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What is Psychological Safety and Why Is It Important?

Have you ever worked on a team where team members:

· Concealed their mistakes and weaknesses?

· Didn’t ask for help or feedback?

· Didn’t offer to help outside of their area of responsibility?

· Jumped to conclusions about the intentions of others?

· Held grudges?

It is likely that your team didn’t have much psychological safety. This is s a term that we hear a lot lately but what does it really mean? Psychological Safety is a shared belief amongst team members that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. Said another way, it means that people can bring their full selves to work, speak out, and challenge the status quo without fear of retaliation.


Why is it important?

Google Project Aristotle, a study of what made a high-performing teams at Google, found that psychological safety was THE most important trait. In teams with high psychological safety, members feel that it’s okay to make mistakes and be imperfect - and this leads to deeper, more cooperative relationships and elevated teamwork.


Here are some additional reasons why it’s so important:

· Reduces stress and mitigates burnout

· Increases risk-taking and innovation

· Serves as an engine for performance

· Promotes equitable workplaces where everyone is valued

· Increases retention


What happens if you don’t have it?

A lack of consistent psychological safety at work is not just a “nice to have;” it impacts the organization’s bottom line. Without it, the following negative consequences are likely:

· Projects/initiatives will not be done well or completed at all

· Innovation will suffer

· Stress, burnout and turnover will likely result


Yet, according to Gallup, only 30% of employees strongly agree that their opinions count at work so this seems to be an opportunity for many teams and organizations.


3 Levels of Psychological Safety

A psychologically safe workplace begins with a feeling of belonging. Like Maslow’s hierarchy of basic needs, employees must feel accepted before they’re able to contribute fully in ways that improve their organizations.


According to author, Gustavo Razzetti, psychological safety emerges through 3 levels:

  • Level 1 – Welcome I feel welcomed by my team It’s easy to ask my colleagues for help It’s okay to talk about health issues and burnout We know one another personally, not just professionally

  • Level 2 – Courageous Conversations My unique skills and talents are valued and utilized I’m not afraid to ask questions and share my thoughts We can bring up problems and tough issues My team encourages me to disagree or think differently

  • Level 3 – Innovation Questions are always welcome on the team It’s okay to challenge the status quo We openly share and learn from our mistakes I feel safe to take risks in this team and environment

Tune in to next week's blog to learn how you can foster more psychological safety on your team!

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