EnglishAugust 14, 20230

The Importance of Psychological Safety in Teams

Psychological safety is a well-established term that describes the team or organisational climate in which members feel safe to take risks and openly express their ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes without fear of negative consequences or rejection. It refers to the confidence that they can express their thoughts freely in the group without fear of humiliation, exposure or devaluation. Organisational psychologist Amy Edmondson was one of the first to study psychological safety in teams and organisations and has been instrumental in shaping the field.

Psychological safety promotes open communication, improves teamwork and enables members to give and receive constructive feedback. Ultimately, it helps teams work better together and be more innovative.


Why is psychological safety important?

Psychological safety makes team members feel more engaged and motivated because they know their contributions matter and they can speak up without fear of negative consequences. This leads to a wider range of perspectives on which to base decisions on. It fosters a culture of continuous learning and improvement because team members are not afraid to share and learn from their mistakes.

A number of studies have shown that these benefits have an impact on performance, innovation, creativity, resilience and team learning. For example, a project at Google company called Aristotle, aimed to understand the factors that influence team effectiveness. It concluded that who is on a team is less important than how the team works together. The most important factor for good teamwork was psychological safety.

In addition, Google identified four other factors that have a positive impact on team effectiveness:

  • Reliability: Can we count on getting all the quality work done on time?
  • Structure & Clarity: Are our team’s goals, roles and execution plans clearly defined?
  • Importance of the work: Are we working on something that is personally important to each of us?
  • Impact of the work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we do has a meaning?


Removing barriers

Given the many benefits of addressing psychological safety, why is it so difficult for organisations to make it a strategic priority? It seems there are two key factors:

Blind spots

Leaders often fail to see the connections between functional silos in the organisation and therefore miss the opportunities and benefits of collaboration. For example, professionals from different areas (e.g. legal, risk management, research and development, human resources) often focus on making their requests for limited internal resources vertically up the hierarchy. Rather than working together, they compete for support for individual initiatives. As a result, they miss the opportunity to educate managers about the multiple benefits of investing in psychological safety.

It should be the responsibility of senior leaders to look beyond individual cost centres. By identifying opportunities to promote psychological safety in previously separate initiatives, they optimise resources for a multi-dimensional return on investment that gives everyone a voice.


Psychological safety requires different ways of making decisions than many leaders are used to. It requires leadership qualities such as accessibility, humility and empathy.

One of the most valuable actions leaders can take in organisations is to put aside their personal agendas. Many leaders fear critical feedback, because it makes them vulnerable. This is because transparent decision making goes beyond what we like to see. Feedback that contradicts our subjective (positive) perceptions is often difficult to accept, but provides valuable signals for course correction.


Creating psychological safety in organisations

Anyone who has worked in a team characterised by silence and an inability to speak up knows how difficult it is to change. As with building trust, it takes time to build psychological safety – and even longer to restore it when it has been compromised.

Good management practices are an important part of creating a psychologically safe environment. This includes things like setting clear standards and expectations so there is a sense of predictability and fairness; encouraging open communication and actively listening to people; making sure team members feel supported; and showing appreciation and humility when people speak up.

In addition, leaders who want to make psychological safety a strategic priority should prioritise the following work:

  • Analyse your culture.
  • Conduct regular assessments of engagement, integrity and other aspects of culture.
  • Communicate your expectations for ethical decision-making and integrity.
  • Do not tolerate retaliation against ‘dissenters’ and ensure that people always have a safe channel to raise concerns.
  • Win trust by giving trust. Match your actions with your words and be the first to show your own vulnerability.
  • Encourage out-of-the-box thinking.
  • Invest in and personally support DEI initiatives.
  • Build accountability for psychological safety into performance measures.
  • Set targets and provide the necessary external training for your managers so that psychological safety becomes a strategic goal, not just a ‘nice-to-have’.
  • Emphasise leadership skills in emotional and social intelligence in career development and promotions.

In summary

Psychological safety in teams is essential for open communication, better teamwork and innovation. Leaders play a central role by setting clear expectations and inviting active feedback. Overcoming barriers requires collaboration and investment in creating an environment of trust. Psychological safety should be considered a strategic priority, as it not only strengthens organisational resilience, but also increases team effectiveness and creates a highly positive working environment. When employees feel safe to share ideas and raise concerns, it creates a culture of openness and learning that can lead to sustainable growth and success in the long term. Organisations should therefore make a concerted effort to promote and nurture psychological safety in order to unleash the full potential of their teams and drive innovative solutions.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *