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Building Psychological Safety at Work

Updated: Apr 18

Psychological safety isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a fundamental component for organisational growth and employee wellbeing. Understanding the concept is key to being able to create a company culture of trust and collaboration within your team and wider organization.

What is psychological safety?

Imagine an environment in which each individual feels empowered to share innovative ideas, challenge the status quo and participate in discussions without fear or apprehension.

A phrase coined by Amy Edmondson, psychological safety is defined as “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas questions, concerns or mistakes”.

Individuals feel more confident participating in environments which every opinion is valued and this creates the conditions for ideas to flow freely, allowing seeds of creativity and innovation to take root.

dome to represent psychological safety at work

Psychological safety at work

In workplaces where psychological safety exists, team members feel more engaged and motivated. Believing their contributions count leads to them feeling more confident to speak up.

Subsequently, psychological safety can lead to enhanced decision making within teams as a greater range of concerns and ideas are more likely to brought to the table which gives the group access to more perspectives which is key to decision making.

Research has also shown that more effective teams make more mistakes. When this was explored further it was found that better teams were simply more likely to report their mistakes, as a result of psychological safety.

This allowed the teams with psychological safety to explore their mistakes and learn from them, ultimately making them more effective.

Other studies have also demonstrated the significant negative impact for organisations that lack psychological safety; specifically, increased stress, burnout & employee turnover. Plus slower development for employees and reduced overall performance for the organisation as a whole.

company culture at work

The role of company culture in Psychological Safety at work

Company culture is crucial when exploring how individuals interact, communicate and collaborate with others within organisations. 3 key factors of company culture that influence psychological safety include:

1. Organisational values

Company culture establishes norms and values which influence what is viewed as acceptable behaviour within an organisation. A culture that values open communication, inclusion and learning from mistakes will foster an environment where psychological safety can thrive.

2. Leadership behaviour

Leaders play a huge role in shaping company culture and as a result their decisions and actions have a significant impact on the existence of psychological safety.

3. Feedback practices

A culture that embraces constructive feedback promotes psychological safety by supporting individuals whilst allowing them to learn from their mistakes.

Company culture plays a pivotal role in shaping psychological safety. By addressing these factors, organisations can take the initial steps toward creating conditions conducive to greater psychological safety within teams and the wider organisation.

FREE Psychological Safety Espresso Session Takeaways

If you’d like to find out more about creating psychological safety in teams, the role of leaders to build a psychologically safe culture and how to identify specific behaviours you can focus on in your team then download our session takeaways


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