Psychological Safety: What it Means and How to Create it
Updated: Mar 18, 2021
When you work to create a talented and driven team, there is more to it than simply finding the right people. A detailed work on team performance implemented by Google indicates that the highest-performing teams operate in a psychologically safe environment. The ability to create psychological safety in the workplace is one of the prominent qualities of a good leader. However, many leaders don’t have a clear understanding of how to achieve this. This article will explore what psychological safety means and how leaders can create it in the workplace, as it is one of those leadership strengths that everyone should have!
What Is Psychological Safety?
Psychological safety refers to “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk‑taking.”  It refers to a work environment where team members are not afraid of taking risks, asking for help, admitting a mistake, or even criticizing a project. A two-year study on team performance implemented by Google indicates that psychological safety is the strongest differentiator of excellent and average or below average teams.  Ensuring that your employees feel safe is one of the major qualities of a good leader. When we feel safe, people become more open-minded, motivated, resilient, creative, confident, and persistent.  Your employees should feel free to make mistakes, share criticism, take risks, and speak up without being afraid of retaliation. Psychological safety is one concept that is notable in an office when it is or is not present.
Why Is It So Important?
Psychological safety is essential in the workplace because it empowers employees to try. If an employee knows that branching out or trying new things might get them in trouble, you can tell. People will be less willing to take on new projects and less willing to speak up and share their ideas. However, when psychological safety is present, a team will thrive, be more open to sharing their thoughts, and be more creative and innovative. This is one of those leadership skills that can change an entire company.
Tips for Creating Psychological Safety:
Be clear and transparent about the behaviors you want from your employees: risk-taking, open feedback, employees sharing their knowledge, and speaking up about things they see and worry about.
Don’t fault mistakes. Do not focus on punishment but consider every mistake as a learning opportunity.
Replace blame with curiosity. Blame and criticism escalate conflict and lead to defensiveness and disengagement. Adopt a curious mindset, engage employees in exploring possibilities, and ask for solutions. 
Proactively invite your employees’ contribution, asking questions like “What have you seen?”, “What concerns do you have?”, “What do you have in mind?”, “What do you think about this?”
Be honest and admit your own mistakes. Discussing your mistakes and failures can create an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable sharing both their own positive and negative experiences.
Be willing to apologize and acknowledge times when you’ve made it difficult for your employees to approach you and share their concerns.
Pay attention to how you respond to your employees’ ideas, criticism, or mistakes. Make sure you reply in a manner that conveys appreciation and well-being for their future success.
There are so many positive benefits of creating a sense of psychological safety. Be open to leading by example and show your team that you want their voices to be heard!
Vera Alves is the Chief Consulting Officer at Leader Essentials Group, with extensive experience in leadership development and business management. With over 12 years of experience as a C-suite executive, Vera is highly skilled in the areas of leadership, strategic planning, operations management, organizational behavior, and change management. She possesses highly developed communication, training, and linguistic skills reflective of a very strong and charismatic leadership style.
_________________________________________________________________________  Duhigg, C. (2016). What Google learned from its quest to build the perfect team. Retrieved from What Google Learned From Its Quest to B... the Perfect Team - The New York Times.pdf (upeace.org) 03/03/2021. Edmondson, A. (1999). Psychological safety and learning behavior in work teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(2), 350-383.  Delizonna, L. (2017). High-performing teams need psychological safety. Here’s how to create it. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It (hbr.org) 03/05/2021.