What is Psychological Safety?

It's a culture of rewarded vulnerability.

People can be their best selves at work when they feel safe to be their full selves. But being our full selves at work is stressful! That’s because it’s vulnerable. Too often employees are punished for things like making a mistake, challenging the status quo, or offering feedback. These are the catalysts for innovation. They should be rewarded, not punished.

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The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety™

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety™ is a universal pattern that reflects the natural progression of human needs in social settings. These needs exist across demographics, psychographics, nations, and cultures.

Teams progress through these stages as they intentionally create cultures of rewarded vulnerability:

  1. Inclusion Safety
  2. Learner Safety
  3. Contributor Safety
  4. Challenger Safety
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Select a Stage
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Inclusion Safety

Can I be my authentic self?

Inclusion safety satisfies the basic human need to connect and belong. In this stage worth precedes worthiness. All you have to do to qualify for inclusion safety is be human and harmless.

When you have it:

  • You can bring your whole, authentic self to work
  • You know your team, they know you
When you don't:
  • Superiority & hierarchy dominate
  • Barriers are maintained & reinforced
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Learner Safety

Can I grow?

Learner safety satisfies the basic human need to learn and grow. In this stage, fear is detached from mistakes, and mistakes are rewarded as part of the learning process. To qualify for learner safety you must engage in the learning process.

When you have it:

  • Learning is encouraged & celebrated
  • Learners are protected
When you don't:
  • Mistakes are punished & hidden
  • You execute more than you innovate
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Contributor Safety

Can I create value?

Contributor safety satisfies the basic human need to make a difference and offer meaningful contributions. When we create contributor safety for others, we empower them with autonomy, guidance, and encouragement in exchange for effort and results.

When you have it:

  • Your team thrives under outcome accountability
  • Roles are clear & small wins are celebrated
When you don't:
  • Autonomy is given with little to no guidance
  • Team members feel like benchwarmers
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Challenger Safety

Can I be candid about change?

Challenger safety satisfies the basic human need to make things better. When we create challenger safety, we give air cover (protection) in exchange for candor.

When you have it:

  • You can speak up when there is an opportunity to improve
  • People disagree productively
When you don't:
  • Teams fall silent
  • Challengers are punished for their bravery & candor

Taking psychological safety from theory to practice.

This book is the first practical, hands-on guide that shows leaders how to build a culture of psychological safety in their organizations and create an environment where employees can be vulnerable. With reflection questions and key concept reviews, you’ll learn how to help your teams feel included, fully engaged, and encouraged to contribute their best efforts and ideas.

Read the Book
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Why does psychological safety matter?

Psychological Safety:

Where Great Culture Starts

When we say that great culture starts with psychological safety, we’re not talking about perks and parties. We’re talking about:

An organization with no hidden problems or pockets of toxicity.

Teams that are high-performing, inclusive, and innovative.

Applications pouring in while top talent never wants to leave.

Employees exceed expectations and improve without coaxing.

A place where high levels of accountability drive success.

A place where everyone has a voice, and everyone is listened to.

As the foundation of culture, psychological safety is what makes this happen. No other cultural initiative or employee development program can succeed without first creating psychological safety. Research has shown it’s the #1 variable in team performance, the key ingredient for creating inclusive environments, and the heart of high-performing, innovative teams.

120+ Behaviors to Help You Put Psychological Safety Into Practice

If psychological safety is the #1 variable in team performance then how do you improve it? Where do you start? What are the key actions you can take to increase the level of psychological safety in your environment? This guide has 120+ behaviors you can use to have a higher level of psychological safety. It is the companion to The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety™ book.

Download it Today
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3 Steps to Put Psychological Safety Into Action

We’ve done a lot of talking, but we’re committed to providing actionable solutions, not just definitions.

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1. Learn

Catch the vision & adopt shared terminology

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2. Measure

Discover areas of high and low psychological safety.

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3. Improve

Launch data-driven cultural change.

Free Psychological Safety Resources

Search the most comprehensive library of psychological safety content available anywhere.