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Psychological Safety at Work. What Is It & Why Is It Important?

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Read Time: 9 mins

No matter your company's size, having psychological safety at work is important. When employees feel psychologically safe, they're more loyal to the company and can work harder. Also, employees can quickly recognize problems or potential problems and fix them.

No matter your company's size, having psychological safety at work is important and beneficial.No matter your company's size, having psychological safety at work is important and beneficial.No matter your company's size, having psychological safety at work is important and beneficial.
No matter your company's size, having psychological safety at work is important and beneficial. (Image source: Envato Elements)

This article covers how to create psychological safety in the workplace. It also discusses the importance of creating a psychologically safe workplace. Keep reading to learn more about psychological safety.

What Is Psychological Safety in the Workplace?

To create psychological safety in the workplace, you need to know what psychological safety in the workplace is. According to Dr. Amy Edmondson on psychsafety.co.uk, psychological safety is

“the belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes, and the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.”

When working towards psychological safety, the goal is for a shared belief by team members that the team is safe and can safely take risks. So psychological safety is an essential factor in team performance.

8 Reasons Why Psychological Safety Is Important at Work

No matter what company you work for, psychological safety is essential. There are many benefits for the employees and company when people feel psychological safety at work. Here are some reasons why psychological safety is vital at work:

1. Employee Engagement

When employees feel psychologically safe they engage more.When employees feel psychologically safe they engage more.When employees feel psychologically safe they engage more.
When employees feel psychologically safe, they engage more. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Employees who feel safe are more encouraged to speak up about ideas. When there's psychological safety in the workplace, team members will take risks such as:

  • solving problems
  • volunteering to collaborate on projects
  • engaging with customers and peers.

Employees are also more likely to work hard and not slack off during work hours if they feel secure.

2. Inclusive Workplace Culture

Psychological safety at work leads to a more inclusive workplace. Safe spaces can encourage diverse teams and make team members feel included.

With more diversity in the workplace, you'll get unique ideas from people from different backgrounds. The goal is for everyone to feel united and connected.

3. Inspires Creativity

When employees feel psychologically safe they are able to create innovative ideas.When employees feel psychologically safe they are able to create innovative ideas.When employees feel psychologically safe they are able to create innovative ideas.
When employees feel psychologically safe, they're able to create innovative ideas. (Image source: Envato Elements)

When creating psychological safety in the workplace, you need your employees to feel safe. Employees who feel safe are more creative. A safe workplace allows creativity to flow and enables employees to express themselves.

If employees don’t feel safe, they won’t come up with creative ideas. Lack of psychological safety can even stunt creativity.

4. Creates Brand Ambassadors

When there's psychological safety in the workplace, employees are more likely to brag about their workplace. This, in a way, turns them into brand ambassadors for the company.

The goal is to create such a safe and excellent company that employees want to tell everyone about how great it is to work there.

5. Improves Employee Wellbeing

When employees feel psychologically safe they feel happier and get more work done.When employees feel psychologically safe they feel happier and get more work done.When employees feel psychologically safe they feel happier and get more work done.
When employees feel psychologically safe, they feel happier and get more work done. (Image source: Envato Elements)

When there's psychological safety at work, employees are happier. When people don’t feel safe at work, it can make them feel anxious, sad, burnt out, and more. If they feel unsafe, employees could be slow at work and make more mistakes.

But when employees feel psychologically safe and happy, they'll work harder and become high performing.

6. Reduces Employee Turnover

Employees are less likely to leave when there's psychological safety in the workplace. After all, why would employees leave a place that makes them feel safe and valued?

In the long run, high employee turnover hurts your company and isn’t beneficial for the success of the company. With turnover, you lose the knowledge that the employees have. It can also cause others not to feel safe in the workplace.

Also, high turnover can cause other employees to burn out from constantly needing to retrain and reteach how the company works to all the new employees.

7. Boosts Team Performance

When employees feel psychologically safe it boosts the whole team performance.When employees feel psychologically safe it boosts the whole team performance.When employees feel psychologically safe it boosts the whole team performance.
When employees feel psychologically safe, it boosts the whole team's performance. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Psychological safety in the workplace encourages employees to work hard. Employees who feel safe can boost their health, which means they'll work harder and perform better.

When employees feel safe, they feel free to admit their mistakes. This can cause the whole team to learn from the mistake and reduce the chances of it happening again.

8. Increased Profitability

A benefit of creating psychological safety in the workplace is increasing profitability. Employees who feel safe create higher quality work and get more work done. Psychological safety can also:

  • lower recruiting cost
  • lower costs related to illness
  • reduce security issues

10 Tips for How to Create Psychological Safety at Work

Now that you’ve read why psychological safety at work is essential, let’s look into how to create psychological safety at work:

1. Admit What You Don’t Know

Admitting what you don't know is part of taking a step towards a psychologically safe workplace.Admitting what you don't know is part of taking a step towards a psychologically safe workplace.Admitting what you don't know is part of taking a step towards a psychologically safe workplace.
Admitting what you don't know is part of taking a step toward a psychologically safe workplace. (Image source: Envato Elements)

To voice your opinion, you need to have psychological safety because speaking out requires some vulnerability.

