4 Authentic Stages to Foster Psychological Safety In Your Workplace

Best ways to foster psychological safety in your workplace and improve employee retention


In the tight labor market with looming economic uncertainty, strengthening your company culture may be the solution you need to foster psychological safety in your workplace. Strategies for developing and maintaining a great company culture are a dime a dozen. So, how can you decide the best way to move forward? 

Try using the concept of psychological safety. By framing your company culture around the four stages of psychological safety you can introduce methods of cultural improvement to every level of your organization. These methods can positively impact retention, recruitment, and even your organization’s reputation.

So in this blog post, we’ll discuss

What the four stages of psychological safety look like

How to foster psychological safety in your workplace and eventually, the whole organization

Tips for building psychological safety in your teams

So, without any further ado, let’s get started.

What is Psychological Safety and Why Does it Matter?

Psychological safety is a term for describing if team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts in their workplace. Teams that feel psychologically safe are willing to voice and accept the thoughts and ideas of others without worrying about criticism or rejection.

Psychological safety isn’t just for team members- it’s also for leaders, other departments, and external stakeholders. There are benefits to encouraging this kind of attitude in your organization – when you work to foster psychological safety in your workplace, it builds trust, which is shown to improve employee retention rates, according to a Harvard Business Review study. 

Improving retention is a vital goal of any HR expert or professional, but you can leverage psychological safety to enhance your organization’s reputation, too. Organizations recognized for providing a psychologically safe environment may be suggested as excellent places to work in the recruitment circles. 

The task to foster psychological safety in your workplace may be critical to your organization’s continued success. So, what does it look like? 

The 4 stages of psychological safety in a workplace

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

There are four stages of psychological safety, and once these stages are satisfied employees will feel happier and more comfortable in your organization. Let’s cover the four stages with some examples.

Inclusion Safety

It refers to the feeling of acceptance for basic personality traits. Your employees want to feel included by their team members, despite all of their different personalities. 

You may recognize inclusion safety in a few different ways. Think of an employee who has a niche interest, like a TV show or band that most people don’t follow. Is this employee mocked for their hobbies or do others ask questions or express excitement for them? 

Employees don’t have to feign interest to be inclusive. But they can be respectful so that the employee doesn’t feel on the ounce. Maybe, everyone doesn’t mesh perfectly, but that’s okay. This stage aimed to foster psychological safety in your workplace is about respect.

Employees who have respect for each other, even if they aren’t all best friends will satisfy the need for inclusion safety. 

Learner Safety

This stage protects employees from feeling like they are looked down on for their mistakes. In a work environment, people need to be able to learn and grow so they can become their most genuine and productive selves

You’ve probably witnessed learner safety in action or at least heard about it. Do you have a team where one of the employees reacts poorly to another’s mistakes? This employee may get exceptionally irritated, even angry when their colleagues make errors, and not serious and disastrous errors. But once they come hand in hand with learning something new.

If you have employees who fear going to others for help when they have questions or make a mistake, then that team is lacking learner safety. Learner safety checks that employees are graceful when their colleagues make mistakes and make the effort to teach or learn together, rather than react negatively. 

So, when you have a new hire, or your organization is changing a process, learner safety measures can ensure people are encouraging mutual growth rather than putting each other down. 

It’s important to note that learner safety isn’t meant to prevent others from pointing out mistakes, it’s to protect employees from overly negative feedback when learning something new. So, if you have a new guy who makes silly mistakes after weeks of training, then that doesn’t apply here. 

You have the right to talk to employees who are consistently making errors that must be corrected.

Contributor Safety

This is when employees feel that their contributions to the team are valued, respected, and worthwhile. You don’t want any of your people to feel like they are shouting into the void whenever they provide input. Contributor safety makes sure everyone feels like their ideas are heard and acknowledged. 

Contributor safety doesn’t mean that every suggestion answers the question at hand. Some people are very eager to present solutions, but not all solutions are viable. 

However, colleagues can make an effort to acknowledge ideas and appreciate their co-workers’ insight, even if it isn’t useful at the time. 

Contributor safety like the other stages of psychological safety is about respect. Encourage your employees to understand that everyone has a seat at the table so everyone has a voice. Even if an idea or a potential solution to a problem doesn’t work at the moment, shove it for later consideration. You never know when a creative idea can become the perfect solution down the line. 

Challenger Safety

Challenger safety protects people that retaliate after they voice concerns or suggest improvements. This stage of psychological safety is intended to keep your team safe from the negative reactions of other teammates. 

For example, if you have a team where someone reacts to constructive criticism by cutting their colleagues out of important conversations, then that team doesn’t have challenger safety. 

Hopefully, your teams don’t have anyone who attempts to retaliate against others. Still, it can be surely said you’ve heard horror stories fostering challenger safety can promote teams growth by giving everyone a safe way to encourage improvement 

Ways to foster psychological safety in your workplace

How To Foster Psychological Safety In Your Workplace

Let’s have a quick review before we dive into ways incorporated to foster psychological safety in your workplace. Inclusion safety is when everyone feels that their personal identity is accepted. 

