Psychological safety

“Psychological safety is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.”

Amy Edmonson, Organisational Behavioural scientist, Harvard

If you’ve ever felt secure, safe or content within a team, you might well have been experiencing what is known as psychological safety.

Psychological safety is defined as, ‘being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career’. In other words, psychological safety means team members feel accepted and respected within their current roles.

We want everyone to experience this. Here are some ways you can encourage and cultivate an environment of psychological safety:

  1. Gather people’s opinions on important decisions in writing before you meet to discuss them (for example doing weekly check-ins)
  2. Ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to put forward their ideas before you announce which ideas you support
  3. Always try and experiment using multiple plausible arguments or ideas, rather than settling for one option
  4. Hold group discussions in meetings if there are disagreements rather than keeping things between two or three people
  5. Appreciate when team members take the time and effort to challenge your views
  6. Make a point of ensuring other team members who have less authority on paper have their voice heard – adding a ‘no interruption’ rule can help quieter team members have their say as well

Podcast: Psychological safety in the NHS

Listen to Lynn Marsland talk to Pete Ledwith, Quality Improvement Programme Lead with Aqua and an expert in psychological safety.

Listen to the podcast using the player below. Alternatively, choose the podcast provider of your choice.