Why Managers and Leaders Should Aim to Create Psychologically Safe Work Environments 

While it may have spiked in popularity recently, psychological safety is a concept that has been researched and reviewed for decades. As Dr. Amy Edmondson identified in her 1999 research on work teams, psychological safety is a concept that “describes perceptions of the consequences of taking interpersonal risks in a particular context such as a workplace.” 

What are the benefits of creating psychologically safe work environments?

MIT professors argued as early as 1965 that psychological safety is what allows people to feel secure and able to change their behaviours when organisational challenges arise. Psychological safety also helps people overcome learning anxiety or defensiveness in the face of new data or beliefs. 

Later researchers have also discovered that its presence “enables personal engagement” and “affects peoples’ willingness to employ or express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally” when performing in various roles at work.

Ultimately, decades of research and analysis has discovered that psychological safety in the workplace is what helps enables people to contribute ideas, information and knowledge, make suggestions for improvements, take initiative, be innovative, and ultimately – to learn and perform as part of that learning.

Given what we know about the concept, it seems intuitive that organisations that prioritise creating psychologically safe teams, workspaces, and environments are thereby allowing or encouraging innovation, creativity and deeper engagement by removing the fears associated with risk-taking and candor.

In fact, Google’s Project Aristotle, an organisational effort to research and understand team effectiveness, identified five critical elements that underpin effectiveness with psychological safety being the most important. Within Google, researchers found that “individuals on teams with higher psychological safety are less likely to leave Google, they’re more likely to harness the power of diverse ideas from their teammates, they bring in more revenue, and they’re rated as effective twice as often by executives.”

But how can managers and leaders create this environment? To start: inclusio can help by gathering the psychological safety metrics at your organisation. After all, without a baseline, it’s difficult to determine the appropriate steps and intervention needed – and nearly impossible to know how effective your initiatives are. inclusio doesn’t stop at psychological safety, either – we offer deep demographic and scientific benchmarks that identifies gaps and tells you where to take targeted action. Part two of this blog series explores further strategies.