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6 Ways to Create a Psychologically Safe Workplace

Psychological safety is the belief that you won’t be punished for making a mistake—which inspires positive emotions like trust, creativity, curiosity, and confidence.

Employees who feel psychologically safe are more likely to offer new ideas, ask questions, and admit mistakes because they’re confident that their colleagues will not punish or embarrass them. Many companies emphasize the significance of psychological safety, along with workplace culture and employee experience, to establish effective ways of working together.

Since it may seem ambiguous and overwhelming, psychological safety can be challenging to tackle in the workplace. Still, leaders must strategize ways to strengthen their approach and make it beneficial for everyone at the organization. 

Here are six ways you can develop psychological safety in the workplace:

Break the Golden Rule

To establish psychological safety, companies must implement the opposite of the Golden Rule (treating others how you’d want to be treated). By asking coworkers what they (not you) prefer when it comes to communication style and feedback, employees can treat one another the way each individual wants to be treated. In order to manage a team effectively, leaders should also operate with each employees’ preferences in mind.

Encourage Creativity & Curiosity

Companies should build a culture that actively embraces creativity and curiosity. Nurturing this kind of workplace can make employees think outside the box and feel more agile, present, and adaptive. By promoting an environment of inquiry and innovation, employees will be more likely to ask questions, share ideas, and communicate better with one another.

Support Healthy Disagreement

Psychological safety relies on the proper management of interpersonal risks. Since conflict management can be incredibly risky, corporations should aim to create safe spaces to encourage healthy discord when issues arise. 

Help your employees learn to ask questions in a specific way, which can cultivate respect and mutual support amongst your team. Be sure to focus on developing empathy within your organizational culture, and allow this to guide any difficult conversations.

Empower Employees to Give Feedback

Restricting employee behavior and communication can be detrimental to psychological safety. While there are limits to internal communication, it’s possible to overcome them by establishing thoughtful alternatives, such as leadership encouragement around conversation and implementing multiple channels of feedback. 

To promote a culture of learning and success, upward communication is necessary for employees of all levels to provide feedback on day-to-day operations. Managers can ask for feedback in one-on-one meetings, team settings, or surveys. This challenges the norms, identifies opportunities or problem scenarios, and offers ideas for improvement.

Earn & Give Trust

Maintaining a workplace that promotes mutual respect is essential to psychological safety. Employees will not have a sense of security if there is a lack of faith in company leaders and their decisions.  

Embodying your company’s values, openly discussing situations with employees, and creating a circle of safety are effective ways to develop trust. It’s also critical for leaders to set the example of acceptance and inclusivity at the workplace. This may include using inclusive language and behavior within the organization and recognizing employees who model that behavior. 

Employees who trust their company leaders and feel emotionally secure are more innovative, productive, and engaged. Since they feel protected in the workplace, these employees can focus their time and energy on collaboration, improving communication, and maximizing their capabilities.

Demonstrate Engagement

If employees think that their managers don’t value their opinions, they will disengage and potentially even leave the company. In order to help employees feel psychologically safe, leaders need to demonstrate engagement and carefully listen to their employees.

To make employees feel even more heard, managers should also give them their undivided attention during meetings. By making eye contact, avoiding looking at their phones, and shutting their laptops, managers can show employees that they genuinely care about what they’re presenting and give them a sense of security.

Developing psychological safety at your company not only keeps employees motivated and engaged, but also helps retain them. Want to learn more about workplace safety? Check out our blog post Key Practices to Keep the Workplace Safe.

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