What Is Psychological Safety And Why Is It Important
What is psychological safety? – Let’s start with a definition. Team psychological safety is a shared belief held by members of a team that it’s OK to take risks, to express their ideas and concerns, to speak up with questions, and to admit mistakes — all without fear of negative consequences.

As Edmondson puts it, “it’s felt permission for candor.” Edmondson first landed on the concept when she was doing research for her PhD. She had set out to study the relationship between error making and teamwork in hospitals, expecting to find that more effective teams made fewer mistakes. But what she found was that the teams who reported better teamwork seemed to experience more errors.

When she dug into the data, she began to suspect that better teams might be more willing to report their mistakes – because they felt safe doing so – and conducted follow up research to explore that hypothesis. The “team” in team psychological safety is important.

What is the meaning of psychological safety?

What Is Psychological Safety at Work? – Psychological safety is the belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. At work, it’s a shared expectation held by members of a team that teammates will not embarrass, reject, or punish them for sharing ideas, taking risks, or soliciting feedback.

  1. Psychological safety at work doesn’t mean that everybody is nice to each other all the time.
  2. It means that people feel free to “brainstorm out loud,” voice half-finished thoughts, openly challenge the status quo, share feedback, and work through disagreements together — knowing that leaders value honesty, candor, and truth-telling, and that team members will have one another’s backs.

When psychological safety in the workplace is present, people feel comfortable bringing their full, authentic selves to work and are okay with “laying themselves on the line” in front of others. And organizations with psychologically safe work environments — where employees feel free to ask bold questions, share concerns, ask for help, and take calculated risks — are all the better for it.

Why is it important to have psychological safety?

Make psychological safety a priority – Your organization should be a workplace for learning, innovation, and growth. That learning and growth hinge on interpersonal trust, self-awareness, and psychological safety. Psychological safety shouldn’t be a “nice to have” job perk.

It should be a vital part of every company’s culture and future. In the workplace, team psychological safety must be a top priority if businesses want to create a successful enterprise. And, more importantly, psychological safety contributes to an inclusive, diverse, and accepting workplace. A workplace where team members feel safe to express themselves.

At the end of the day, the mark of a good company is its team members.

What are the 4 components of psychological safety?

Innovation is almost always a collaborative process and almost never a lightbulb moment of lone genius. – Yet, as the historian Robert Conquest once said, “What is easy to understand may have not been easy to think of.” Innovation is never easy to think of.

It requires creative abrasion and constructive dissent—processes that rely on high intellectual friction and low social friction. Most leaders don’t comprehend that managing these two categories of friction to create an ecosystem of brave collaboration is at the heart of leadership as an applied discipline.

It is perhaps the supreme test of a leader and a direct reflection of personal character. Without skill, integrity, and respect for people, it doesn’t happen. Nor can perks such as foosball tables, free lunch, an open office environment, and the aesthetic of a hip organization bring it to life.

One of the first things you learn about leadership is that the social and cultural context has a profound influence on the way people behave and that you as the leader are, straight up, responsible for that context. The other thing you learn is that fear is the enemy. It freezes initiative, ties up creativity, yields compliance instead of commitment, and represses what would otherwise be an explosion of innovation.

The presence of fear in an organization is the first sign of weak leadership. If you can banish fear, install true performance-based accountability, and create a nurturing environment that allows people to be vulnerable as they learn and grow, they will perform beyond your expectations and theirs.

For the past twenty-five years, I’ve been a working cultural anthropologist and a student of psychological safety, learning from leaders and teams across every sector of society. I’ve discovered that psychological safety follows a progression based on the natural sequence of human needs. First, human beings want to be included.

Second, they want to learn. Third, they want to contribute. And finally, they want to challenge the status quo when they believe things need to change. This pattern is consistent across all organizations and social units, that I have come to define as The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety.

Why is psychological safety important at work?

Employees believe that psychological safety in the workplace is essential. Promoting mental health, and combatting the stigma that keeps people with mental-health or substance-use disorders from seeking care, are essential to psychological safety in the workplace.

What is psychological safety examples?

How do you create psychological safety? – Edmondson is quick to point out that “it’s more magic than science” and it’s important for managers to remember this is “a climate that we co-create, sometimes in mysterious ways.” Anyone who has worked on a team marked by silence and the inability to speak up, knows how hard it is to reverse that.

A lot of what goes into creating a psychologically safe environment are good management practices — things like establishing clear norms and expectations so there is a sense of predictability and fairness; encouraging open communication and actively listening to employees; making sure team members feel supported ; and showing appreciation and humility when people do speak up.

