A graphic for the definition of Psychological Safety

What is Psychological Safety?

Psychological Safety is a concept introduced by Professor Amy Edmondson in a Harvard Business School journal article, where she refers to it “as a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up”. A team that trusts and respects each other, works in collaboration, takes risks, and feels secure enough that if they fail, they won’t judge each other could be considered Psychologically Safe. This ability for a team to experiment and problem-solve together is associated with enhanced innovation, creativity and performance. Creating Psychological Safety is also related to Inclusive Leadership as there is a focus on enabling others through leadership behaviours such as trust, empathy, curiosity, enquiry and vulnerability.

Google undertook an extensive research study called Project Aristotle in 2012. After studying 180 teams, they established that teams that benefit from being psychologically safe are more likely to; retain their people, benefit from diversity, bring in more revenue, and be rated twice as effective by executives.

Amy Edmondson, in her TEDx talk, suggests “3 simple things individuals can do to support Psychological Safety in a team:

  1. Frame the work as a learning problem, not an execution problem.
  2. Acknowledge your own fallibility.
  3. Model curiosity and ask lots of questions.”

There is now a considerable and growing body of research on how a culture of Psychological Safety correlates to an organisation or team’s performance. Most now understand it is essential for fostering inclusion and harnessing the benefits of diversity. For those leaders who want to create this environment, there is an increasing understanding that it may be beneficial to gain insight into their emotional drivers and how to manage them. 

Related Concepts

Inclusive Leadership

Related Reading

To find out more about Psychological Safety, we recommend reading ECC’s summary of ‘Women in the Workplace’ to find out what other factors contribute to a Psychologically Safe work environment. 

Related Resources 

Visit ECC’s explainer on ‘Unlocking Your Leadership Potential’ as well as watching Amy Edmondson’s Ted X Talk to further expand your understanding of Psychological Safety.

Click here to learn more about Women’s Development Programmes: 6 Lessons from Designing Women’s Development Programmes

Click here to learn more about Inclusive Leadership: Intro to Developing Inclusive Leaders