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How to Create Psychological Safety in the Workplace

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

If you're looking to create a productive, supportive workplace, it's important to focus on psychological safety. Psychological safety refers to a climate of openness, trust, and respect where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, ideas, and concerns without fear of retribution.

All the stress at work and feeling burnt out can lead to employees feeling disillusioned and unengaged, which could potentially have a negative impact on productivity. To help reduce these feelings of uncertainty, creating an environment of psychological safety is essential.

Want to have a stress-free work environment? Read on to learn how to create psychological safety in the workplace.

What Is Psychological Safety at Work?

Psychological safety is the belief that one can take interpersonal risks without fear of negative consequences to self-image, status, or career (Kahn, 1990). It's the sense that you can speak up, share ideas, and take risks without fear of being shut down, ridiculed, or punished. Psychological safety is essential for a healthy work environment because it allows employees to be creative, innovative, and collaborative.

When people feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to be open, honest, and curious, which can lead to new ideas and breakthroughs. Start examining your workplace culture to see how you can create an environment of psychological safety.

The Importance of Psychological Safety at Work

Psychological safety is crucial for workplace success because it creates a culture of trust, respect, and open communication. When employees feel psychologically safe, they're more likely to:

  • Share their ideas and opinions

  • Collaborate effectivel

  • Take risks and innovate

  • Learn from mistakes and failures

  • Feel valued and supported

  • On the other hand, when psychological safety is lacking, employees may:

  • Feel hesitant to speak up or take risks

  • Struggle to collaborate with others

  • Keep mistakes hidden

  • Experience stress and anxiety

  • Eventually burn out or leave the company

Why Psychological Safety in the Workplace Matters Now More Than Ever

With the rise of remote work, the need for psychological safety has become more urgent than ever. When employees are working remotely may feel isolated, disconnected, and unsure of how to communicate effectively with their colleagues. Leaders need to be intentional about creating a culture of psychological safety to ensure that everyone feels included, supported, and heard.

The role of leaders is crucial to building a culture of psychological safety. Leaders must demonstrate that their team members can trust them, be open about their mistakes, and create an environment where everyone feels comfortable giving feedback without fear of retribution.

When your leader is supportive, encouraging, and open to feedback, it creates a safe space for all team members.

Tips for Leaders on How To Create Psychological Safety in The Workplace

Creating a culture of psychological safety takes time and effort, but it's well worth it in the long run. Here are some tips for leaders who want to foster psychological safety in the workplace:

Make psychological safety an explicit priority.

  • Make it clear to everyone on your team that psychological safety is a top priority. Encourage open communication, feedback, and dialogue at all levels of the organization.

Facilitate everyone speaking up.

  • Create opportunities for everyone to speak up and share their thoughts and ideas. This could include regular team meetings, brainstorming sessions, or one-on-one conversations with employees.

Establish norms for how failure is handled.

  • Create a culture where mistakes are seen as opportunities for learning and growth rather than something to be ashamed of. Encourage employees to share their failures and what they learned from them.

Create space for new ideas (even wild ones).

  • Encourage employees to think outside the box and share their most creative ideas. Even if some ideas seem unrealistic or impractical, they could spark new and innovative solutions.

Embrace productive conflict.

  • Create a culture where healthy conflict is encouraged and seen as an opportunity for growth and improvement. Encourage employees to respectfully challenge each other's ideas and opinions.

Pay close attention and look for patterns.

  • Be aware of the dynamics of your team and how individuals interact with each other. Look for patterns of behavior that may be inhibiting psychological safety, and address them proactively.

Make an intentional effort to promote dialogue.

  • Encourage employees to share their perspectives and opinions and be intentional about listening to what they have to say. When employees feel heard and valued, they're more likely to feel psychologically safe.

Celebrate wins.

  • When your team achieves a goal or completes a project, take time to celebrate and acknowledge everyone's contributions. Celebrating wins helps build a sense of community and fosters a positive work environment.

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

Creating psychological safety in the workplace is an ongoing process, and it can be helpful to understand the different stages of psychological safety. Here are the four stages of psychological safety:

Stage 1 — Inclusion Safety

  • In the first stage of psychological safety, employees feel included and that their differences are valued. Employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas without the fear of being judged or excluded. Leaders can promote inclusion and safety by creating an environment that encourages diversity and actively seeks out different perspectives.

Stage 2 — Learner Safety

  • In the second stage of psychological safety, employees feel comfortable taking risks and making mistakes. They know that they won't be punished or ridiculed for trying something new. Leaders can promote learner safety by emphasizing the importance of experimentation, feedback, and continuous learning.

Stage 3 — Contributor Safety

  • In the third stage of psychological safety, employees feel valued for their contributions. They feel that their ideas and opinions are respected and that they have a meaningful impact on the organization. Leaders can promote contributor safety by recognizing and rewarding employees for their achievements and contributions.

Stage 4 — Challenger Safety

  • In the final stage of psychological safety, employees feel comfortable challenging the status quo. They feel that they can respectfully challenge their colleagues' ideas and opinions without fear of retribution. Leaders can promote challenger safety by creating a culture that encourages healthy debate and constructive criticism.

Final Thoughts - How to Create Psychological Safety in the Workplace

Creating a culture of psychological safety takes time and effort, but it's essential for building a healthy and productive workplace. By prioritizing psychological safety, leaders can create an environment where employees feel valued, supported, and empowered to do their best work. In addition, by following the tips outlined in this article and understanding the different stages of psychological safety, leaders can foster a culture of openness, trust, and respect that benefits everyone in the organization.

If your organization doesn't follow these tips and if you feel they need guidance from a professional, you can contact Maria Angoso of Live in Flow Coaching for help. She specializes in helping organizations create psychologically safe and productive workplaces. Get in touch with her today to learn more about how she can help you!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is psychological safety important at work?

  • Psychological safety is important at work because it enables employees to feel comfortable expressing their opinions, asking questions, and making mistakes. In addition, when employees feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to take risks, be creative, and collaborate with others, which can lead to improved productivity, innovation, and overall job satisfaction.

Why does psychological safety matter now more than ever?

  • With the increasing complexity and uncertainty of today's workplace, psychological safety is more important than ever. Employees need to feel safe to speak up and share their concerns, ideas, and suggestions, especially during times of change or crisis. In addition, psychological safety can help organizations navigate challenges more effectively and adapt to new circumstances with agility and resilience.

How can employees contribute to creating psychological safety in the workplace?

  • Employees can contribute to creating psychological safety in the workplace by being open and honest in their communications, actively listening to others, providing constructive feedback, being supportive of their colleagues, and showing vulnerability and humility when appropriate. By demonstrating these behaviors, employees can help create a culture of trust, respect, and collaboration that benefits everyone in the organization.

Live in Flow has delivered workshops to Lululemon and Linkedin


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