There are a few additional tactics that Edmondson points to as well.

What is needed for psychological safety?

2. Get To Know Everyone – These days, pretty much every company out there talks about culture, team building activities, etc., but this point really cannot be overemphasized. Knowing someone well, understanding how they think, how they feel about different topics, and how they engage with the world, are the building blocks of trust.

  • Trust is the basis of psychological safety.
  • This one is probably the most important point on the list, but also potentially the one that’s the most fun.
  • Get to know the people you work with.
  • Have fun! Go out to lunch together.
  • Go play trivia.
  • Go to a happy hour.
  • Go square dancing! Whatever you and your team are into as a group and as individuals, it’s important to spend some time together outside the regular professional context.
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The more you get to know each other personally, the more trust you’ll have in one another, and the fewer people will feel like they have to hold back their valuable thoughts and opinions because they’re too shy or scared to speak up. Maybe someone just spoke to a customer the other day and has a great new idea of how to solve an old problem.

What causes lack of psychological safety?

This post might contain affiliate links. One thing I hate is listening to stories where friends say they don’t feel comfortable speaking up at work. They tell me that when they do, they sometimes get ignored or belittled, causing them only to say things they know will be appreciated.

They stop innovating, and they engage less with work. They move closer and closer to only doing what is necessary, never taking any risks. Their team lacks the necessary psychological safety! Low psychological safety in a team can be caused by a lack of trust, fear of failure, lack of support, unclear expectations, and poor communication.

When these factors plague the workplace, it creates an environment of low psychological safety. As a leader or a small team member, you must be aware of these factors. In this article, I’ll explain what causes low psychological safety and how to lead and manage your team in a way that promotes high psychological safety.

What is psychosocial safety in the workplace?

Psychosocial hazards contributing to work-related stress Psychosocial hazards are factors in the design or management of work that increase the risk of work-related stress and can lead to psychological or physical harm. Examples of psychosocial hazards might include poor supervisor support or high job demands.

Employees are likely to be exposed to a combination of psychosocial hazards. Some hazards might always be present at work, while others only occasionally. There is a greater risk of work-related stress when psychosocial hazards combine and act together, so employers should not consider hazards in isolation.

Psychosocial hazards do not necessarily reveal the causes of work-related stress. Causes are likely to be specific to the employee, work or workplace. Senior management should identify which psychosocial hazards negatively affect employees’ health and well-being and take appropriate action to control the impact of those hazards.

What is the difference between psychological safety and psychosocial safety?

Understanding Psychological Safety and Psychosocial Risk

  • With the release of the new Model Code of Practice: Managing psychosocial hazards at work in July 2022, psychological safety and psychosocial risks are currently at the top of most safety agendas.
  • Psychological safety and psychosocial risks both relate to the workplace but they differ in the factors that contribute to them and their impact on employees.
  • Psychological safety is a positive attribute that fosters a supportive work environment, while psychosocial risks are negative factors that can harm employee well-being and productivity.
  • Both are very important aspects of workplace health and safety that require attention from employers to create a safe and healthy work environment.

Psychosocial risks can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. On the other hand, promoting psychological safety can help create a positive work environment that supports employee engagement and productivity. What is Psychological Safety Psychological safety refers to a work environment in which employees feel safe to express themselves and take risks without fear of negative consequences such as humiliation, punishment or discrimination.

  • Psychological safety is a positive attribute, as it fosters an environment in which employees feel valued, respected, and able to speak up.
  • What is Psychosocial Risk Psychosocial risks refer to work-related factors that may have negative effects on an employee’s mental health and well-being due to job demands like excessive workloads, time pressure, low job control, role ambiguity or conflict.

Psychosocial risks may also include issues related to work-life balance, such as long work hours, job insecurity, and inadequate support for work-life balance. Exposure to traumatic events or materials is also classed as a psychosocial hazard and can cause psychological and/or physical harm.

