motivated to do their best.
  • Enhanced creativity and innovation: Psychological safety fosters a climate where people feel comfortable taking risks and experimenting, which leads to more creative solutions and innovative ideas.
  • Improved learning and development: Individuals are more likely to learn from their mistakes and grow if they feel comfortable admitting them and seeking feedback.

For organizations:

  • Better decision-making: Diverse perspectives and open communication lead to more informed and well-rounded decisions.
  • Enhanced collaboration and teamwork: When people trust each other and feel safe to collaborate, they’re more likely to work effectively together towards common goals.
  • Increased productivity and performance: All the above factors contribute to a more productive and high-performing workplace.

How can you build psychological safety in your workplace? Here are some tips:

  • Leaders should role-model open and honest communication.
  • Create a culture of feedback and learning, where mistakes are seen as opportunities to grow.
  • Encourage active listening and empathy.
  • Celebrate diversity of thought and perspective.
  • Focus on building trust and respect among team members.

Remember, psychological safety is not about creating a “touchy-feely” environment. It’s about building a work environment where people feel empowered to be themselves, contribute their best ideas, and learn from their mistakes. This, in turn, leads to a more successful and thriving organization.

9 Strategies to Create Psychological Safety at Work

Psychological safety at work is crucial for fostering innovation, teamwork, and ultimately, success. Here are 9 strategies to create it:

1. Lead by example:

  • Show vulnerability: Share your own mistakes and learnings to open the door for others to do the same.
  • Actively listen: Give your full attention when team members speak, without interrupting or judging.
  • Ask open-ended questions: Encourage diverse perspectives and create space for new ideas.

2. Build trust and respect:

  • Celebrate small wins: Recognize and appreciate individual and team contributions, even minor successes.
  • Give and receive feedback constructively: Focus on positive intent and learning, not blame or criticism.
  • Maintain confidentiality: Ensure team members’ voices are heard without fear of repercussions.

3. Encourage open communication:

  • Hold regular team meetings: Create a safe space for honest discussion and collaboration.
  • Use anonymous feedback tools: Allow team members to express concerns or ideas without fear of judgment.
  • Promote informal communication: Encourage casual interactions and relationship building within the team.

4. Embrace learning and experimentation:

  • Normalize mistakes: View them as opportunities to learn and grow, not failures.
  • Support risk-taking: Encourage calculated risks and experimentation with new ideas or approaches.
  • Celebrate learning: Showcase successful learning experiences and their impact on the team’s performance.

5. Prioritize well-being:

  • Promote work-life balance: Support flexible work arrangements and encourage teams to disconnect after hours.
  • Offer resources for mental health: Provide access to counseling programs or employee assistance programs.
  • Recognize individual needs: Be accommodating and understanding of personal circumstances that may impact work performance.

6. Promote positive dialogue and discussion:

  • Use inclusive language: Avoid jargon or acronyms that exclude team members, and encourage respectful communication.
  • Focus on solutions: Move past problem identification and actively seek solutions together.
  • Celebrate diversity of thought: Value different perspectives and experiences as fuel for innovation.

7. Be precise with information, expectations, and commitments:

  • Share information transparently: Keep team members informed about decisions and changes that impact them.
  • Set clear expectations: Define goals, roles, and responsibilities early and revisit them regularly.
  • Follow through on commitments: Keep your word and hold yourself accountable for upholding promises.

8. Encourage team-building activities:

  • Organize social events: Facilitate informal interactions and bonding outside of work settings.
  • Implement collaborative projects: Promote teamwork and interdependence through shared goals.
  • Offer training on building trust and effective communication: Equip team members with the skills to foster psychological safety.

9. Regularly assess and adapt:

  • Conduct surveys or focus groups: Gather feedback from team members about their experience of psychological safety.
  • Track progress: Monitor key metrics like engagement, innovation, and turnover to assess the impact of your efforts.
  • Be willing to change: Continuously evolve your strategies based on what works and what doesn’t.

Remember, creating psychological safety is an ongoing process. By implementing these strategies and actively working to build a culture of trust and respect, you can create a work environment where everyone feels empowered to speak up, take risks, and contribute their best ideas.

Psychological Safety for Teams

Psychological safety is a critical ingredient for high-performing teams. It refers to the shared belief that team members can be themselves, take risks, speak up without fear of judgment, and learn from mistakes. Think of it as a safe space for collaboration and innovation.

Benefits of Psychological Safety:

  • Enhanced team performance: Teams with high psychological safety tend to be more innovative, make better decisions, and adapt more readily to change.
  • Increased engagement and motivation: Team members feel valued and trusted, which leads to greater engagement and motivation.
  • Improved well-being: Psychological safety fosters a positive and supportive environment, which can improve team members’ well-being and reduce stress.

How to Build Psychological Safety:

  • Leadership style: Leaders play a crucial role by leading by example, being open to feedback, and celebrating mistakes as learning opportunities.
  • Open communication: Encourage open and honest communication where everyone feels comfortable voicing their opinions and concerns.
  • Mutual respect and trust: Promote a culture of respect and trust where team members feel valued and supported by each other.
  • Shared accountability: Establish clear roles and responsibilities, but also encourage collaboration and shared ownership of goals.
  • Celebrate successes and learning: Acknowledge and celebrate team achievements, both big and small, and emphasize the value of learning from mistakes.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Hold regular team-building activities: These activities can help team members get to know each other better and build trust.
  • Actively listen to team members: Pay attention to what team members are saying and show them that you value their input.
  • Avoid blame and criticism: Focus on providing constructive feedback and learning from mistakes.
  • Be approachable and available: Make yourself available to team members and show them that you are there to support them.


  • “What Is Psychological Safety?” by Amy Edmondson (Harvard Business Review)
  • “A Guide to Building Psychological Safety on Your Team” by Amy Edmondson (Harvard Business Review)
  • “4 Ways Leaders Can Build ‘Psychological Safety’ in Their Work Teams” by SHRM

By understanding and fostering psychological safety, you can create a team environment where everyone feels valued, trusted, and empowered to contribute their best. This, in turn, will lead to higher levels of performance, engagement, and well-being for your team.

In Conclusion:

Psychological safety is crucial for creating a positive and productive team dynamic. When team members feel safe to take risks, share their ideas, and admit mistakes without fear of judgment or retribution, they are more likely to collaborate, innovate, and learn from one another. As a leader, it is important to actively cultivate psychological safety within your team by encouraging open communication, embracing diverse perspectives, and providing support and feedback. By doing so, you can create a culture of trust and psychological safety that will benefit both individual team members and the overall success of your team.

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