Psychological safety

Pamela Giambona, Ph.D August 15, 2022

As individuals, we strive for success and excellence. We strive for success in our relationships, both at home and at work. Psychological safety can help us achieve that excellence. But what does the buzzword “psychological safety” mean?

What is psychological safety?

According to Dr. Amy Edmonson’s innovative research in the field of business, psychological safety is the degree to which people feel comfortable taking interpersonal risks. These interpersonal risks can include asking for help, sharing ideas, and admitting mistakes. Most importantly, psychological safety is feeling comfortable doing all of these things without fear of criticism or humiliation. A psychologically safe environment is one in which you can show your authentic self. A psychologically safe environment isn’t one in which everything is perfect, but it’s an environment in which there’s an understanding that your voice is valuable. Dr. Edmonson’s research further suggests that psychological safety fosters high performance. But how can we foster psychological safety to promote success? 

How can we promote psychological safety?

Dr. Edmondson’s book The Fearless Organization discusses three ways to begin fostering psychological safety. 

  1. Setting the Stage

When striving for excellence, we always should begin by setting the stage. This means being clear and transparent, both in stating our goals and our potential challenges in meeting them. Oftentimes, these are things already known — but by clearly stating them, this will remove any confusion and aid mutual accountability.

  1. Inviting Voice

To further promote excellence, it is important to invite the voice of all members of your team. This means reminding people that their voice matters, is valued, and needed. You can do this by asking others what’s on their mind or if they have any questions or concerns. By inviting their voice, you make it more difficult to stay silent — and, in turn, foster an environment in which members feel more comfortable openly sharing and contributing. 

  1. Responding Productively

Lastly, in order to promote excellence in a psychologically safe environment, you want to respond productively. How you respond to both good and unwelcome news matters. Productive responses include expressing appreciation for people’s work, destigmatizing failure, and always looking forward.

If success is the end goal, psychological safety is the strategy it takes to get there. 

Edmondson, A. C. (2018). The fearless organization: Creating psychological safety in the workplace for learning, innovation, and growth. John Wiley & Sons.

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