What is psychological safety at work: Why is it important?

13 min read
What is psychological safety at work: Why is it important?
What is psychological safety at work: Why is it important?

Picture this: You walk into your office, coffee in one hand, ambition in the other, ready to tackle the day's challenges.

But wait, the moment you step into that labyrinth of beige cubicles, you're hit with a feeling akin to entering a lion's den. Roars, not of the ferocious feline variety, but of overbearing bosses, impossible deadlines, and a coworker who treats the office microwave like their personal chef.

Your workplace feels more like a circus, with juggling acts, tightrope walking, and occasional clowning. But there's one thing that can turn this workplace circus into a harmonious symphony - psychological safety!

As the renowned Harvard Professor Amy Edmondson once quipped, "Psychological safety is like oxygen: You only notice it's missing when it's gone."

So true, Amy, so true! When the air in the workplace is thick with judgment and fear, it's not just productivity that suffers; it's your peace of mind, creative juices, and sanity.

In this blog, we will explore all there is to know about psychological safety at the workplace, its importance in employee well-being, basic principles, and how you can establish it in your organization.

What is psychological safety at the workplace?

Employee feeling the pressure in the workplace
What is psychological safety at the workplace?

Psychological safety at the workplace is what makes a team click, and individuals shine. It's all about creating an environment where employees feel comfortable taking risks, sharing their ideas, and expressing their opinions without fearing negative consequences like ridicule, retribution, or alienation.

By creating a psychologically safe workplace, people can be authentic and free from judgment and criticism.

Think of it as a safe space for grown-ups, where vulnerability isn't a weakness but a strength. When employees know they won't get slapped on the wrist for speaking up or suggesting improvements, they're more likely to engage, collaborate, and innovate. This magic potion fosters trust and open communication, paving the way for better problem-solving, increased productivity, and happier, more motivated teams.

In essence, building psychological safety first is the bedrock of a healthy, thriving workplace where everyone feels valued, heard, and respected. It's the key to turning your employees from timid office workers into empowered contributors.

Why is psychological safety important at work?

Employee feeling stressed in the workplace
Why is psychological safety important at work?

Psychological safety at work is like the oil in the machinery of productivity and innovation. It's important for a multitude of reasons:

  • Encourages open communication: When employees feel safe, they're more likely to speak their minds, ask questions, and share concerns. This fosters open and honest communication, which is crucial for effective teamwork and problem-solving.
  • Boosts creativity: In a psychologically safe environment, creativity thrives. Employees are more willing to take risks, think outside the box, and innovate because they're not afraid of being shut down or ridiculed.
  • Enhances employee engagement: When people feel valued and heard, they're naturally more engaged with their work. This engagement leads to higher job satisfaction, increased motivation, and better overall performance.
  • Reduces turnover: A safe workplace reduces turnover rates because employees are less likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. They're content in an environment where they can be themselves and contribute meaningfully.
  • Drives continuous improvement: In a psychologically safe setting, employees are more inclined to offer suggestions for improvement, which can lead to incremental and significant positive changes within the organization.

Why does psychological safety in the workplace matter now more than ever?

An employer transferring knowledge to an employee
Why does psychological safety in the workplace matter now more than ever?

In these turbulent times, psychological safety is not just a nice-to-have; it's a must-have. It's the linchpin that holds teams together, fosters innovation, and keeps individuals engaged and motivated in a rapidly changing work landscape. Now more than ever, it's a cornerstone of successful organizations and a key driver of employee well-being and productivity. Here's why it matters now more than ever:

  • Remote work challenges: With the rise of remote and hybrid work arrangements, employees often feel isolated and disconnected. Psychological safety becomes vital to ensure that individuals feel supported and able to voice their concerns or ideas, even from a distance.
  • Mental health awareness: As awareness of mental health grows, so does the recognition of the need for a supportive work environment. Psychological safety is integral in reducing the stigma around mental health issues, enabling employees to seek help and support when needed.
  • Diversity and inclusion: Organizations are emphasizing diversity and inclusion more strongly. To truly benefit from a diverse workforce, employees need to feel safe sharing their unique perspectives without fear of bias or discrimination.
  • Innovation and adaptability: Companies must be agile and innovative in an age of rapid technological advances and industry disruptions. Psychological safety fosters a culture of innovation, encouraging employees to take calculated risks and adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Attracting and retaining talent: In a competitive job market, organizations prioritizing psychological safety are more attractive to top talent. Job seekers look for environments where they can thrive, be heard, and have a meaningful impact.
  • Resilience in uncertainty: The world has seen its share of crises, from economic downturns to global pandemics. Psychological safety equips employees with the emotional resilience needed to weather uncertainty and bounce back from setbacks.