Instead of pretending to know everything, employees should feel safe enough to admit that they don’t know how to do something or don’t know what something is. If employees don’t feel safe enough to admit these things, it can lead to mistakes, leading to more significant issues within the company and team.

2. Be Comfortable With New Technology

Technology has many benefits. One of those benefits is that the right technology can help you create psychological safety at work. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Try using anonymous polls to find out how employees feel about something.
  • Use chat functions to encourage employee interactions.
  • Rotate which team member starts the meeting if you can. This allows diverse views in the meeting.
  • Have one on one meetings where people can feel less intimidated and safe enough to speak up.

3. Respond Proactively to Problems

When you respond proactively to problems instead of placing blame you're creating a psychologically safe environment.When you respond proactively to problems instead of placing blame you're creating a psychologically safe environment.When you respond proactively to problems instead of placing blame you're creating a psychologically safe environment.
When you respond proactively to problems instead of placing blame, you create a psychologically safe environment. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Psychological safety in the workplace doesn’t solve everything. You’ll still encounter problems. But when you’re faced with problems, respond productively. This means you respect and listen to the person coming forward about the issue.

When an employee tells you about a problem, thank them for telling you instead of thinking about what went wrong.

4. Have a Purpose

A part of creating psychological safety in the workplace is knowing your purpose at work. This means that you should understand why your work matters within the company and in life.

When people feel purposelessness, it can cause them to feel anxious. People who feel they've got a message or purpose are happier and more productive employees who want to stay at their jobs longer.

5. Practice Active Listening

By actively listening you show your employees that you care.By actively listening you show your employees that you care.By actively listening you show your employees that you care.
By actively listening, you show your employees that you care. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Listening actively is part of finding out what people need for psychological safety. Don't just listen. Show that you’re interested in asking clarifying questions.

Remember not to get defensive and stay calm and collected. People won’t want to open up to you if you get defensive or upset.

To learn more about active listening, study this tutorial:

6. Be Open With Your Team

A step in creating psychological safety in the workplace is creating a transparent workplace. This means that regular communication and consistent communication is taking place. To create a transparent workplace, share why decisions were made. Also, ask for feedback from employees.

When you ask for employee feedback, recognize that courage is needed to speak up. Acknowledge people’s contributions and sincerely thank people. The goal is to create a workplace where people can be transparent without fear of pushback.

7. Build an Accountability Culture

Accountability culture builds trust while also holding each other accountable.Accountability culture builds trust while also holding each other accountable.Accountability culture builds trust while also holding each other accountable.
Accountability culture builds trust while also holding each other accountable. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Mutual accountability is a big part of creating psychological safety in the workplace. To have mutual accountability, you must clarify both parties’ expectations. Once you decide on what realistic expectations are, both employees and employers should hold each other accountable for those expectations.

8. Develop Mutual Trust

When you've got mutual accountability, you build mutual trust. Mutual trust fosters psychological safety in the workplace.

To create trust, you need to be someone your employees can count on and lean on. It'll take time to develop mutual trust, but in the end, you'll trust their capabilities, and they'll trust yours.

9. Approach Conflict as Collaborator

Instead of placing blame when a problem occurs look at it as a way to collaborate.Instead of placing blame when a problem occurs look at it as a way to collaborate.Instead of placing blame when a problem occurs look at it as a way to collaborate.
Instead of placing blame when a problem occurs, look at it as a way to collaborate. (Image source: Envato Elements)

When a mistake is made or failure happens, it can be disappointing and cause people to place blame. This affects psychological safety at work because it can cause conflict at work. Not only does it create conflict, but it can cause people’s fight or flight mode to kick in.

Instead of blaming people for problems, try asking how we can fix this by creating a mutually desirable outcome. This fosters creativity and takes the blame off employees or the employer.

10. Replace Blame With Curiosity

It almost always leads to conflict when people feel like they're being blamed for something. Conflict can create the opposite of psychological safety in the workplace. So, instead of placing blame, turn to curiosity. Start by talking about the problematic behavior or result.

When you discuss this, remember to use neutral language. For example, you could start like this,

“In the last three months, there has been a drop in team participation in the meeting, and progress has slowed down on the recent project.”

Next, you want people to explore this topic. For example, try adding this,

“I think there are many reasons why this happened. Maybe we can look at why together?”

Finally, ask for solutions to the issues. The goal is to get their input and create a positive outcome. For example, ask one of these,

“Does anyone have any ideas on how to fix this issue?”

“What is the ideal situation that needs to happen here?”

“How can I support you?”

Learn More About Workplace Safety

If you want to learn more about how to make the workplace a better environment and psychologically safe, check out these articles:

Put These Tips to Use by Creating a Psychologically Safe Workplace Today!

Now that you know the importance of a psychologically safe workplace try following the tips in this tutorial. Your workplace will be stronger for it. 

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