The Importance of Psychological Safety & Associated Behaviours
- Psychological safety contributes to an inclusive and diverse workplace
- A high-performing team values psychological safety as much as they do physical security
- Providing psychological safety is a team effort. Team members must take responsibility for improving the working environment for one another
- Adopting an employee assistance program can help handle problems related to mental well-being
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a varied impact on humanity. The weight of these unprecedented times was heavy and has dramatically influenced our mental health, whether transitioning to a new work-life situation, losing a job, or losing a loved one.
Forced to take on these stressors while still having to work, many employees are experiencing unexpected difficulties with their mental health and need support while at their jobs.
The Covid-19 environment has created unprecedented economic and business challenges.
According to “The Future of Sales in 2025: A Gartner Trend Insight Report,” B2B buying behaviour has grown even more unpredictable with COVID-19 and market volatility. The report quotes, “One client told us their quarterly deal pipeline shrank to nearly zero when their prospects suspended all nonessential expenditures.
Others report that without in-person meetings, their sellers don’t achieve the level of engagement required to validate their pipeline predictions.” (The Future of Sales in 2025: A Gartner Trend Insight Report, 2020).
This has also placed business owners, leaders, and employees under more pressure and stress than many have experienced before.
Most employees psychological well-being has taken a hit, leading to decreased enthusiasm and productivity.
Distributed, remote, and virtual teams have fewer opportunities for spontaneous, casual conversation; team members have more difficulty picking up non-verbal cues in conversation, and people are more likely to feel alone, anxious, unsure of what to do, and may even experience self-doubt or imposter syndrome.
The resulting consequence: an undercurrent of emotional disturbance characterised by rising levels of anxiety, depression, fear, and stress.
In this scenario, sales and customer success leaders who understand the importance of psychological safety and the associated behaviours are more likely to adapt and succeed in a post-pandemic environment.
According to Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, “Psychological safety is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.”
Research has proven that higher psychological safety in teams drives higher performance, innovation, and productivity.
Psychological safety can be developed through small experiments based on a Neurosciences framework of SCARF – Significance, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness developed by David Rock of Neuroscience of Leadership.
The Importance of Psychological Safety
Safety is a basic human need, and psychological safety is the belief that you can freely express your ideas and thoughts without worrying about being degraded.
Here are the top five reasons why psychological safety is important at work.
1. Inclusive Workplace Culture
A safe workspace welcomes diverse teams, and it is critical to ensure that every team member feels included, especially after the pandemic. This enables team members to thrive regardless of gender, race, colour, or political preferences.
The outcome is a fruitful exchange of ideas and experiences where everyone feels connected and part of a common cause.
Psychological safety is a key ingredient in promoting an inclusive workplace culture.
When employees feel safe to express themselves without the fear of judgement or reprisal, they are more likely to bring their whole selves to work, fostering a more collaborative and creative environment.
Employees who feel included are also more engaged and productive, leading to a positive spiral of increased inclusion and success for the organization.
2. Better Employee Engagement
It is easier for team members to engage when they feel secure at work. This could be during a team meeting where members work on projects, brainstorm, solve problems, and engage with their peers and customers.
Safe teams encourage workers to be completely present rather than dozing off or counting the hours until the day is over.
3. Improved Well-Being
Developing a psychologically safe work culture contributes to overall employee well-being.
When employees are psychologically well, they can work at their best and avoid pressures that prevent them from doing so.
Promoting employee health and wellness at work requires first ensuring their psychological safety. When employees are mentally healthy, it means they can think, feel, and act in ways that help them perform well.
4. Decreased Employee Turnover
Employees who face a high turnover are beginning to understand the importance of psychological safety.
According to The Predictive Index, team members who feel psychologically safe are less likely to quit their jobs. Why will employees leave a company that makes them feel safe and valued?
More and more organizations are embracing this concept because teams are becoming geographically dispersed, and psychological safety is responsible for motivating employees, retaining them, and promoting an inclusive culture.
5. Improved Team Performance
According to studies, psychological safety promotes actions that result in improved team performance, such as taking moderate risks, expressing one’s opinions, being creative, and sticking one’s neck out without the fear of repercussions.
Employees who work in psychologically secure environments view risk positively and know they won’t be considered stupid or inept. By taking moderate risks, teams can thrive and grow while learning new concepts.
The 4 Behaviours That Build Psychological Safety at Work
1. Active Listening
Active listening is a powerful communication tool promoting psychological safety at work.
By actively listening to others, we create an environment where people feel safe expressing themselves and sharing their ideas. This, in turn, can lead to better collaboration, creativity, and productivity.
It also involves entering a conversation with an open mind and a pleasant attitude, and being willing to modify and adapt to the speaker’s line of thought without passing judgement.
2. Leading with Empathy
Leading with empathy shows employees that you care about their well-being and want to create a safe environment for them to work in.
When employees feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to take risks, be creative and productive, and stay with the company. Showing empathy is also one of the best ways to engage with an employee and foster a feeling of belonging.
3. Focusing on Performance
Employees need to feel recognized at work and receive honest feedback on their performance. When we focus on performance, we create an environment where people feel safe to take risks and experiment.
This psychological safety is essential for innovation and creativity.
4. Welcoming New Ideas
Welcoming new ideas at work and promoting psychological safety so that everyone can feel comfortable contributing should be encouraged. It allows organizations to create a positive and productive work environment where everyone can thrive.
It is vital to make psychological safety a priority in organisations. An organisation should be a place for learning and growth.
Psychological safety shouldn’t just be a “nice to have” benefit. It should play a significant role in the culture and future of every business.
The mark of a good company is its team members.
So, if businesses want to build a successful team, psychological safety must be one of the top priorities and ensure the team members feel safe to express themselves.