Psychological Safety at Work: Guide & Tools for People-Centric Leaders

Psychological safety is key to winning teams. What is it, and how do you build it? Read our guide + the top tools to build psychological safety at work.
Daan van Rossum
Daan van Rossum
Founder & CEO, FlexOS
I founded FlexOS because I believe in a happier future of work. I write and host "Future Work," I'm a 2024 LinkedIn Top Voice, and was featured in the NYT, HBR, Economist, CNBC, Insider, and FastCo.
October 29, 2023
min read

The more I learn about remote work, the more I see the importance of Psychological Safety. Our tips for managing remote teams, or any leadership strategies, software, or tools will only work if you establish this concept.

According to organizational behavioral scientist Amy Edmondson of Harvard, "Psychological safety refers to the shared belief among team members that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking." In other words, do I feel safe to be myself and do my best? Amy's research shows that psychological safety increases creativity, productivity, job satisfaction, and employee retention.

On the other hand, a lack of psychological safety can lead to feelings of anxiety, withdrawal, and reduced willingness to contribute, which can negatively impact team performance, employee productivity, and organizational culture. According to McKinsey, only 27% of leaders create psychological safety, so you may have been on a team that suffered from a 'defensive culture.'

The message is clear: as a manager, it's essential to prioritize psychological safety within your team. When individuals feel safe to speak up and take risks, they are more likely to contribute to the team's success, be more creative and productive, enjoy their jobs more, and not quit.

How to get started building psychological safety:

  1. Kick off your efforts by surveying how psychologically safe your team feels. I like Voltage Control's Miro template. To foster psychological safety within your team, encourage open communication and active listening. Create a space where individuals feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas without fear of negative consequences.
  2. Then, get to know each other better in a safe environment by writing and sharing Personal User Manual. It may sound basic, but going back to fundamentals is a great place to build trust and safety between team members, even if they've worked together for years.
  3. Recognize and reward individuals who speak up and share their ideas, even if they still need to form them fully. Giving this recognition can help build confidence and trust within the team.

Key stat about psychological safety in managing remote teams:

Software and tools to use:

  • Workshop: Rising Team's Psychological Safety Kit, in which you'll write User Manuals outlining working style preferences and stories about workplace needs and struggles. You can also check out the University of Illinois's "Cultures of Safety," a one-hour training for their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion course to build effective team cultures.
  • One-on-ones: use platforms like Culture Amp, Pingboard, and Lattice to run better one-on-ones, download our one-on-one meeting template, or use our one-on-one questions generator to strengthen the trust between you and individual team members.
  • Feedback: providing regular feedback is a fundamental building block to creating a culture of trust and safety. Use the platforms above and Officevibe, 15Five, and TinyPulse. Kona is a unique Slack-based solution that retrieves feedback.
  • Employee input: Feedback should be a two-way street. Regularly allow your team to provide you with their input and feedback, often using free employee survey tools. Check our article on employee engagement survey vendors if you want more in-depth options and support.

Read more about psychological safety:

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