Signs of When It Is Present or Not at Work and Strategies to Promote It -  by LeadMe Academy

“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.” - Bessel van der Kolk

Psychological safety is the belief that you can speak up and feel safe sharing your ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes and won't be punished or humiliated for them. It is a combination of emotional intelligence, communication skills and mindset, and not something an organisation can ‘have’ - but rather what is made visible by the behaviour of team leaders and members.

PSYCHOLOGICAL DANGER SIGNS When psychological safety is not present in a team/organisation:

  • Culture of blaming others for mistakes
  • Fearful of taking ownership for ideas
  • Cliques and groups form within teams
  • Reactive and inflammatory questions
  • Contributions and ideas are withheld
  • Leadership mindset of authority over others vs authority with others
  • Changing how one shows up out of fear of not being socially accepted
  • Feeling like there are two jobs - 1 to manage emotions due to the environment and 2 is the actual job itself
  • Checking out emotionally & not caring
  • Lack of trust
  • Group dynamics affect decision making


PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY SIGNS When psychological safety is present in a team/organisation:

  • Mistakes are a learning opportunity
  • Taking ownership
  • Active listening and encouraging
  • Giving and receiving feedback happens frequently and candidly
  • Leaders communicate their own mistakes and show vulnerability
  • Comfortable being oneself in a non-judgemental atmosphere
  • Working as a team towards the greater purpose and goals
  • Safe to challenge ideas, status quo, opinions and ideas
  • Trust is high
  • Better innovation and decision making


Vulnerability, Trust and Feedback

Fundamentally, experiencing psychological safety at work means you feel comfortable making yourself vulnerable in front of the people you see every day and risk emotional exposure and social pain. Hence why vulnerability, for most of us, is absolutely terrifying. Leaders often think being vulnerable exposes weaknesses, but really this displays humanness - which is what builds trust.

A candid feedback culture (Radical Candour) goes hand-in-hand with psychological safety. People need to feel safe in order to speak openly and honestly and actively learn from each other. We all want to learn and grow from feedback rather than feel like we are being reprimanded for making a mistake.  Radical Candour focuses on guidance and feedback that’s kind and clear, specific and sincere. It's about showing you care personally while also challenging directly.

As a leader, what can you do? 8 Behaviours to Promote a Psychologically Safe Culture at Work

  1. Self-awareness - Before I can understand others, I need to understand myself.
  2. Authority - I create an environment where people feel their needs will be met.
  3. Emotional management - I manage my own stress and emotions.
  4. Motivation - I cultivate opportunities for continuous learning and growth.
  5. Certainty - I continuously communicate our vision in an uncertain world.
  6. Preventing/solving problems - We have conversations in our team to identify the roots of problems.
  7. Autonomy - I educate and empower others to decide how they do their work.
  8. Developing people - I have a coaching plan for my team members.

LeadMe empowers and trains your managers with the skills and tools to create psychological safety in your company. The weekly lessons and exercises are practical and easy to implement immediately.

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