Related Resources

Building Psychological Safety: How to Do It

Creating a positive and inclusive work environment is essential to the success of any organization. One of the most critical components of this is psychological safety, which refers to the ability of team members to feel comfortable taking interpersonal risks and expressing themselves without fear of negative consequences. By fostering psychological safety, you can create a culture of inclusion and innovation that empowers your team to work collaboratively and achieve their goals.

What is Psychological Safety?

Psychological safety is defined as "a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking." Essentially, it means that team members feel comfortable expressing themselves and taking risks, even if there is a chance of failure or negative feedback. When employees feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to engage in open and honest communication, collaborate more effectively, and take more risks, which can lead to greater innovation and better outcomes.

The Benefits of Psychological Safety

There are many benefits to creating a psychologically safe work environment. These benefits include:

Improved Team Performance and Productivity 

When team members feel safe to communicate and take risks, they are more likely to work collaboratively and effectively, leading to better performance and productivity.

Increased Innovation and Creativity

Psychological safety encourages risk-taking, which can lead to more innovative and creative ideas. When employees feel safe to express themselves and take risks, they are more likely to share their unique perspectives and come up with novel solutions.

Higher Levels of Employee Engagement and Satisfaction

When team members feel heard, valued, and respected, they are more likely to feel engaged and satisfied with their work. This can lead to greater job satisfaction, retention, and overall happiness.

Lower Levels of Turnover and Absenteeism

When employees feel safe and supported in their work environment, they are less likely to seek employment elsewhere or take time off due to stress or burnout.

Better Mental Health and Well-Being for Team Members

Creating a psychologically safe work environment can improve the mental health and well-being of team members, reducing stress and anxiety and improving overall job satisfaction.

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

Building psychological safety in your team or organization is not a one-time event. It requires continuous effort, investment, and attention to detail. One of the most effective ways to achieve psychological safety is to follow The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, a framework developed by Timothy R. Clark, an expert in leadership development and performance improvement. These four stages describe the journey that individuals and teams must take to build a culture of psychological safety, where team members feel safe to take risks, learn from mistakes, and collaborate effectively.

The first stage is Inclusion Safety, where team members feel valued and respected for who they are, regardless of their backgrounds, experiences, or perspectives. Inclusion safety is a prerequisite for psychological safety because it creates the foundation for building trust and vulnerability.

The second stage is Learner Safety, where team members feel safe to ask questions, admit mistakes, and seek feedback. Learner safety encourages a growth mindset, where team members are open to new ideas, perspectives, and ways of working. Learner safety is critical because it creates an environment of continuous learning and improvement.

The third stage is Contributor Safety, where team members feel safe to contribute their ideas, opinions, and expertise. Contributor safety encourages creativity, innovation, and collaboration, where team members work together to achieve common goals. Contributor safety is essential because it creates a sense of ownership and accountability for the team's success.

The fourth and final stage is Challenger Safety, where team members feel safe to challenge the status quo, take risks, and experiment with new approaches. Challenger safety encourages a culture of innovation, where team members are not afraid to fail and learn from their experiences. Challenger safety is critical because it creates a sense of urgency and innovation, where the team is continuously pushing boundaries and exploring new opportunities.

Each stage of psychological safety builds upon the previous one, creating a positive and inclusive culture where team members feel safe to take risks, learn from their experiences, and collaborate effectively.

Strategies for Building Psychological Safety

Building psychological safety in your team or organization requires a strategic and deliberate approach. Here are some practical strategies that can help you build psychological safety:

Establish Clear Communication Channels

Communication is key to building psychological safety. Ensure that team members have access to the information they need to do their jobs effectively. Encourage open and honest communication, where team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas.

Encourage and Reward Vulnerability

Vulnerability is a key component of psychological safety. Encourage team members to be vulnerable by sharing their challenges, failures, and mistakes. Recognize and reward vulnerability by acknowledging the courage it takes to be vulnerable.

Fostering a Culture of Trust

Trust is the foundation of psychological safety. Create a culture of trust by demonstrating transparency, honesty, and integrity. Encourage team members to trust one another by promoting open and honest communication.

Providing Opportunities for Learning and Growth

Learning is essential to psychological safety. Provide team members with opportunities to learn and grow by offering training, coaching, and mentoring programs.

Modeling Inclusive Behaviors and Attitudes

Inclusion is critical to psychological safety. Model inclusive behaviors and attitudes by valuing diversity, embracing differences, and respecting everyone's contributions.

