OCTOBER 14, 2022

What Is Psychological Safety?

In my day-to-day work as a DEIB practitioner, I talk about psychological safety a lot, and nine times out of ten I have to explain what that means.

Psychological safety is one of the most important aspects of a healthy workplace environment.

Being psychologically safe means you know you won’t be punished for speaking up or making a mistake…or for being yourself.

It’s when employees think, “I can do or say things without being punished.”

It’s an environment where people can use their voice or hold someone else accountable, and not pay a price for it.

What many don’t understand is that this is not available for most women and People of Color. This is why we code-switch, show up differently in conversations (speak, sound, dress, hairstyle), tip-toe around being politically correct, and find other ways to fit into the dominant culture.

We spend a lot of mental energy framing every action, energy that could be put into productivity.

We sometimes find ourselves struggling with managing different personalities in different environments. When we have to switch and guard so much, it’s easy to forget who we actually are.

If you’re a White male reading this (thank you!), please know that you receive psychological safety just by being you. It’s given to you. It’s a privilege.

Oppression & Suppression

There are two parts to not having psychological safety, oppression and suppression.

Oppression is when there’s unjust treatment.

Suppression is when we inhibit our true selves.

If you’re a leader reading this (also, thank you!), I want to challenge you to look at your workplace through the eyes of the women and POC employees around you.

Know that when we suppress who we are – a response to being oppressed – we begin to feel out of alignment and inauthentic.

If we come to work knowing that we’re not able to show up “in our power,” then we will not feel free to express our creativity, drive, leadership, and commitment.

Instead, we’re spending mental cycles and tremendous energy making sure everyone else is okay…while we suffer in silence.

I’ll say it because others are scared to…It’s truly a wonder that we haven’t all been declared unfit to work because of mental health reasons.

It’s The Culture

In the work environment, psychological safety should be created and modeled by the employer and leadership.

You do this by making sure every employee feels free from the fear of retaliation, so they can bring their authentic selves to work.

Because when employees are psychologically safe, they will raise their level of commitment and loyalty to each other and to the organization.

What more could an employer want?

If you want help with this, let us know.