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What is psychological safety and how can it benefit employees?

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read
What is psychological safety and how can it benefit employees?

‘Psychological safety’ was coined by Harvard Business School professor, Amy Edmondson. She defined it in her book Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams as “a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking”. Essentially, an employer should be striving for a good connection with their employees to create a willingness to be open.

Learning and leadership expert, Tracey Ezard, discussed the importance of promoting this concept in the workplace with The HR Leader.

“Our role is to step into that space of connection and questioning and curiosity and learning from each other, but you can't do that without that psychological safety,” said Ms Ezard.


“So, I can take interpersonal risks without fear of being belittled, shamed, embarrassed. Too often in teams, people will not speak up because that's what they're fearful of. Timothy R. Clark, he's got this really elegant statement which is: ‘it's an environment of rewarded vulnerability’,” she said.

Psychological safety is about the trust between an employer and their employees, and their right to be safe from bullying, harassment and discrimination.

“The fact that I am a human is the thing that makes me included and belong. Doesn't matter from what race, ethnicity, my sexual orientation... Doesn't matter at all. I feel part of this, and I belong. That's number 1. But above that, do I feel safe to learn? Do I feel safe to have a voice? To have a conversation around the table?” said Ms Ezard.

The promotion of debate should also be important for a business as it should be seen as professional and respectful, rather than conflict.

“I know teams: they're really excited about having a hot debate about something where they see things very differently because they know they're going to get to a better result at the end. That's what a great challenge culture looks like,” said Ms Ezard.

“I have a mantra when I work with leaders which is, ‘be the leader that's learning, not the one that's learnt’. I think it's the same for experts. 21st century experts have to be experts that are learning, not ones that have learnt because the world is changing too much for us to even think like that.”

The transcript of this podcast episode, when quoted above, was slightly edited for publishing purposes. The full conversation with Tracey Ezard is below.




According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, discrimination occurs when one individual or group of people is regarded less favourably than another because of their origins or certain personality traits. When a regulation or policy is unfairly applied to everyone yet disadvantages some persons due to a shared personal trait, that is also discrimination.


Harassment is defined as persistent behaviour or acts that intimidate, threaten, or uncomfortably affect other employees at work. Because of anti-discrimination laws and the Fair Work Act of 2009, harassment in Australia is prohibited on the basis of protected characteristics.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.