Addressing and Learning From Mistakes

Mistakes are inevitable, but they can also be a valuable learning opportunity. Encourage team members to learn from their mistakes by acknowledging and addressing them.

Promoting Teamwork and Collaboration

Teamwork and collaboration are essential to psychological safety. Promote teamwork and collaboration by encouraging team members to work together towards a common goal.

Creating a Safe Space for Feedback and Constructive Criticism

Feedback is critical to psychological safety. Creating a safe space for feedback means that people feel safe to offer and receive feedback without it being a threat to their competence or role. They understand that feedback is a necessary part of the innovation process.

Implementing Psychological Safety in Your Organization

Implementing psychological safety in your organization requires a deliberate effort and a commitment to change. Here are the steps to get started:

Educate Yourself and Your Team

Start by learning more about psychological safety, its benefits, and the various strategies to build it. It may be beneficial to create a diversity and inclusion strategic plan. Share this information with your team and encourage them to ask questions and provide feedback.

Start Small

Begin by focusing on creating an environment of inclusion safety. Foster a culture where everyone feels welcome and valued. Encourage team members to share their thoughts and ideas, and make sure everyone has a voice.

Provide Training

Provide your team with the necessary training and resources to help them develop the skills they need to communicate effectively, give feedback constructively, and work collaboratively. This will help to build their confidence and encourage them to take risks.

Encourage Vulnerability

Encourage your team to be open and vulnerable with each other. This can be done by sharing stories, experiences, and perspectives. It will help to build trust and create a sense of psychological safety within the team.

Recognize and Reward

Recognize and reward team members who take risks, ask questions, and provide feedback. This will encourage others to do the same and reinforce the importance of psychological safety.

Monitor Progress

Regularly assess the progress of your team in building psychological safety. Monitor the level of trust, communication, and collaboration among team members. Use this information to make necessary adjustments and improvements.

How to Get Buy-In From Stakeholders as an Early Adopter:

To get buy-in from leadership and team members, it is essential to communicate the importance of psychological safety and its benefits. Here are some tips:

Make the case: Explain to your leadership team the benefits of psychological safety and how it can help curate high-performance teaming and innovation. Use data and research to support your arguments.

Lead by example: As a leader, model the behaviors and attitudes that promote psychological safety. Be vulnerable, transparent, and open to feedback.

Involve team members: Involve your team members in the process of building psychological safety. Encourage them to share their thoughts and ideas and take ownership of the process.

Measuring and Tracking Progress:

Psychological safety is crucial for creating a work environment where employees feel safe to express their opinions, ideas, and concerns without fear of negative consequences. Without psychological safety, employees may feel silenced, leading to a lack of innovation and collaboration. Most organizations use an employee engagement survey to pulse-check their company culture, but those employee engagement survey results rarely account for psychological safety in their assessment. If they do, it’s usually a single line-item.

Let’s face it, your employee culture survey isn’t telling you the whole story about your company culture. Because a lack of psychological safety is the root cause of most culture problems, you should be measuring the levels of psychological safety in your employee culture survey questions and how you can better implement the four stages.

Measuring and tracking progress is critical to building psychological safety. It helps you to identify areas of improvement and adjust your strategies accordingly. Some ways to measure and track progress include:

Surveys: Conduct surveys to assess the level of psychological safety within your team or organization. Use the results to identify areas of strength and weakness.

Feedback: Encourage team members to provide feedback on their experiences with psychological safety. Use this feedback to make necessary adjustments.

Metrics: Establish metrics that reflect the impact of psychological safety on team performance, innovation, engagement, and other key areas. Track these metrics over time to assess progress.


Building psychological safety is essential for creating a culture of inclusion and innovation that empowers your team. When you realize the importance of organizational culture, you can unleash the true potential of your organization. By establishing clear communication channels, encouraging vulnerability, fostering a culture of trust, providing opportunities for learning and growth, modeling inclusive behaviors and attitudes, addressing and learning from mistakes, promoting teamwork and collaboration, creating a safe space for feedback and constructive criticism, recognizing and valuing individual contributions, and making psychological safety an ongoing priority, you can create a workplace where everyone feels safe to be their authentic selves, take risks, learn from mistakes, and collaborate effectively.

Implementing psychological safety requires a deliberate effort, a commitment to change, and the involvement of everyone in the organization. By educating yourself and your team, starting small, providing training, encouraging vulnerability, recognizing and rewarding, and monitoring progress, you can begin building psychological safety today.

More Articles