Psychological safety is a crucial aspect of team dynamics in the workplace. It refers to a shared belief among team members that the team is a safe space for taking interpersonal risks. 

This concept was introduced by Amy Edmondson, a recognised pioneer in the field. As a specialist in organisational behaviour at Harvard University, she defined psychological safety as follows:

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(Psychological safety is) a 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

Psychological safety is essential because it fosters an environment where individuals feel safe psychologically. It promotes openness, collaboration, and a sense of permission for open communication. 

Yet, one must note that psychological safety is not about avoiding conflict or seeking comfort; instead, it is a means to achieve excellence and a commitment to high-quality work.

what is psychological safety?

Psychological safety refers to people's perception or belief of the protection of taking interpersonal risks, such as speaking up, expressing their opinions or ideas, and admitting mistakes or uncertainties without fear of negative consequences. 

In other words, it is the feeling of being able to be oneself without fear of negative effects such as being judged, rejected, or punished.

Psychological safety is a critical component of healthy group dynamics and workplace culture. When people feel safe and supported in expressing their thoughts and ideas, they are more likely to take risks, be innovative, and collaborate effectively. When individuals feel unsafe, they may be less likely to speak up, leading to a lack of creativity and reduced productivity. 

why is psychological safety important at work? 

Psychological safety is one of the most crucial factors for you to deliver safe and effective care in the workplace.

Psychological safety is having permission to be candid and knowing that your input will be heard. You never know when your observation could be critical to providing safe, high-quality care.

It's important to understand that psychological safety is not about being 'nice.' It doesn't mean holding back on something that might be unpleasant; in fact, it's quite the opposite. It's about fostering open and honest communication. 

Of course, psychological safety doesn't mean there won't be conflicts. Conflicts may arise in a psychologically safe workplace as people have different perspectives. However, the focus is on understanding each other better and finding better solutions together.

Having psychological safety in your workplace only guarantees that some of your ideas will be praised. It's not permission to be complacent, complain, or overshare. Workplaces still expect us to be thoughtful and considerate when sharing work-related content.

It's essential to note that psychological safety is not the ultimate goal itself. The ultimate goal is a commitment to delivering high-quality care. 

So, it's crucial to recognize that you need psychological safety, a sense of urgency, and a commitment to excellence to achieve truly outstanding care. Without either of these, we may find ourselves in what is called the ‘apathy zone.’ 

The apathy zone is when our hearts aren't fully invested. When we don't particularly like our colleagues, we need to give our work the best that we know we can do. 

Finally, when you have both psychological safety and a commitment to excellence, that's the ‘learning zone.’ The high-performing zone where problems are solved day in and day out, especially in the context of healthcare delivery.

what are the differences between psychological danger versus psychological safety?

Psychological danger and psychological safety represent two contrasting states of psychological well-being. Here are the key differences between the two:

psychological danger:

  1. Leads to fear and inhibition: psychological danger leads to fear, anxiety, and behavioural inhibition. People might be reluctant to express themselves, share their thoughts or ideas, make mistakes or ask questions due to the fear of negative consequences.
  2. Makes for a negative environment: psychological danger creates a toxic and unsupportive environment where people might feel unsafe and unsupported and often blame others for failures or mistakes. Trust and collaboration are often compromised.
  3. Can hinder growth: people are less likely to share different views in a psychologically dangerous environment. Individuals may need help to reach their full potential, develop their skills, and contribute to the group or organization.
  4. Leads to the common knowledge effect: In a psychologically dangerous environment, information is spread to sustain the status quo. If no one challenges that knowledge and offers alternative perspectives, effective decision-making and creativity will come to a standstill.

psychological safety:

  1. Leads to understanding: psychological safety is the belief that the workplace or environment feels comfortable taking interpersonal risks. Individuals perceive that they can express themselves, share ideas, ask questions, and make mistakes without fear of negative consequences.
  2. Creates openness and confidence: psychological safety encourages honesty, trust, and active participation. People in psychological safety feel comfortable learning from their mistakes, speaking up, taking risks, and engaging in constructive dialogue.
  3. Makes for a supportive environment: psychological safety fosters a supportive and inclusive environment where trust, respect, and collaboration thrive. It allows individuals to contribute their unique perspectives and experiences.
  4. Facilitates growth: In a psychologically safe environment, people are more likely to learn, grow, and innovate. They can explore new ideas, experiment, and take on challenges without fear of judgement or retribution, leading to better innovation and decision-making. 

