How to improve psychological safety in your workplace

Sara Holmberg
October 13, 2023
How to improve psychological safety in your workplace

Anyone, anywhere, at any given time, should feel safe in the workplace. This feeling of safety shouldn’t just be physical safety, it needs to extend to psychological safety too. But what do we mean by psychological safety and why is it important?

One of the leading experts in the field, Harvard professor Amy Edmondson, describes psychological safety as: “The belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes, and that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.” 

In essence, psychological safety refers to the belief that one can voice their thoughts, ideas, concerns, and questions without fear of retribution, humiliation, or negative consequences. 

It's a workplace atmosphere where employees feel comfortable being themselves, sharing their opinions, and taking risks without fearing judgement or backlash. In such an environment, team members trust one another and collaborate more effectively, ultimately leading to higher productivity and job satisfaction.

In fact, according to landmark research by Google - called Project Aristotle - found psychological safety to be the number one element for a team to work and be successful.  

Why is psychological safety important?

In teams with high levels of psychological safety, you typically see:

Increased innovation

Because employees feel safe to come up with ideas and share them without fear of recriminations and reprisals, innovation is much greater. Employees are more likely to take risks because they aren’t afraid of failure.

Open communication

Great communication is the foundation for any successful team. When employees feel safe to speak their minds, they're more likely to share valuable insights and feedback. This leads to better decision-making, problem-solving, and innovation within the organisation.

Improved employee engagement

When employees know their voices are heard and respected, they become more engaged, leading to increased motivation and productivity.

Reduced employee turnover

A workplace with high psychological safety is less likely to experience high turnover rates. Employees are more likely to stay with a company that values their input and well-being.

Better physical and emotional wellbeing

Psychological safety contributes to employees' mental and emotional well-being. It reduces stress, anxiety, and burnout, making the workplace a healthier and happier space.

The data from our report Fighting Turnover backs this up and shows that.. 

  • 75% of employees are more likely to leave a manager who isn’t open and honest
  • 87% are more likely to leave a manager who doesn't keep promises
  • 79% more likely to leave if they perceive their managers treat them unfairly 
  • 84% who feel their management team makes poor decisions are more likely to leave

How can you improve psychological safety?

For managers, keeping tabs of your team’s psychological safety is super important… but it’s easier said than done. We understand that this can be very difficult, and this is why we have developed a dedicated question category in our product, focusing on psychological safety. By putting psychological safety in the spotlight, leaders and teams can reflect on the current situation, and get insights and support to take necessary actions to improve psychological safety on the team.  

A great starting point is to ask yourself questions like:

  • Is it safe to make mistakes and take risks in my team?
  • Do I listen to my team and ask for their input and involvement for improvements? ? Or do I always have to have the last word?
  • Are team members bringing up sensitive topics or tough issues with me and in the team? 
  • Is it easy to ask for help in our team? Do I ask my team for help if I don’t know how to do something?

The answers to these questions will give you a gauge of how good your psychological safety is. If you decide it needs improving - or simply want to make it even better - here’s our top tips on how to do it:

1. Open up and show curiosity

Being curious is one of the most undervalued skills in the workplace. By being open and curious you can find out about their team, what they like, what they dislike, what inspires them, what their vision is, what matters to them, and so much more. By caring about the person and taking an active interest in their lives, you lay the foundations for strong and successful relationships.

2. Make empathy your superpower

Empathy is everything. People respond to people and an empathetic manager or team leader will win the trust of their team far easier than someone who is indifferent or doesn’t care. Once you have high levels of trust, then your team is ready for greatness.

3. Set clear expectations and have your team’s back

Make sure to set clear expectations for the team and for each individual, and follow up on both performance and behaviour. Understanding how our different roles bring value, and how we can succeed together as a team will also increase the feeling of psychological safety. Be your team’s biggest fan, their number one cheerleader, and their protector all rolled into one. Fight their corner, stick up for them, and make sure they know that they are safe with you at the helm. 

4. Be vulnerable   

Let your own humanity shine through; your team wants to see it. If you can be vulnerable with them then they’ll feel safe being so with you. You don’t have to always have all the answers and that’s ok. Make sure your team knows this. 

5. Lead by example

Of course, what all of this adds up to is leading by example. Be the kind of leader who inspires with kindness, encourages with curiosity, and sets a standard others aspire to.


At Winningtemp we encourage our teams to have regular dedicated team meetings where we discuss current “team temperature” related to our work environment. This is a meeting where we focus on our work relationships and how we together can create the best possible work situation in our team. 

The data in the Winningtemp platform guides the team and suggests what topics to discuss more in depth, and provides inspiration for further actions. The meetings are often run by members on the team, rather than by the manager, to increase involvement and build team commitment. These temp-meetings are also a good opportunity for the leader to open up and ask for feedback regarding his/her leadership, and show willingness and curiosity to understand the needs of the team.

To sum up, psychological safety is the foundation upon which a thriving workplace culture is built. It encourages open communication, boosts employee engagement, reduces turnover, fosters learning, and enhances well-being. 

By implementing the right strategies- and using the right tools - you can create an environment where every employee feels safe, valued, and empowered to contribute their best. Invest in psychological safety, and watch your organisation flourish.

Read more about our new supplementary temperatures here or download out guide "How to regain organisational trust" to gain some more insights of how to solve your challenge.

With a strong background in legal and HR consulting in firms such as Fingerprint Cards, PwC and Flex, she joined Winningtemp as Head of HR in August 2021. Sara is passionate about people and believes that the future of work and HR is moving towards an approach where employees feel valued and have the tools to reach their potential. To achieve this aim, she’s focused on working to give employees their desired level of autonomy within their roles, creating a rewards system that focuses on recognising and understanding the needs of employees, from financial welfare to mental health. Additionally, her commitment to wellbeing is shown by her work as a board member at Räddningsmissionen, a Swedish charity working for social rights ensuring everyone has access to a dignified life.

About the author
Sara Holmberg

Focusing on people

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