  1. Identify the risks : The first step is to identify the potential risks in the workplace through employee surveys, risk assessments, reviewing incident reports, listen to employee feedback, exposure to violence, critical incidents, or traumatic events.
  2. Develop policies and procedures : Employers should develop policies and procedures that address the identified risks. This can include policies related to workload, work-life balance, workplace relationships, workplace harassment and bullying, protocols for managing critical incidents or violence prevention programs.
  3. Promote a supportive work culture : Employers should foster a work environment that is psychologically safe and supportive. One that emphasises open and safe communication, collaboration, and supports employee’s ability to speak up. This can also include promoting work-life balance, providing opportunities for employee feedback, and addressing workplace stressors, and providing resources to help employees manage stress and build resilience.
  4. Provide training : Employers should provide training to employees and managers on how to recognise and manage psychosocial risks, as well as on how to provide support to colleagues who may be experiencing psychological distress.
  5. Ensure adequate resources : Employers should ensure that employees have adequate resources to perform their job duties, such as appropriate training, tools, and equipment.
  6. Offer support and assistance : Employers should provide support and assistance to employees who are experiencing psychosocial risks. This can include access to mental health support, employee assistance programs, and other resources.
  7. Monitor and evaluate : Employers should monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their strategies to manage psychosocial risks in the workplace. This can involve regular assessments, surveys, as well as provide opportunities for employees to provide feedback and raise concerns.
  1. By taking a proactive approach to managing psychosocial risks in the workplace, employers can create a safe and supportive work environment that supports employee well-being and productivity.
  2. Safe Work Australia have many workplace mental health resources available on their website which are available to download free of charge.
  3. Mental Health Support
  4. If you or a colleague are feeling depressed, stressed or anxious there are services to help.

Safety Australia Group have Safety Consultants that can help you review and implement a plan for your workplace. Contact us today by completing the online enquiry form below: : Understanding Psychological Safety and Psychosocial Risk

What is the difference between mental health and psychological safety?

Last week, we hosted the Webinar, Your People are Dealing with Anxiety. How Can You Help? We spoke with Liz Guthridge, founder of Connect Consulting and co-author of Leading People Through Disasters, and Dr. Jamie Madigan, Industrial-Organizational psychologist and Product Lead at LeaderAmp, to uncover more on the topic of Collecting Employee Feedback to help identify risk areas for Psychological Safety.

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Part 1: The difference between psychological safety and mental health Part 2 : Why we should be collecting employee feedback data Part 3: What do you do once you’ve collected your data? Part 4: How can we use what we’ve learned to shape the future of work?

To watch Part 1 of the conversation, check out the video below! As Dr. Jamie Madigan explained, psychological safety is a climate or culture created by a group. In an atmosphere with trust and respect, we feel psychologically safe to do or say something considered “risky”.

  1. On the other hand, mental health is more about the individual and their unique mental state.
  2. Although an individual’s mental health is influenced by their environment, is not directly related to it the way an individual’s psychological safety is.
  3. With COVID-19, we’ve seen and heard many people saying, “We’re in this together.” If that’s the case, then we are all a team.

It’s not only up to the coach or captain to create an environment where everyone else feels comfortable to participate and share challenging opinions. Simply put, today’s unpredictable situations are anxiety-inducing. We all, as teammates and coworkers and peers, are responsible for creating an environment that is psychologically safe and reduces the potential for anxiety to overwhelm people.

As Liz explained, we need to be more compassionate to one another. We need to ask genuine questions to gauge how others are feeling, and make sure that they are aware of the professional services they go to if needed. Try to ask yourself, are you creating an environment of psychological safety for those around you? If you’re unsure, the best thing you can do is open up that conversation and ask.

“How are you feeling today?” We’ll dive deeper into that conversation next time.

What is the opposite of psychological safety?

Defensive Culture – The opposite of a psychologically safe culture is a defensive culture. In companies with a defensive culture, there is a focus on individuals avoiding taking calculating risks, for fear of being blamed for a mistake. This is not a “safety” culture, indeed defensive cultures can often work contrary to producing safe systems.

For example; in a defensive culture, there can be vexatious levels of testing before software is deployed (long-running E2E test suites for very low-risk functionality), but no monitoring when software is deployed in production. Deployment of software is held back on the basis of fear, without considering the balance of risk and reward.

There is a reluctance to test new ideas and product functionality out of fear of being blamed. The culture does not reward success (through taking calculated risks) but instead individuals plateau from fear of failure. Corporate pay scales are usually not oriented towards rewarding successful leaders and in the worst cases, harassment and abuse is directed to either those who flag issues or those who are seen as responsible for making mistakes.

What are the signs of psychological safety?

Open communication – One sign of psychological safety is that team members communicate openly and honestly with each other. They share their opinions, feedback, ideas, and concerns without fear of judgment or retaliation. They also listen actively and respectfully to different perspectives and viewpoints.

What is psychological safety for dummies?

What do we mean by psychological safety? – Psychological safety refers to the feeling of being able to speak up, take risks, and make mistakes without fear of negative consequences. The term psychological safety was first coined by Amy Edmondson, a professor at Harvard Business School.