Psychological danger hinders well-being and growth, while psychological safety promotes well-being and trust and facilitates personal and professional development.

what are the differences between trust & psychological safety at work?

Psychological safety and trust are two related but distinct concepts. While trust is based on an individual's perception of another person, psychological safety is shaped by group norms and members' beliefs about how they are perceived within the group.

Trust involves holding expectations of others despite uncertainty about their motives and being willing to make oneself vulnerable. It is one of the components of psychological safety.

Building and sustaining psychological safety in a team requires a foundation of trust, as breaching trust can damage psychological safety among team members. 

Therefore, creating a culture of trust and respect within the team is critical to foster psychological safety and encourage open communication.

In summary, psychological safety is defined by the extent to which group members believe that others value their contributions and views and that taking interpersonal risks and speaking up without fear of negative consequences is safe. 

Trust is an essential component of psychological safety and is necessary for building and sustaining it within a team.

 how psychological safety impacts mental health?

Psychological safety not only impacts the overall well-being and performance of individuals within a group or workplace but can also have a significant impact on mental health. 

Below are some ways in which psychological safety can influence your mental health’ team:

  1. Feeling safe to express themself helps them be authentic in communicating your perspective, reducing stress and anxiety levels.
  2. Making mistakes can make you feel uncomfortable or inferior, but knowing that it is safe to share and ask for help provides you with the chance to learn and grow while being supported, reducing feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.
  3. Having emotional support makes you feel like you are not alone and creates an environment for you to also support others, which can have a positive impact on well-being and foster a sense of community.
  4. A workplace environment that values psychological safety can positively affect your quality of life. Spending eight hours of your working day feeling appreciated and valued by peers and/or leaders can boost self-esteem and lead to increased job satisfaction.
  5. Psychological safety can even impact your sleep quality, as good sleep has been shown to heighten rational thinking and lessen emotional/reactive responses. Being in a psychologically safe environment can better manage your stress and elevate your emotional ability to do your job.

If you feel that some of these examples listed above could be elevated at your own workplace, then your first step is to speak up and create an action plan. Think about what's important for you and your workplace. 

Creating an environment that is psychologically safe is important, and there needs to be options and resources available to support you and your colleagues.

creating psychological safety at your workplace

As employees demand better workplace cultures, it’s crucial to understand how building psychological safety is vital in creating a conducive and healthy work environment. 

It is not about trust but encompasses the belief in-group norms and accepting diverse perspectives within a team. Creating a psychologically safe environment impacts mental health by allowing individuals to express themselves, learn from mistakes, receive emotional support, and feel valued and appreciated.  

Moreover, it influences various aspects of well-being, including quality of life, sleep quality, stress management, and emotional resilience. If an individual feels that psychological safety could be improved in their workplace, speaking up and seeking support from superiors or HR is essential. 

Recognizing the significance of psychological safety and taking proactive steps to cultivate it can enhance team performance and job satisfaction. 

To learn more about creating psychological safety in your workplace, speak with a representative at Randstad Canada to start creating a plan today. 

In an era where employees are advocating for better work cultures, understanding the significance of psychological safety is crucial in fostering a supportive and healthy work environment.

Psychological safety extends beyond trust, encompassing the embrace of group norms and acceptance of diverse perspectives within a team.

It plays a pivotal role in mental health by empowering individuals to express themselves, learn from mistakes, receive emotional support, and feel valued.

Furthermore, it influences various aspects of well-being, including quality of life, sleep patterns, stress management, and emotional resilience.

If you feel that psychological safety could be enhanced in your workplace, it is important to speak up and seek support from your managers or human resources department.

Recognizing its importance and taking steps to cultivate it can significantly improve team performance and job satisfaction.

To learn more about fostering psychological safety in your workplace, you can engage with a Randstad Canada representative and begin developing a plan today.

Take proactive measures to cultivate psychological safety and enhance your team's performance, as well as boost employee engagement and satisfaction.

If you're looking to add team members who value psychological safety and promote healthy interactions, don't hesitate to reach out to us!

Our recruiters are skilled in finding candidates who will contribute to your business's growth while prioritizing the psychological safety of your teams.

We can also assist you in recruiting compassionate leaders who can introduce and uphold these positive practices.



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Psychological Safety Tool Kit

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