What are the 4 principles of psychological safety?

The following principles collectively create a workplace where individuals can share their perspectives, collaborate effectively, and take calculated risks without fearing negative consequences. When implemented, they lead to a culture of psychological safety that nurtures creativity, innovation, and employee well-being.

1. Trust

Trust is the foundation of psychological safety. Employees need to trust their colleagues and leaders to support and respect their contributions, even when they voice dissenting opinions. Building trust involves demonstrating integrity, consistency, and a commitment to fairness.

2. Respect

A psychologically safe workplace is one where every individual feels respected, regardless of their position or background. Respecting diversity, acknowledging different perspectives, and treating all team members with dignity fosters an environment where people are comfortable being themselves.

3. Open communication

Encouraging open and transparent communication is vital. Employees should feel free to express their thoughts, ideas, and concerns without fear of backlash or ridicule. Leaders play a crucial role in creating an atmosphere where people know they will be heard.

4. Accountability

Psychological safety isn't just about speaking up; it's also about taking responsibility for one another's actions and decisions. When employees know that accountability is a shared value within the organization, they feel more secure in making decisions and taking risks.

What are the 5 steps to psychological safety?

Employers are discussing on psychological safety in the workplace
What are the 5 steps to psychological safety?

By following these steps, organizations can systematically build and maintain psychological safety. It's not a one-time task but a continuous commitment to creating an environment where all employees feel valued, heard, and secure in sharing their thoughts and opinions.

1. Leadership commitment

Leadership sets the tone for the entire organization. To establish psychological safety, leaders must commit to the concept and model the behavior they want to see. They need to communicate the importance of creating psychological safety first, lead by example, and consistently support employees in their efforts to speak up and take risks.

2. Open communication channels

Encourage and facilitate open lines of communication. Create feedback mechanisms, such as suggestion boxes, regular team meetings, and one-on-one check-ins so employees can express their thoughts and concerns. Ensure that these channels are accessible and feedback is genuinely welcomed and considered.

3. Training and Education

Offer training programs to help employees and leaders understand the importance of psychological safety. These programs can include communication skills, conflict resolution, and diversity and inclusion training. Education helps team members navigate conversations and differences with respect and empathy.

4. Recognition and reinforcement

Acknowledge and reward behavior that promotes psychological safety. Recognize and celebrate instances where employees speak up, share ideas, or offer constructive criticism. Positive reinforcement reinforces the importance of fostering psychological safety in the workplace culture.

5. Continuous improvement

Psychological safety is an ongoing journey. Regularly assess the work environment, gather feedback from employees, and make necessary adjustments. Listen to concerns, adapt policies, and evolve as the organization grows and changes.

Importance of psychological safety at work training for managers

Alright, folks, picture this: You're the captain of a ship, navigating the turbulent waters of the business world. Your crew? Well, they're your team of dedicated, hardworking employees.

Now, imagine if you had a compass that could guide your ship and make your crew members feel both safe and heard. That's what psychological safety training for managers is all about, and let me tell you, it's more crucial than ever.

First and foremost, managers are like the bridge between the organizational vision and the employees. They play a pivotal role in setting the tone for psychological safety. They become the beacons of trust and open communication when they undergo training. They learn how to listen actively, offer constructive feedback, and encourage team members to share ideas without fear of retribution.

The training equips them with the skills to recognize the signs of psychological safety - or its absence - within their teams. They become adept at creating an environment where diverse opinions are valued, conflicts are resolved respectfully, and each team member feels respected for who they are.

Managers become the champions of a workplace culture where employees can be their authentic selves, bring their whole selves to work, and, in doing so, unleash their full potential. That's a recipe for higher employee engagement, innovation, and a more successful and thriving organization.

