How to Build Psychological Safety at Work

23 May 2024 | 3 min read

Author: Kate Davis, Executive Coach & L&D Consultant at BAND



In my last blog, I introduced the concept of psychological safety. I showed how it enables risk-taking, idea-sharing and creativity, fostering innovation at work. Without psychological safety in the workplace, fear stifles creativity, leading to negativity and stagnation. In this blog, I will reveal the steps you can take to achieve a culture of psychological safety. But first, let’s look at some key indicators that may suggest you have an issue with psychological safety that needs addressing.

Factors that show a lack of psychological safety


1. Fear of speaking up
When team members are hesitant or afraid to voice their opinions, ideas or concerns during meetings or when working on projects, it could indicate a lack of psychological safety.


2. Endless meetings
When meetings seem to go on forever, the team may feel unsafe when challenging or making decisions. Healthy feedback loops are essential for growth and improvement. Suppose there’s a noticeable absence of constructive feedback being exchanged between team members or from leadership. In that case, it may suggest that people don’t feel safe enough to provide honest critiques or receive them openly.


3. Blame culture
A culture where failures or mistakes are met with blame and finger-pointing can erode psychological safety. In a safe environment, failures are treated as learning opportunities and people feel comfortable admitting mistakes without fear of harsh consequences.


4. Lack of diversity and inclusion
If a workplace lacks diversity or if there’s a perception that certain groups are marginalised or excluded, it can create an environment where people from underrepresented backgrounds don’t feel safe to be themselves or contribute fully. Diversity isn’t just about gender, race, culture, sexual orientation or disability. It also needs to include differing viewpoints, neurodiversity and any area where people may not feel that their voice will be heard. 


It’s important to note that these are potential signs, and the presence of one or more doesn’t necessarily mean that psychological safety is absent. However, addressing these issues can help create a more psychologically safe environment where creativity and innovation can thrive.


How to Cultivate Psychological Safety


Fostering a culture of psychological safety is a deliberate and ongoing process that requires commitment from leadership and buy-in from every member of the organisation. It takes time and craft to build the correct foundations.


Here are some strategies that can help cultivate a psychologically safe environment:


1. Lead by example
Leaders must model vulnerability, admitting their own mistakes and encouraging open dialogue. This sets the tone for a culture of trust and transparency. When you identify a mistake or an area for self-improvement, communicate it and show people you are making the necessary changes. Practice what you preach.


2. Embrace diversity
Actively seek out and value diverse perspectives, backgrounds and experiences, whether cultural, religious, age, socio-economic, ethnicity, neurodivergent or sexual orientation. This will enrich the creative process and promote a sense of inclusion and belonging.


3. Develop communication & encourage respectful dissent
Create a safe space for respectful disagreement and constructive criticism. Differing viewpoints should be welcomed, not suppressed. Understanding your own communication style as well as those of others will allow you to make considerable strides in psychological safety and promote broader happiness at work.


4. Celebrate reasonable failures
Normalise and destigmatise reasonable failures by celebrating them as learning opportunities. This encourages risk-taking and fosters a growth mindset.


5. Provide psychological safety training
Educate team members on the principles of psychological safety and equip them with the tools and techniques to create and maintain a supportive environment.


In the ever-evolving landscape of creative industries, psychological safety is not a luxury but a strategic imperative. By promoting it, organisations can unlock a wellspring of innovation, collaboration and growth. On the other hand, psychologically unsafe environments undermine team dynamics and ultimately hinder an organisation’s ability to stay competitive and relevant.


If you’d like to improve your team’s psychological safety, please get in touch to schedule a call with one of our experts.

Let’s Talk


Tel: 020 8138 5560


111 Charterhouse Street,
London, EC1M 6AW


Julian Davies

Julian Davies

Managing Partner at Redfin

Managing partner and Chartered Accountant with 30+ years of experience in marketing, media, and creative industries. He leads the Redfin team, offering expert advice on growth and profitability. Former owner manager of an agency acquired by a listed group; his industry insights are second to none. Off duty, you might find him on the golf or tennis court, determined to master new tricks.
Shelley Watkin

Shelley Watkin

Client Finance Director at Redfin

A qualified Chartered Accountant with 20+ years of experience in the marketing services sector. During her 5+ years at Redfin, she served as Client Finance Director offering invaluable insights into strategic and commercial matters. Shelley has also assumed the role of Finance Director for various creative agencies, guiding them through successful sales processes. If she gets free time after managing her children’s busy schedules, she likes to chill out doing yoga and gardening.