7 Reasons Why Psychological Safety in the Workplace Matters

Posted by Gemma Glover on Mar 2, 2023 1:38:55 PM
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Most of us have been there at some point during our working life. You’re afraid to speak up or you’re walking on eggshells in case you say the wrong thing. You’re worried that your ideas might be rejected or your concerns ignored. Or perhaps you’ve previously spoken up but found you’ve been punished or humiliated for it. It happens. At its worst, you can be left feeling that you don’t want to go to work or even start to look for employment elsewhere. 

If you’ve ever felt this way, your workplace may be lacking psychological safety.

What is psychological safety?

In a nutshell, a psychologically safe workplace is one where  people feel comfortable getting the answer wrong, speaking up, asking for help and constructively challenging decisions or behaviours, and knowing they’re safe to do so.

This creates an environment where people feel comfortable being themselves, and employees trust and respect each other. It brings many benefits for both employees and leaders, and ultimately leads to a happier workplace and can actually have a positive impact on your organisation’s bottom line. 

Why does psychological safety in the workplace matter?

Psychological safety is a hot topic in the world of L&D right now, and for good reason. It’s not just a ‘nice to have’ in your workplace. Research has proven that high-achieving businesses and organisations have a high level of psychological safety as it goes hand in hand with greater innovation, productivity, motivation and employee retention. It’s win, win for everybody.

So, why does psychological safety in the workplace matter? There are many reasons. Here are just some of them…

1. It encourages creativity and new ideas

People need to feel safe expressing themselves if you want creativity and ideas to flow. No one is going to put their ideas ‘out there’ if they fear being shot down or ridiculed for it.  Imagine how many inspired ideas were never shared because a team member didn't feel safe sharing? 

2. Employees are more engaged

When team members feel safe at work, it’s easier for them to engage with each other, sharing thoughts, ideas and collaborating on projects so you get the best outcome. You’re also more likely to find that they’re happier to be at work, are more ‘present’ and willing to contribute and engage, rather than clock watching until home time comes around.

3. People stay for longer

When you have a psychologically safe workplace, people feel happier, are more engaged and feel comfortable raising genuine concerns about their wellbeing. The end result? People choose to stick around for longer, which means a lower churn rate and reduced costs due to absenteeism and recruitment. Plus, the longer your team have been with your business, the more knowledge and experience they gain.

4. It fosters a more diverse and inclusive workplace culture

Psychologically safe workspaces welcome diverse teams, with people from different backgrounds and with different points of view because they feel included. Psychological safety is essential to ensure everyone gets a say, and an equal opportunity to flourish, regardless of gender, colour, background, race or political preferences. When diversity exists in a psychologically safe environment, it creates a valuable give and take experience where everyone feels connected and part of the team.

5. Better team performance

When you have psychological safety and enjoy all of these benefits, you have all the ingredients for better team performance, faster delivery, higher quality, reduced re-work, safer workplaces, lower recruitment and sickness costs, fewer security issues and faster innovation. Ultimately, the financial performance of your organisation will be improved. 

Whether your organisation is private, public, charity or government, improving psychological safety will have a dramatic effect on organisational performance.

6. Fewer problems and faster recovery 

When people feel able to highlight problems early or talk about potential issues before they crop up, you’re in a far better position to mitigate the impact sooner rather than later.

Plus, mistakes present valuable opportunities to learn. By accepting mistakes, the whole team can learn from it and make changes to processes or systems to prevent it from happening again, or reduce the impact if it does reoccur in the future.

7. A happier workplace and improved employee wellbeing

When people are mentally and emotionally well and safe to speak up in the workplace, naturally they feel happier and perform better. In short, high performing teams aren’t happy because they’re high performing, they’re high performing because they’re happy.

Psychological safety is important not just because it creates  outcomes for your organisation, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Want to learn more about psychological safety?

If you're looking to make your workplace a happier and more productive place to be, take a look at our Psychological Safety eLearning Collection or download our FREE Psychological Safety Starter Kit, containing a range of resources to help you start creating a happier workplace culture! 

Tom Gagen
Gemma Glover

Gemma Glover
Head of People


Topics: Learning & Development