In today's world, where remote work and diverse teams are the norm, managers need to understand the nuances of team psychological safety so they can lead with empathy and adapt to new challenges. It's not just a skill; it's a superpower that transforms managers into leaders who steer their teams toward uncharted territories, all while ensuring everyone on board feels safe and supported.

9 Psychological safety at work statistics you should know

  1. According to Oyster HR 2023 report, 84% of employees value psychological safety at work more than anything else.
  2. Accenture reports that psychological safety reduces turnover by 27% and increases engagement by 76%.
  3. Organizations with high psychological safety see an association of high diversity with high performance and employee satisfaction, reports Harvard Business Review.
  4. Predictive Index reports that 25% of organizations believe psychological safety to be the top factor in employee retention.
  5. The GenZ workforce, which will represent nearly 33% of the workforce by 2025, wants their employers to prioritize psychological safety at work, reports Conference Board.
  6. Employee productivity can jump up to 5x if their mental well-being is taken care of at the workplace, reports Accenture.
  7. Despite all its benefits, McKinsey reports that only 26% of leaders create psychological safety for their teams.
  8. Leaders who were highly rated by their employees (9/10) had an average psychological safety score of 84%. Source: Ecsell Institure, 2022.
  9. 72% of employees reported that when leaders encourage psychological safety, it creates a positive team atmosphere.

What is a psychological safety at work employee survey?

Employees are filing out psychological survey in the workplace
What is a psychological safety at work employee survey?

A psychological safety at work survey is a tool or questionnaire used to assess an organization's psychological safety level. It is designed to gather insights from employees about their perceptions and stages of psychological safety in the workplace environment, specifically in terms of how safe they feel to express themselves, take risks, and share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns without fear of negative consequences.

Typically, such surveys include a series of questions that aim to measure various aspects of psychological safety. These questions may inquire about employees' comfort levels in offering feedback, reporting mistakes, or challenging the status quo.

The responses to these surveys help organizations understand the current state of psychological safety, identify areas for improvement, and take appropriate actions to foster a safer and more inclusive workplace.

Psychological safety surveys aim to create a culture where employees feel valued, respected, and empowered. They can be conducted periodically to track changes over time, and the results can be used to inform training, policies, and leadership practices to enhance and foster psychological safety within the workplace.

19 Psychological safety at work questionnaire to ask in 2023

Creating a comprehensive psychological safety questionnaire is a valuable way to assess the well-being and comfort of employees in your organization. Here are 19 questions that you can include in a psychological safety at work questionnaire for 2023:

General psychological safety

  1. Do you feel comfortable sharing your ideas and opinions with your colleagues and superiors without fear of negative consequences?
  2. Have you witnessed or experienced any form of bullying or harassment in the workplace in the past year?
  3. Do you believe your manager actively listens to your concerns and feedback?

Leadership and management

  1. Do you believe your immediate supervisor fosters an environment where you can express your thoughts and ideas openly?
  2. Have you received constructive feedback and recognition from your manager in the past six months?
  3. Are you encouraged to take risks in your role to drive innovation and improvements?

Inclusivity and diversity

  1. Do you feel that diversity and inclusion are valued within your organization?
  2. Have you witnessed or experienced any form of discrimination or bias based on race, gender, or other characteristics?
  3. Do you think the company promotes opportunities for individuals from different backgrounds to succeed?

Team dynamics

  1. Do you trust your team members to support you when you need it?
  2. Have you experienced any conflicts within your team, and if so, do you believe they were resolved effectively?
  3. Do you feel your team actively seeks different perspectives and opinions when making decisions?

Feedback and improvement

  1. Have you been encouraged to provide feedback on your work processes or the overall organization in the past six months?
  2. Do you believe that your feedback leads to positive changes within the organization?
  3. Have you seen improvements in the workplace or company based on your feedback or the feedback of your colleagues?

Stress and well-being

  1. Do you feel comfortable discussing personal challenges or stress with your manager or HR?
  2. Are you aware of the mental health resources and support available to you in the workplace?
  3. Have you felt overwhelmed or stressed at work, and if so, do you believe it was acknowledged and addressed by the organization?

Future growth and development

  1. Do you see opportunities for your personal and professional growth within the organization, and do you feel supported in pursuing them?

10 Strategies to create a better workplace that is psychologically safe for employees

Employee is feeling confused and stressed in the workplace
10 Strategies to create a better workplace that is psychologically safe for employees

By implementing these strategies with dedication and consistency, you create an environment where employees feel psychologically safe and are motivated to perform at their best and contribute their unique perspectives and talents to the organization's success.

  1. Lead by example: As a leader, it's crucial to model the behaviors you want to see in your employees. When you openly communicate, show vulnerability by acknowledging your mistakes, and empathize with your team members, it sets the standard for others to do the same.
  2. Encourage open communication: Establish feedback mechanisms, like suggestion boxes, regular team meetings, and anonymous reporting channels, to make it easy for employees to voice their thoughts and raise concerns. Encourage regular dialogue between managers and their teams.
  3. Provide training: Offer training programs on active listening, emotional intelligence, and conflict resolution. These programs enhance communication and empathy skills, helping employees navigate difficult conversations and build stronger relationships.
  4. Celebrate diversity: Recognize and appreciate diversity, not only in terms of race and gender but also in thoughts, backgrounds, and experiences. Encourage different perspectives and ensure that everyone feels valued and included.
  5. Promote risk-taking: Embrace a culture encouraging calculated risk-taking and innovation. Make it clear that making mistakes is not a career-ender but a valuable learning experience. Encourage employees to step out of their comfort zones.
  6. Zero tolerance for bullying and harassment: Enforce strict anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies in the workplace. Ensure that complaints are taken seriously, investigated promptly, and resolved fairly, without fear of retaliation.
  7. Mental health support: Provide resources for mental health, stress management, and work-life balance. Encourage employees to seek help when needed and make sure there's no stigma around discussing mental health challenges.
  8. Regular check-ins: Conduct one-on-one check-ins with employees to discuss their goals, concerns, and overall well-being. These personal interactions help build trust and strengthen the manager-employee relationship.
  9. Recognition and feedback: Regularly acknowledge and reward employees for their contributions. Constructive feedback is essential for growth and development. By offering feedback, you show that you care about their progress and are committed to their success.
  10. Continuous improvement: Periodically assess the workplace environment through surveys, focus groups, or other feedback mechanisms. Use the collected data to make necessary changes and improvements, ensuring that the organization evolves with the needs and expectations of its employees.


Fostering a psychologically safe workplace isn't just a nice-to-have; it's an imperative for thriving in the modern professional landscape.

The magic ingredient transforms a group of individuals into a cohesive, innovative, and high-performing team. By embracing open communication, empathy, diversity, and a culture of continuous improvement, organizations can create an environment where every employee feels valued, heard, and secure in their contributions.

The result? Higher engagement, increased innovation, and a harmonious, psychologically safe work environment that paves the way for both individual and organizational success.

So, in the journey of building a psychologically safe workplace, remember: it's not just about achieving better results; it's about nurturing the well-being and potential of your most valuable asset—your people.


1) How can I measure psychological safety in my workplace?

To measure psychological safety in your workplace, consider conducting surveys that include questions about open communication, trust, and inclusivity. Analyzing feedback, team dynamics, and conflict resolution can also provide insights into your organization's psychological safety level.

2) Can psychological safety be maintained in remote work environments?

Yes, psychological safety is vital in remote work settings. Regular video meetings, open communication channels, and empathy training for managers help maintain psychological safety by ensuring remote employees feel connected, heard, and valued.

3) What's the role of HR in promoting psychological safety?

HR plays a crucial role in creating and sustaining psychological safety by enforcing policies against harassment, offering mental health support, and facilitating diversity and inclusion programs. They also serve as mediators in resolving conflicts and promoting open communication.

4) How can psychological safety contribute to innovation in the workplace?

A psychologically safe work environment encourages employees to share innovative ideas and take calculated risks without fear of criticism. When people feel safe to express themselves, it fosters a culture of experimentation and creativity, driving innovation.

5) How can leaders improve psychological safety in their organizations?

Leaders can start by actively listening to employees, embracing diversity, modeling open communication, and implementing training programs that enhance emotional intelligence and conflict resolution skills. Additionally, they should enforce anti-harassment policies and continuously seek feedback to make improvements.



Santhosh is a Jr. Product Marketer with 2+ years of experience. He loves to travel solo (though he doesn’t label them as vacations, they are) to explore, meet people, and learn new stories.