Psychological safety is talked about with ever growing frequency, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic. It is thought to be a key factor in creating a productive and successful workplace, as it allows people to feel comfortable and secure in their roles, and encourages collaboration and innovation in an atmosphere of trust. So it would be easy to assume that we all know what we’re talking about when we mention psychological safety to each other, but how sure are we that we all mean the same thing? 

At Cerulean, we think of psychological safety as a culture and environment in which people feel safe to take risks, express their ideas and opinions, and be themselves without fear of negative consequences (like punishment, ostracism or rejection). When we have a culture and environment that is safe and trusting, it’s both fulfilling for individuals and teams, plus it’s good news for organisations, as we know from the research that it boosts productivity, innovation and problem-solving. 

Psychological safety is also important for fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion, allowing people to feel accepted and respected, regardless of their background or identity. It’s one thing to be in a culture where everyone is invited, but it’s another step beyond to feel welcome, and that is something psychological safety can do for an organisation.

Here are six reasons we think psychological safety is important at work:

  1. Promotes Innovation and Creativity: When people feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to share their innovative ideas and take appropriate risks without the fear of being criticised or ridiculed. This fosters a culture of creativity and innovation, leading to new and improved ways of doing things.
  2. Encourages Open Communication: Psychological safety encourages open and honest communication among team members. It allows people to share their opinions, invite and offer constructive feedback, and engage in productive discussions without the fear of being shamed, judged or punished. This leads to improved collaboration and problem-solving within teams, and efficiency and productivity gains follow.
  3. Enhances Learning and Growth: In psychologically safe environments, people are more able and willing to admit mistakes without fear of reprisals, seek help, ask questions, and grow in confidence as a result. This openness to sharing and learning from mistakes helps facilitate a culture of continuous learning and growth within the organisation.
  4. Increases Employee Engagement: When people feel psychologically safe, they are more engaged and invested in their work. They are willing to contribute their best efforts, take ownership of their responsibilities, and work thoughtfully as part of a team. This, in turn, contributes to higher productivity and better overall performance for the organisation.
  5. Reduces Stress and Burnout: A lack of psychological safety can create a toxic work environment, causing stress and burnout for staff. Conversely, when people feel safe, supported, and respected, it reduces stress levels and promotes overall well-being. This can improve job satisfaction, reduce turnover rates, and enhance employee retention.
  6. Fosters Diversity and Inclusion: Psychological safety is essential for creating an inclusive workplace where individuals from diverse backgrounds feel valued, respected and celebrated. It also helps to address unconscious biases, both structural and individual, and to create a culture of equality and fairness.

As you can see, each of these points support the others, forming a circle of trust, meaningful collaboration and openness.  

Psychological safety empowers people to contribute their best ideas, learn from their mistakes, and grow both individually and within a team. Ultimately, it leads to higher employee engagement, improved performance, and a more positive work culture.

We’ve created a 90-minute bite-size learning session, which covers the definition of psychological safety, context and principles, practical tools, and a team road map,  The session empowers individuals and teams to create environments of trust where people have the confidence to be themselves.

Find out more about the Psychological Safety bite-size learning we offer here.

Learn more about our other bite-size learning sessions here.

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