The Importance of Psychological Safety

Collaboration, innovation, and adaptability are paramount in all workplaces, and creating an environment where individuals feel safe to express themselves and take risks is more crucial than ever. So, today, we want to discuss the importance of psychological safety the workplace. 


What does psychological safety mean? 

The term “psychological safety” refers to having a safe environment where people feel appreciated and valued. It is vital to ensure that work environments are safe places, both physically and mentally. No workplace is immune from psychological impact.  


Psychological strain can come from stress, long work hours, bullying, or fear related to the working environment or workplace hazards. When people feel threatened or are put in harmful situations, they are less likely to feel confident and more likely to make mistakes.  


Without psychological safety, individuals can’t function properly, and mistrust and self-preservation take priority. When employees feel psychologically safe at work, they are enabled to be engaged, and be productive, resourceful, curious, and inventive. Environments with greater psychological safety have higher levels of team performance. If you don’t feel safe asking questions, making mistakes and learning from them, you will spend more time pretending everything is okay and avoid bringing up any concerns. 


“Psychological safety is one component of a psychologically healthy workplace. It is a specific, targeted concept critical for innovation and success.” -American Psychological Association 


The benefits of psychological safety 

There are many advantages to ensuring you foster a culture of psychological safety for all team members. Psychological safety supports a team or organizational culture so that individuals can: 

  • Share information and knowledge
  • Suggest organizational improvements
  • Take the initiative to develop new procedures and services
  • Learn from their mistakes and those of others

Psychological safety is based on three main factors: 

  • Shared interpersonal trust
  • Respect for others’ competence
  • Caring about others as people

For team members to feel safe asking questions, voicing concerns and admitting mistakes, all three factors must be present in the workplace.  


Psychological safety isn’t created overnight. Rather, it takes time, effort, and consistency among all team members, management, and leadership. When a leader reminds their staff that learning from mistakes is something to be celebrated, but criticizes an employee who makes one, trust is severed.


All team members must respect others’ confidence and care for safety as fellow human beings. In instances where individuals are pitted against one another, psychological safety is highly unlikely to flourish and develop.  


Trust, respect, and caring does not mean that we don’t take our jobs or roles seriously, or that we avoid holding ourselves and others accountable. We need motivation, accountability, and psychological safety to create a high-performance culture where people are engaged, interested, and able to do their best work.  


Having a high-motivation and take-accountability culture with low levels of psychological safety is likely to produce anxiety, which usually results in performance reduction. This can create a downward spiral as poor performance can trigger even more anxiety, leading to further decreases in performance. 


Psychological safety is imperative to every successful business or organization. When you prioritize trust, respect, safety, and communication, you create an environment where your workers feel empowered to ask questions, voice concerns, offer ideas, and be contributing team members. If you have questions about how you can create a safe workplace for your employees, contact the Goal Zero team today

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