Psychological Safety: The Key that Unlocks Loyalty and Commitment in People

Have you ever been in a meeting where you had a great idea, but you were afraid to speak up? Have you ever seen someone being ridiculed or punished for expressing a different opinion? Or perhaps someone’s idea was dismissed without listening to it and giving it the benefit of doubt? These type of situations can make us feel uncomfortable, stressed, and even fearful. It aids in people being unhappy at work, affects productivity and ultimately becomes the motivation to leave. Hence, creating psychological safety is fundamental in any workplace to create a culture of belonging, growth, and commitment.

So, what is psychological safety?

Psychological safety is the belief that it's safe to take interpersonal risks without fear of negative consequences. In other words, it's feeling comfortable speaking up, sharing ideas, and taking reasonable risks without being ridiculed, ostracized, or punished. This leads to better collaboration, innovation, and performance, as team members are more likely to share their ideas and engage in constructive debate when they feel safe to do so. Imagine a place where you will be heard and challenged, which results in everyone’s continuous growth – the one thing every person wants when they come to work.

However, creating psychological safety is a learned skill.

As determined, psychological safety is essential for any healthy team environment, but unfortunately, not everyone knows how to create it. Creating psychological safety is a learned skill that requires a culture of integrity and continuous improvement. It takes time and effort to build trust, empathy, and accountability in a team, but the results are worth it. So, before we dive into how to create psychological safety in a team, let’s look at some common pitfalls to avoid.


Lack of Trust

If team members don't trust each other or their leaders, they will definitely not feel comfortable speaking up or sharing their ideas. Hence, it is the responsibility of the leader to focus on building trust by being transparent, open, and honest in their communications and actions. This will create a cascading effect on the team.

Fear of Retaliation

Even if leaders say that they value open communication and feedback, team members may still fear retaliation or negative consequences for speaking up. Leaders should make it clear that feedback is valued and will not result in negative consequences through consistent action, empathy, and inclusion even if they disagree with what was said.


Groupthink occurs when a team becomes so focused on reaching a consensus that they ignore dissenting opinions or alternative viewpoints. This can lead to a lack of psychological safety, as team members may not feel comfortable challenging the group's consensus. It is crucial for leaders to identify and challenge the ‘yes’ culture. Leaders should encourage constructive debate and diverse perspectives to avoid groupthink and encourage people’s individualism and creativity to shine through.

Lack of Accountability

When team members don't feel that there are consequences for negative behaviours or actions, they feel less safe to speak up or report issues which affects the overall team morale and commitment. Leaders should hold team members accountable for their actions and ensure that there are consequences for negative behaviours. More so, people need to know you are here to listen and act appropriately on what has been raised. It is critical to communicate and feedback on issues raised with you. If this last step is missing, people won’t feel heard and therefore lose trust in the system.

Lack of Empathy

Empathy connects us to each other and makes us better as human beings. Empathy creates kindness and enables safe environments. When leaders and team members don't actively practice empathy, it can lead to a lack of psychological safety as team members won’t know if they will be heard and understood. It is imperative to model empathetic behaviour and encourage team members to show empathy towards each other as well.

Having understood the common pitfalls that come in the way of a psychologically safe environment, let’s go through specific actions on how to create a strong, psychologically safe environment for high productivity and happiness.


Creating psychological safety requires a combination of trust-building, open communication, empathy, and accountability. On the face of it, it all seems very simple and obvious. But clearly, many leaders fail to do so. Here are some tips for creating psychological safety:

Encourage open communication

Leaders must encourage team members to speak up, share their ideas, and ask questions. It takes two to tango and remember people are watching and taking cues from you as the leader too. So speak up about difficult issues, talk about your thoughts and be vulnerable (as much as you feel comfortable with). Ask questions on what is important to people, and answer honestly and completely.

Foster trust

Trust is the basis of any relationship. In order to have a healthy and safe environment, inculcating a culture of integrity is critical for success. Be open, encourage transparency through words and action, be genuine, show that you care, and really listen. Even if you disagree, or cannot follow through on what you committed, communicate reasons why. We are hard wired to want to understand each other, and by being open and transparent, you will build trust and most importantly, respect.

Show empathy

First step in showing empathy is being genuine. Take genuine and deep interest in your people and get to know them for who they are. Each one is different and brings a set of values, culture, belief, and experience. The more you learn about them, the more empathetic you become. You can offer opportunities and support that is right for that individual by simply taking an interest and being open. The more empathy you have, the better you become as a person and a leader.

Encourage constructive debate

You as a leader must encourage constructive debate and diverse perspectives to avoid groupthink. Notice who is not speaking up, invite them to the table. Keep an eye out on people’s non verbal cues, and in an encouraging way invite or challenge based on what you observe. Over time, people will feel comfortable to be who they are and say what they believe to be right.

Hold team members accountable

Too often, people’s unacceptable behaviour is not addressed because their work is good and you don’t want to lose them. While you may not want to lose one person, you will ultimately lose the rest. Therefore, having consistent standards in place on performance, attitude and behaviour ensures there is clarity on how the team operates, fairness, and accountability. This creates an environment where people feel safe to speak up when things are out of alignment.

By acknowledging that creating psychological safety is a learned skill, we can approach it with a growth mindset and a willingness to improve. By fostering a culture of integrity and continuous improvement, we create an environment where team members feel safe, seen, and heard. When people feel content because they are seen and heard, they feel comfortable taking risks, sharing their thoughts and ideas, and collaborating with others. This without a doubt, leads to better performance, engagement, and overall well-being of your employees. When employees are well taken care of, they take care of your clients, top line, and your business. It’s a no brainer.

Want to be an effective leader who makes a difference in growing the business as well as leading a team that is inspired and motivated to do their best? Get in touch for a free complimentary call on how coaching can be the answer to sharpen your leadership skills and lead with empathy, integrity and authenticity. In this call, we will nail down the root cause of the issue and come up with a plan on what you can do going forward to excel where you are and where you want to be.

Categories: Leadership, Management