Psychological Safety

The term psychological safety was coined by Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson. She defined it as “a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking”. Psychological safety is about establishing an environment which allows space for people to speak up and share their ideas, thoughts, and opinions freely without fear of being criticized or judged.

As Edmonson put it, “If you change the nature and quality of the conversations in your team, your outcomes will improve exponentially. Psychological safety is the core component to unlock this.”

6 ways a psychologically safe work culture can benefit businesses:

  1. Enhanced engagement. When team members feel safe sharing ideas and feedback, it’s easier for them to engage. Psychological safety helps to inspire team members to work together to solve problems, collaborate on projects, and be fully present at work.
  2. Inclusive culture. Psychologically safe workspaces welcome diverse teams and allow all team members to feel included and valued. Inclusivity can strengthen team connection and lead to greater team effectiveness.
  3. Inspiration. When team members feel safe expressing themselves, inspiration, creativity, and new ideas spring forth. Imagine how many inspired ideas failed to be expressed because a team member didn’t feel safe sharing.
  4. Employee well-being. Psychological safety promotes mental and emotional well-being. When employees are mentally healthy, enhanced performance, reduced stress, and improved attendance often follow suit.
  5. Retention. Studies have shown that companies with psychologically safe cultures have lower turnover. Employees are less likely to leave a company which treats them with respect and makes them feel safe and valued.
  6. Improved team performance. A psychologically safe, inclusive work environment fosters cohesive teams who are highly engaged, creative, productive, and effective. Enhanced team cohesiveness can ripple throughout the organization and set a new standard of excellence.

To establish and maintain a psychologically safe work climate, business leaders must consistently model inclusive behaviors, and foster an environment where open communication, learning, innovation, and growth are valued. Emphasizing inclusivity, empathy, self-awareness, and interpersonal trust are key components of establishing a psychologically safe workplace where team members can feel confident to be and express themselves.

Quick tips for creating psychological safety within teams:

  • Give and ask for support when needed.
  • Be open, honest, and vulnerable.
  • Show empathy, care, and respect for each other.
  • Express ideas, ask for feedback, and encourage others to do the same.
  • Support brainstorming. Ask and encourage thought-provoking, open-ended questions.
  • Give each other the benefit of the doubt when expressing challenges.
  • Praise, encourage, and express gratitude for one another.

Psychological safety contributes to an inclusive, diverse, and accepting workplace where team members feel safe to be and express themselves. In an environment which embraces collaboration and cohesion, organizations can thrive.

If you want help creating a psychologically safe work environment, so your leadership team can work together more effectively, Catapult can help. Contact us today.


Fostering Psychological Safety In The Workplace – Forbes

What Psychological Safety Looks Like in a Hybrid Workplace – Harvard Business Review

Psychological Safety in Teams – Podcast

Building a psychologically safe workplace – TEDx

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