She described it as “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.” In 1999, while studying the rate of mistakes made by medical teams, Edmondson found that the teams that made more mistakes performed better than teams that made fewer mistakes — or at least, that’s how it seemed at first.

Rather, it was the teams that had a culture of openly admitting to making mistakes that had better outcomes. The other teams were making mistakes, too; they just hid them. Simon Sinek later wrote about psychological safety in the workplace in his 2014 book “Leaders Eat Last.” Inspired by military organizations, where leaders literally put their lives on the line, he wrote that great leadership is about making employees feel safe so they can focus on work without fear for their own survival.

What are 5 examples of psychosocial hazards?

Psychosocial hazards overview – Workplace psychosocial hazards are related to the psychological and social conditions of the workplace rather than just the physical conditions. Workers are likely to be exposed to a combination of work-related psychosocial hazards and risk factors.

These include stress, fatigue, bullying, violence, aggression, harassment and burnout, which can be harmful to the health of workers and compromise their wellbeing. There are also risk factors (e.g. misuse of alcohol or other drugs, poor change management) that increase the risk or potential for harm to health from exposure to a hazard.

Examples of psychosocial hazards and risk factors that organisations should assess as part of the risk management process are listed below. The list is not exhaustive and there are other psychosocial hazards and risk factors that an organisation may need to consider.

fast work-pace and time pressure excessive workload repetitive or monotonous tasks sustained concentration high mental workload extended work hours large number of consecutive days worked roster length shift rotation exposure to emotionally distressing situations (e.g. first responders including emergency and medical call outs)

Low levels of control Toggle Lack of control over aspects of the work, including how and when a job is done (i.e. autonomy) Tasks or jobs where:

work is machine or computer paced work is tightly prescribed or scripted workers have little say in the way they do their work, when they can take breaks or change tasks workers are not involved in decision making about work that affects them or their clients workers are unable to refuse working with aggressive individuals

Lack of control over aspects of accommodation arrangements There may be limited options to allow for:

personal scheduling of activities of daily living (e.g. meal times, showering) varying sleep schedules different accommodation preferences (e.g. privacy)

Inadequate support from supervisors and/ or co-workers Toggle Lack of support in the form of constructive feedback, problem solving, practical assistance, provision of information and resources Tasks or jobs where workers have insufficient or inappropriate:

support from supervisor or co-workers information or training to support their performance equipment and resources to do the job

Lack of role clarity Toggle Unclear or constantly changing management expectations about the responsibilities of the job Incompatible expectations or demands placed on workers by different workplace stakeholders Jobs where there is:

uncertainty about or frequent changes to tasks and performance standards important task-related information is not available to the worker conflicting job roles, responsibilities or expectations

Poor organisational change management Toggle Uncertainty about changes in the organisation, structure or job Unstructured approach to change Workplaces where:

organisational change is poorly managed there is inadequate communication and consultation with workers about the changes

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Low recognition and reward Toggle Lack of positive feedback on job and task performance, and inadequate skills development and utilisation Jobs where there is:

an imbalance between workers’ efforts and associated recognition and reward a lack of recognition of good performance lack of opportunity for skills development skills and experience underused.

Poor organisational justice Toggle Unfairness, inconsistency, bias or lack of transparency in the way procedures are implemented, decisions are made, or workers are treated Workplaces where there is a real or perceived:

inconsistency in the application of organisational policies and procedures unfairness in the allocation of resources bias in the approval of worker entitlements (e.g. annual leave)

Extreme environmental conditions Toggle Exposure to conditions that influence worker comfort and performance Working with:

extremes of temperature high levels of noise poor air quality

Accommodation arrangements that unreasonably affect the amount of quality rest and sleep needed to manage fatigue, including exposure to:

hot and humid conditions with no relief nuisance and excessive noise that disturbs or disrupts sleep routines

Adverse natural events A natural event (e.g. cyclone, flooding, bushfire) that can:

restrict travel constrain activities interfere with communications create uncertainty in the workforce and families

Remote work Toggle Work where access to resources and communications is difficult Working and living in a remote location may mean:

limited access to reliable communication technology limited access to preferred support network limited access to recreational activities interruption and reduced capacity to fulfil usual roles and commitments in family, community and other social networks challenges with reintegration to home and work environments after being away from them fewer opportunities to escape work issues and work relationships

Work where travel times may be lengthy Commutes that involve:

multiple modes of transport crossing time zones overnight accommodation during journey impact on unpaid personal recovery time

