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The Importance of Psychological Safety


There are many reasons why it is important for employees to feel comfortable being themselves in the workplace.

Stifling workers who may fear a negative response if they speak up, offer ideas or report problems causes problems for both individuals and organisation.

Ideas and concerns will not be communicated. Collaboration will dwindle. Progress in the organisation may stall.

Workers need to feel supported in taking a risk to put forward to new viewpoint or to raise a concern. Not providing the right environment for this can put employees under undue stress. It can affect productivity, attendance and employee turnover within a business.


A Culture of Fear

As a senior leader, how can you improve psychological safety for your teams?

Do you need better psychological safety yourself? An important consideration for stress awareness.

If people don’t feel confident enough to speak out if a particular initiative or process isn’t working, this can have big repercussions in the working environment.

The Chernobyl disaster is a perfect example of a lack of psychological safety in the workplace.

Workers were afraid to raise concerns to management because they were working in a culture of fear. This led to a nuclear disaster of unimaginable scale.

This is an extreme example but it illustrates the importance of the right working environment.


How to Develop a Culture of Support

So, what might you think about if you want to focus on psychological safety in your teams? Here are a few ideas:

• Creating a culture where employees can communicate if something in the workplace is causing them undue stress.

• Supporting and including employees to feel confident in speaking up.

• Encouraging employees to be confident in using their initiative and challenging the status quo.

• Treating employees consistently can improve confidence amongst a team. If an employee is unsure how a manager will react to a query, they are less likely to speak up.

• Ensure team members are not treated differently for having different viewpoints.

• Inspire trust and approachability, with an “open door” policy.

• Avoid micromanagement.

• Accept that mistakes can happen, encourage the learning experience.

• Give employees the space to grow, thrive and perform through meaningful conversations and honest feedback.

Depending on our experience, outlook, style and circumstances, some of these desirable elements of culture may feel more difficult for us to put in place than others. We may also find ourselves on the receiving end of them.


Psychological Safety for Leaders

For example, I recently worked with a senior leader who struggled to remain open-minded and curious when team members challenged the established ways of working.

Another of my clients didn’t feel psychologically safe at work themselves and as a result found it difficult to maintain their equilibrium.

In both cases, coaching helped them to understand their reactions and where they were coming from – and from this greater self-awareness came new insights and change.

If you found this article helpful and want to know more about how coaching can support psychological safety for you or your teams then do get in touch.

You can send a DM on LinkedIn or email me: suzanne@theinnerpotential.com



Get in touch

Contact Suzanne Pullen +44(0)7483 235068 if you wish to discuss this post or any of the services The Inner Potential has to offer