What Psychological Safety is Not

Join our next complimentary Psychological Safety Masterclass - click here

We've looked at what Psychological Safety is, but what is it NOT?

Psychological Safety is a term used to describe a work environment where employees feel comfortable speaking up, taking risks, and expressing themselves without fear of negative consequences.

Here are 10 points to understand what Psychological Safety is not

1. It is not about being "nice" or avoiding conflict

While Psychological Safety is about creating a safe space for employees to speak up, it does not mean conflict should be avoided. On the contrary, conflict can be healthy and lead to positive outcomes.

2. It is not about creating a "no criticism" zone.

While Psychological Safety is about creating an environment where employees feel safe to speak up, it does not mean that criticism is not allowed. Constructive feedback is still essential for growth and development.

3. It is not a guarantee that all ideas will be accepted.

Instead, Psychological Safety is about creating an environment where all ideas can be shared without fear of ridicule or punishment and the understanding that not all ideas will be accepted.

4. It is not a sign of weakness or lack of accountability.

Psychological Safety is not an excuse for not holding employees accountable for their actions or decisions. Instead, it is about creating an environment where mistakes can be acknowledged and learned without fear of punishment or retribution.

5. It is not a quick fix or a one-time solution.

Psychological Safety is an ongoing process requiring consistent effort and attention from leaders and employees. It cannot be achieved overnight or with a single training session.

6. It is not a replacement for other workplace policies and procedures.

For example, while Psychological Safety is important for fostering a positive work environment, it does not replace the need for additional policies and procedures such as anti-discrimination, harassment, and safety protocols.

7. It is not solely the responsibility of leaders.

While leaders play a crucial role in creating a psychologically safe work environment, it is not exclusively their responsibility. Every employee has a role in contributing to a positive work culture.

8. It is not about avoiding accountability or consequences for unacceptable behaviour.

Psychological safety does not mean inappropriate behaviour or actions are excused or ignored. On the contrary, holding employees accountable for their actions is vital while creating a safe space to learn from their mistakes and grow.

9. It is not a static concept.

Psychological Safety is not a fixed state that, once achieved, remains in place forever. Instead, it is a dynamic concept that requires ongoing effort and attention to maintain over time.

10. It is not a guarantee of success.

While Psychological Safety can lead to improved collaboration, innovation, and productivity, it does not guarantee success. Other factors, such as market conditions, competition, and external factors, can also influence success in the workplace.

Psychological Safety is essential to creating a positive and productive work environment.

While it is crucial to understand what Psychological Safety is not, it is equally important to actively foster an environment that encourages open communication, risk-taking, and constructive feedback. By doing so, leaders can create a workplace culture where employees feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute to the organisation's success.

How do you recognise the warning signs that your organisation or team are not Psychologically Safe?

There are several warning signs that an organisation or team may not be psychologically safe, which can lead to negative consequences such as low morale, high turnover, and decreased productivity. Here are some common warning signs to look out for:

  • Lack of open communication: team members are hesitant to speak up or share their ideas and concerns.
  • Fear of retaliation: team members are afraid of being punished or ridiculed for making mistakes or speaking up.
  • Low trust: team members do not trust each other or leadership to act in their best interests.
  • High turnover: frequent departures of team members may indicate that they do not feel safe or valued in their current role.
  • High absenteeism: team members may avoid coming to work if they feel unsafe or supported.
  • Low morale: team members may lack energy and enthusiasm for their work.
  • Low engagement: team members may not fully engage in their work or actively avoid contributing to team meetings.
  • There are high levels of stress and burnout among team members.

Recognising and addressing these warning signs can help create a more psychologically safe workplace culture. Leaders can encourage open communication, provide opportunities to learn from mistakes, value diverse perspectives, and promote collaboration and trust to foster Psychological Safety within their teams and organisations.

A team audit or survey can help identify the specific issues affecting Psychological Safety and help leaders address them.

Would you like to use data to assess where your team psychological safety levels?

We can take your teams through the 4 stages of psychological safety assessment.

Who We Work With

Why work with the Safety Collaborations Team

Safety Collaborations Team - Nuala, Karin and Catrina

We are passionate about helping people change the way they think about Safety. Embracing fruitful collaboration is how we support your culture of safety, driving your business and people's success.

We offer award-winning virtual and in-person programmes with exceptional coaches that make your workforce safer, which means a strong return on investment, decreased incidents and reduced costs.

The legacy we leave behind is people doing the right thing and having the right conversations around safety, meeting team goals and enhancing team success.

We have over 30 years of experience across industries and geographic locations, dedicated to providing cost-effective solutions for the businesses we work with.

We deliver safety programmes across the globe both virtually and onsite/in person.

Let's have a conversation

And discover how we can work together to improve your Psychological Safety.