Learner safety is when everyone is comfortable with asking for help and can make mistakes when learning something new. 

Contributor safety ensures thoughts and ideas are heard and acknowledged, even if they aren’t useful at the moment. 

Challenger safety protects people who voice their concerns from fear or retaliation. 

Congrats, now you know all the four stages of psychological safety. But how can you introduce them into your organization? 

The purpose of psychological safety measures is to develop and maintain a healthy culture in your organization. Here are a couple of things that an organization can do to foster psychological safety in their teams. 

Promote Inclusion Safety

It is recommended to build performance management methods that strongly advocate for personal improvement and accountability. 

To promote inclusion safety, you must provide a safe and accepting workplace for people of different religions or cultures. If we give lunch to employees, we always make sure to check for dietary restrictions beforehand so everyone can enjoy a meal with us. 

It’s critical to organizational success to give employees the opportunity to express themselves, so check that your workplace is compliant with freedom of expression regulations. You can also work to encourage reasonable self-expression with office initiatives like Halloween costume contests or by advocating for employee resource groups. 

Promote Contributor Safety 

To promote contributor safety, you can encourage teams to often have meetings to brainstorm pathways to achieving short-term and long-term projects. Everyone has a chance to offer up their ideas or strategies. Even when some thoughts aren’t applicable, managers do a good job of redirecting the conversation to more viable strategies, while still recognizing the creativity or spirit of a suggestion. 

If this stage is tricky to satisfy because you have an employee who is never quite hitting the mark with their ideas, consider some contributor safety methods that encourage personal growth. The employee may benefit from attending brainstorming sessions where they’re the designated note taker, so they can actively listen and learn from their colleagues.

Ensure Learner Safety 

Weekly meetings are also a good time to introduce a “style moment,” where team leaders can discuss a standardized approach to relevant processes. 

For example, a marketing team may have a style moment to discuss the particular way the organization writes a social media post. Introducing a brief learning moment can promote learner safety in your organization by providing a safe space for people to ask questions. It’s also a great way to make sure everyone is on board and educated on topics managers deem important. 

If your employees are nervous to ask questions or seek guidance in front of the whole team, consider using 1:1 meetings. 1:1s are regular meetings between managers and direct reports, where the two can discuss anything they need to. 

Employees can use this time to learn from their mistakes in a private setting. Additionally, you can use weekly 1:1s to gauge improvement, discuss priorities for projects, and even go over how to develop skills. 

It would be better to use the software in which 1:1s are documented with an agenda of subjects to cover, as well as a follow-up so every side can track what was discussed and keep themselves accountable. Records of 1:1s can show an employee their improvement over time, or provide an HR admin access to evidence if someone is underperforming. 

Avoid Challenger Safety Issues

Challenger safety in our organization is pretty straightforward. Speak and act with respect for yourself, others, and the organization, at all times. 

You should work to avoid challenger safety issues with 360-degree feedback. Managers and their direct reports must conduct 360-degree feedback through our software to evaluate each other and themselves. By instructing people to evaluate their own work and attitude, you may see a rise in accountability as people identify their areas of improvement alongside what they notice in their team members. 

Sometimes, improvement can only follow criticism. Criticism may be tough to accept, but you can introduce challenger safety measures by reframing constructive criticism as “constructive feedback” or “assisting commentary.” Advocate for positive feedback among your employees, so that any need for criticism is easier to accept. 

Giving someone a little vinegar is easier when you can follow it up with honey. 

How pulse surveys can be used to foster psychological safety?

Pulse Surveys

Need a way to make sure your organization uses effective methods to foster psychological safety in your workplace, try pulse surveys. 

Pulse surveys are short surveys used to check the temperature of your organization or specific departments and teams if you want more targeted data. 

A good HRIS should have a survey tool for you to send surveys to whomever you want. That way, you can ask questions geared to see if the four stages of psychological safety are satisfied on each team in your organization. Surveys are an effective tool for you to keep your organization going and growing because they may provide useful feedback from employees on what needs work. 

While you’re looking for effective ways to foster psychological safety in your workplace, don’t forget to take a moment to acknowledge what you already do. 

Maybe your teams are great at absorbing new members and making them feel welcome, or at providing support to one another. Then you’re already on the right track. If you already have some of the stages present, then pat yourself on the back! It isn’t easy to get the ball rolling on developing a good company culture, so any headstart is worth celebrating. 


In this article, we’ve covered everything you need to know about psychological safety from the four stages of psychological safety to fostering each stage in your organization.

Psychological safety is vital to maintaining a safe and productive company culture which greatly impacts your attendance numbers. 

If your organization is well known for promoting psychological safety, it can impact your recruitment efforts too. Reputation is an important factor in determining where talent lands so make sure your workplace is somewhere people want to work and advertise to others as a good place to be. 

Now that you’re equipped with strategies to foster psychological safety in your workplace, you can begin improving your company culture to keep your talent and attract even more.

As always remember that your role is as strategic as you make it. 

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