Creating psychological safety at work means creating environments where people feel comfortable speaking up and expressing concerns, including the ideas of those in authority and power.

By encouraging honesty and openness, innovative ideas are sparked, the team effectively implements these ideas, and all members feel valued and included in the process.

Is it safe to speak up with ideas, questions, concerns, and mistakes in your organisation?

For example, during a team meeting, someone shares a new idea to streamline a project process. Instead of being met with criticism or dismissal, their idea is listened to with interest. The team engages in constructive discussion, weighing the pros and cons together. It’s about feeling confident, knowing their voice is heard and valued in the workplace. Even if the idea is ultimately not adopted, the employee feels valued for their contribution and is encouraged to continue sharing their thoughts and insights.

It’s important to understand that creating psychological safety at work isn’t a simple checklist or a matter of checking off a few tasks. It’s a gradual process that requires patience and consistent effort. Moreover, it’s not merely about being nice; it’s about embracing honesty and openness. And it’s not about sidestepping conflicts; it’s about acknowledging and respecting the diverse perspectives that exist within the team.

In this blog we will explore:

  • What is the definition of psychological safety?
  • What does the research say about the correlation between psychological safety at work and employee wellbeing?
  • What are the benefits of creating psychological safety at work?
  • How to create psychological safety at work?
  • How long does it take to build psychological safety at work?

What is the definition of psychological safety?

“The belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes, and that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking” Amy Edmondson,1999

The definition of psychological safety is the foundation for high-performing teams and psychosocially healthy organisations based on agency, security, connection, meaning and trust. 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.

Research from Dr Amy Edmonson investigated the correlation between errors and teamwork in hospitals, anticipating that more proficient teams would make fewer mistakes. However, her findings revealed that teams reporting better teamwork encountered more errors. Upon analysing the data, she hypothesised that these teams might be more inclined to report errors due to feeling safe, prompting further research.

The essence of team psychological safety lies in the group. Safety and the willingness to speak up are not individual attributes, despite being felt and experienced individually; rather, they emerge as behaviours of the group. In turn this affects team performance and therefore organisational performance.

It is important to note that It’s not about being nice; it’s about embracing candour. It’s not about avoiding conflict; it’s about recognising that diverse viewpoints exist. Through open communication, collaboration and peer support, organisations can reach better solutions together.

What does the research say about the correlation between psychological safety at work and employee wellbeing?

Research studies, including Google’s Project Aristotle and studies by Amy Edmondson from Harvard Business School, consistently highlights the positive link between psychological safety and employee wellbeing. Teams with more successful outcomes actually made more mistakes than those with fewer successes. However, further investigation revealed that successful teams were more transparent about their mistakes, while less successful ones tended to conceal theirs.

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Report and meta-analyses in the Journal of Applied Psychology corroborate these findings, showing that employees who feel psychologically safe in their workplaces experience lower levels of stress, higher engagement, and increased job satisfaction.

This evidence underscores the importance of fostering psychological safety to promote employee wellbeing and overall organisational success.

psychological safety at work stats

What are the benefits of creating psychological safety at work?

Dr Sian Edwards, Head of Training and Delivery, explains:

“Leaders who prioritise compassion and build trust by being transparent, honest, and empathetic, create environments where employees feel psychologically safe. When people feel safe in their environment, it develops confidence in their value to the organisation, enhances job satisfaction, fosters positive emotions, encourages compassion toward their colleagues, promotes a sense of belonging and nurtures an atmosphere of collaboration, respect and harmony”.

This inclusivity often leads to a broader range of viewpoints being considered. It cultivates a culture of ongoing learning and growth, as team members feel secure in sharing their mistakes and using them as opportunities for improvement.

Dr Kiran Sidhu, Clinical Psychologist, explains:

“A psychological safety net in the workplace is crucial for creating a ‘safe container’ for the team by finding out what the team need to feel safe and transparent in conversations which in turn helps employees to be vulnerable, implement boundaries and take risks in front of each other. It’s about being able to have uncomfortable conversations without feeling judged or interrupted”

How to create psychological safety at work

Creating psychological safety at work takes time. It involves nurturing an environment where employees feel comfortable taking interpersonal risks, such as voicing opinions, proposing ideas, and acknowledging errors, without worrying about adverse outcomes. Having open conversations with your team helps you to understand where you are at. The first initial discussion with your team helps them identify not only their challenges, but yours as well.

Here are some strategies to help achieve this:

Make it clear that every voice is important: When people withhold their ideas, it can suggest a lack of feeling safe to speak up. To counter this, ensure clear communication of expectations, outlining what you value hearing from your employees and why their input is valuable, regardless of hierarchy.

Lead by example: Managers and leaders can demonstrate vulnerability by openly admitting their mistakes and discussing what they learned from them, encouraging a culture of open communication and constructive feedback. The most effective way is by sharing personal challenges and vulnerabilities and living your values.

Encourage open communication: Don’t assume that people will naturally share their thoughts or realise that their input is valued. Establish regular opportunities for employees to express their thoughts, ideas, and concerns, whether in team meetings or one-on-one sessions. This proactive approach encourages open communication and ensures that everyone has a voice in shaping the workplace environment.

Listen actively and respond productively: Just stating that input is welcome or mistakes are accepted isn’t enough; employees won’t feel inclined to speak up if they fear blame or dismissal. Actively listen to employees’ concerns and ideas without judgment, responding with empathy and understanding instead. The key is to create an environment where employees feel safe to share their thoughts and contribute to discussions.

creating psychological safety at work

How long does it take to build psychological safety at work?

Building trust takes time, and even within a workplace with a healthy culture of psychological safety, it’s essential to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach and that navigating new ways of working can always pose challenges.

By default, people can hesitate to share their thoughts at work, fearing potential negative reactions. When they do take the risk of speaking up but face criticism, it discourages them and others from doing so in the future.

At Platfform we have recognised a learning culture with these conversations as ongoing processes, and that group dynamics evolve over time. While mistakes may happen, it’s better to experiment and test boundaries than to assume certain topics are off-limits. Approach this as a continuous learning and problem-solving effort, rather than expecting immediate success. Maintaining this perspective fosters true psychological safety, enabling productive conversations even in challenging environments. Ewan Hilton, CEO of Platfform explains more in our compassionate leadership webinar.


We help workplaces develop a compassionate approach and mentally healthy environments where staff feel supported. We know that each workplace is different and has its own ways of working and a unique culture.

That’s why our workplace wellbeing offer is tailored specifically to you, based on the needs of your teams and employees. It’s all based on a collaborative process of getting to understand your organisation.  Get in touch for more information.


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