LeaderShift Project Articles

While the concept of psychological safety in the workplace may sound like a gimmick, it’s worth unfolding.


Because it’s a powerful concept that can potentially transform your workplace.

As a leadership coach, I tell all my clients that establishing workplace psychological safety is necessary. And if the Surgeon General mentions it as part of his framework for Workplace Mental Health & Well-Being, it should be more seriously considered. There are numerous advantages associated with it, which I will discuss in more detail later.

But what exactly is psychological safety? In short, it is a culture of trust. Employees are comfortable taking risks and making mistakes and can discuss important topics without fear of judgment or retaliation. 

Read on to learn how you can establish psychological safety within your organization or team, and how it can help you achieve your business goals.

What does psychological safety look like?

When there is psychological safety in the workplace…

  • Risk and creativity are encouraged
  • Employees are encouraged to ask questions without fear of punishment, bullying or backlash
  • Employees can respectfully challenge others, systems, and norms
  • Feedback at all levels of management is both given and received
  • Collaboration is encouraged no matter where in the hierarchy you are
  • Teams are diverse and inclusive
  • Response to failure is growth-oriented instead of failure-oriented

Workers who experience psychological safety can take risks without worrying about negative consequences. They feel comfortable trying new things and knowing they won’t be judged or punished for making mistakes. This allows them to focus on what needs to be done rather than worrying about how others perceive their actions.

Think about this: Do you ever feel apprehensive about taking the initiative at work? Like expressing your opinion? Taking on risks?  

You feel psychologically safe at your workplace if you don’t feel apprehensive. If you often feel hesitant to open up, perhaps your organization needs to establish psychological safety for its employees.

Why psychological safety at work is important

The importance of psychological safety cannot be overstated. Perhaps an employee discovered an Excel shortcut that would speed up their work tenfold. The problem is that they’ve been rejected before and no longer believe their opinions count. Without psychological safety, employees may hesitate to speak up, leading to missed improvement opportunities.

When employees feel psychologically safe in the workplace, they are more likely to openly share their ideas, concerns, and feedback. As a result, important information doesn’t get overlooked, and different perspectives are considered. 

Additionally, when employees trust that their ideas will be respected and valued, they are more likely to contribute their expertise and collaborate effectively with others in the workplace. The result is improved teamwork and increased organizational performance. Teamwork and organizational performance are improved when psychological safety is present.

More effective decisions can be made when employees feel comfortable offering alternative solutions and sharing their concerns. Open and honest discussions about the workplace can only help organizations to address their biggest problems and improve performance across the board. Fearing to speak up allows these issues to fester and grow.

A positive workplace environment that promotes psychological safety also promotes employee well-being and satisfaction. Employees who feel psychologically safe experience lower stress levels, greater job satisfaction, and better overall well-being. Thus, employee engagement and retention are greater. 

When it comes to psychological safety, the benefits are endless. 

Why Psychological Safety Creates More Success


Achieving psychological safety at work

So now you know the benefits of psychological safety, but how do you cultivate this culture so your employees and business can benefit?

The first step to creating a psychologically safe workplace is simple– encourage more discussion and creativity on your team. Start by modeling it.

Be open to new ideas and opinions. Encourage your team to share their thoughts, even if they differ from yours. Be careful not to ridicule or belittle anyone for their opinion. This can lead to a negative culture where people feel they can’t be themselves at work.

Be open to feedback.  When your team feels they can give feedback without fear of retaliation, they’ll be more willing to share their thoughts with you. This will help you improve as a leader and build stronger relationships. And always let your team know how much you appreciate their insights and feedback–it will go a long way toward fostering a psychologically safe workplace environment where people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts! 

My online course on giving and receiving feedback is designed to help you properly utilize feedback. I presented this material to CEOs and other executive leaders to help them communicate more effectively with their colleagues and customers. Learn more here.

Finally, be open to change. Take action on the issues that arise from this type of discussion. When somebody comes up with a crazy idea… but it has merit, consider implementing it! Be sure to provide additional insight, examples, and other important context when walking your team through changes, important decisions, and out-of-the-ordinary requests. 

And don’t just ask, “Do you have any questions?” to seem inclusive. Instead, ask questions that prompt collaborative dialogue and provide valuable information you may not have known.

You should ask questions like:

  • “What do you like most about this new strategy?”
  • “What concerns do you have, and how might we address them?”
  • “How might you explain this to clients?”

I posted 10 more recommendations for achieving psychological safety in the workplace on Instagram. Check it out.


Psychological safety is a crucial part of creating an honest and effective organization. 

Amy Edmondson, a Harvard Business School professor and author of The Fearless Organization, coined the phrase “team psychological safety” while studying the relationship between error-making and teamwork in hospitals.

She expected more effective teams to make fewer mistakes but found more errors among teams with better teamwork. Her data analysis led her to suspect that better teams might report mistakes more readily because they felt safer doing so. The first great example of psychological safety in the workplace.

It’s important to remember that psychological safety doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time, effort, and commitment from everyone involved. But if we want our teams to be productive and happy, we must give them the tools they need for this open discussion.

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