Isolated work Toggle Work where there are limited opportunities to communicate in person Work where there may be:

limited opportunities for problem sharing and feedback a perception of increased responsibility for decision making limited opportunities for socialisation barriers to communication

Inappropriate behaviours Toggle Exposure to behaviours that are unreasonable, offensive, intimidating or may cause distress Witnessing or experiencing situations involving:

violence or aggression bullying harassment conflict discrimination cultural insensitivity

Traumatic events Toggle Exposure to an event, or threat of an event, that is deeply distressing or disturbing for the individual Witnessing or experiencing situations involving:

death or threat to life serious injury near misses self-injury

Fatigue Toggle Fatigue is a state of mental or physical exhaustion (or both) Jobs where there are:

high cognitive demands, such as sustained concentration extended work hours

Design, quality and management practices for accommodation facilities and amenities that compromise the amount and quality of sleep and rest, such as:

inadequate buffers from potential sources of nuisance or excessive noise (e.g. parking, catering and recreational areas) poor noise management (e.g. lack of noise curfews) uncomfortable bedding ineffective window treatments for sleeping during daylight hours poorly scheduled cleaning activities

Medical conditions that exacerbate fatigue if not appropriately managed and supported, such as:

sleep apnoea diabetes asthma some blood disorders depression anxiety

Alcohol and other drug use Toggle Use of legal and illegal substances such as alcohol, prescription and non-prescription drugs that affect the ability to work Use of alcohol and other drugs that:

reduces quality of sleep contributes to long-term physical and mental health effects affects emotional regulation compromises safe operation of plant and machinery

Poor physical health Toggle Lack of regular physical activity Likelihood of exercise reduced by:

length of work shifts lack of awareness about recreational options unavailability of preferred activity options restricted access to resources

Poor nutrition Service of food that:

limits access to healthy food options lacks nutritional information about menu items leads to poor portion control

Illness or injury Stress resulting from consequences such as:

pain loss of function lifestyle adjustments side-effects of medical treatment

What can happen when team members don t feel psychologically safe?

Jared Wolf is the Head Writer at Bravely, a company providing employees with professional coaches for confidential conversations in the moments they need them most. This post was written with support from Bravely’s expert coaches; get to know them here,

In any company, employees’ ability to take risks is crucial to creativity, productivity, and innovation. A “risk” doesn’t have to mean something on the macro level, like developing a new process—it can also be more individual, like the emotional risk of speaking up about a personnel issue. None of that can happen without psychological safety,

In a psychologically safe company, there’s a shared understanding that risk-taking will not lead to punishment or embarrassment. When employees have reason to fear vulnerability, issues in the workplace don’t get talked about; instead, they go under the radar or get misdiagnosed.

What is psychosocial safety in the workplace?

Psychosocial hazards contributing to work-related stress Psychosocial hazards are factors in the design or management of work that increase the risk of work-related stress and can lead to psychological or physical harm. Examples of psychosocial hazards might include poor supervisor support or high job demands.

Employees are likely to be exposed to a combination of psychosocial hazards. Some hazards might always be present at work, while others only occasionally. There is a greater risk of work-related stress when psychosocial hazards combine and act together, so employers should not consider hazards in isolation.

Psychosocial hazards do not necessarily reveal the causes of work-related stress. Causes are likely to be specific to the employee, work or workplace. Senior management should identify which psychosocial hazards negatively affect employees’ health and well-being and take appropriate action to control the impact of those hazards.

How do you identify psychological safety?

Send a periodic pulse survey and gather employee feedback – One way to measure psychological safety is through pulse surveys. They can help us to identify patterns and trends in how employees feel about taking risks and speaking up. Deciding whether these are anonymous or not can be a difficult balance – on one hand, anonymity might mean that employees are more honest about their feelings, but on the other hand, it makes it impossible to follow up on any glaring issues.

Using an employee engagement software can help you automate the process of sending pulse surveys on a regular basis. You and your managers will always have your people’s pulse, helping to make better decisions thanks to having the right insights in real time. It is also an opportunity to gather feedback.

It will help you identify issues to solve in the workplace, a mobbing or harassment situation and prevent burnout, In the end, your goal is to take care of your team’s psychological safety. Remember, creating a feedback culture is the best way to stay close to your employees! Another way to measure psychological safety is through observation. By observing employee behavior, we can get a sense of whether or not people feel comfortable taking risks and speaking up. That doesn’t just mean extroverts, or senior team members – you should be seeing input across the board, whether that’s verbally in meetings, or written feedback.