5 min read

25+ Psychological Safety at Work Stats [2024]

25+ Psychological Safety at Work Stats [2024]

Psychological safety isn’t just another throwaway, corporate buzzword. Psychological safety at work is something that influences the employee experience - for better or worse - every single day.

Unfortunately, it’s still a work in progress for many. According to one study, 61% of leaders with diversity-related titles are only “somewhat confident” that their employees feel a sense of belonging, inclusion, and psychological safety at work, and another 24% are “somewhat unconfident.” Meanwhile, in a separate study by Ipsos, less than half (45%) of American respondents said they felt safe sharing their opinions or thoughts in the workplace for fear of negative consequences.

If psychological safety is a topic of interest to you, the following article is an important read as it outlines exactly what psychological safety is, its benefits, and how to create it, all according to the best thought leaders in the field and the most recent research. Let’s begin.


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What Is Psychological Safety in the Workplace?

Psychological safety was a term originally coined in 1999 by Amy Edmondson, Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School. She defined psychological safety as, “A belief that no one will be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes, and that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.”

For example, if you feel psychologically safe with your team, you will be less afraid to voice your opinions, offer out-of-the-box ideas, or ask for feedback. Whereas, if you don’t feel psychologically safe, you may avoid doing anything of the sort for fear of what your leaders or peers might do, say, or think. As you can imagine, when this happens on a large scale within an organization, it can stifle performance, collaboration, innovation, and growth.

Over time, the term has become more widely used and researched. In fact, in 2012, when researchers at Google set out to pinpoint exactly what made their best teams successful, psychological safety was named the absolute most important factor. In fact, “Google researchers found that individuals on teams with higher psychological safety are less likely to leave Google, they’re more likely to harness the power of diverse ideas from their teammates, they bring in more revenue, and they’re rated as effective twice as often by executives.”


The Importance of Psychological Safety

Since Google’s Project Aristotle, a great deal more research has been done around the topic. In fact, these recent statistics highlight just how important psychological safety actually is in today’s volatile and uncertain workplace.

  • Psychological safety is one of the three things employees value most in today’s workplace (84%), beat by regular pay raises (86%) and followed by flexible work (83%). In other words, more than 8 in 10 employees consider psychological safety one of the most valued aspects of the workplace. - Oyster HR, 2023
  • Gen Zers, the generation that will represent nearly a third of the workforce by 2025, want their employers to support their physical and psychological safety and their pursuit of mental and physical wellness. - Conference Board, 2023
  • 9 out of 10 employees in the US want their employer to value their emotional and psychological welfare – and provide relevant support. - American Psychological Association, 2023
  • 93% of executives report feeling mostly or completely psychologically safe at work, however only 86% of individual contributors and managers feel the same and say they feel less safe speaking up and less valued for their contributions. - Wiley, 2023
  • Employees who report a high level of psychological safety at work are more likely to engage in helping behaviors and more likely to seek feedback from their peers. - Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 2023
  • High levels of psychological safety is correlated with better performance, but only to the 80th percentile. Beyond that, employee performance falters. - Journal of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 2023
  • 60% of employees with low resilience and low psychological safety feel burned out, and 34% are thinking about quitting their job. On the other hand, only 5% of highly resilient employees who feel psychologically safe report feeling burned out, and just 3% are considering quitting. - meQuilibrium, 2022
  • On teams with high levels of psychological safety, diversity is positively associated with higher levels of performance. Moreover, the more diverse a team is, the more satisfied the members of the team are. - Harvard Business Review, 2022
  • There are two fundamental elements that affect whether employees feel they have a voice at work and are comfortable bringing up ethical issues and misconduct: psychological safety and the employee’s relationship with their direct manager. - MIT Sloan, 2022
  • 1 in 4 organizations report that psychological safety is the top driver of employee retention. - Predictive Index, 2022
  • Research has found that the benefits of psychological safety at work include: - Accenture, 2021
    • 27% reduction in turnover
    • 76% more engagement
    • 50% more productivity
    • 74% less stress
    • 29% more life satisfaction
    • 57% more collaboration among employees
    • 26% greater skills preparedness
    • 67% higher likelihood of employees applying what they’ve learned 
  • When employees are net better off, thanks in part to things like psychological safety, their performance can be up to 5x higher, which in turn leads to greater innovation. - Accenture, 2021
  • 77% of respondents said their organizations are prioritizing the physical and psychological safety of employees. This is good because healthy organizations are 2.2x more likely to surpass financial targets, 2.8x more likely to embrace change, and 3.2x more likely to retain employees, as well as experience drastic drops in absenteeism. - Josh Bersin, 2021
  • Improving psychological safety has the potential to result in a 27% reduction in turnover, a 40% reduction in safety incidents, and a 12% increase in productivity. - Gallup, 2017


How To Create Psychological Safety in the Workplace, According to Research

The evidence couldn’t be clearer - psychological safety is critical if you want your employees and team to thrive in today’s workplace. But how do you create it? While the definition might sound simple enough, the fact is that creating psychological safety in the workplace is anything but.

In the now-famous New York Times Article about Google’s Project Aristotle, researchers pointed out that, “establishing psychological safety is, by its very nature, somewhat messy and difficult to implement. You can tell people to take turns during a conversation and to listen to one another more. You can instruct employees to be sensitive to how their colleagues feel and to notice when someone seems upset.” But is that really enough to make them feel psychologically safe? Not necessarily.

According to these stats from recent research, here are a few things you can consider doing to begin creating psychological safety at work:


1. Create a Positive Team Culture

Your team’s culture has a significant influence on psychological safety, so if you aren’t making an intentional effort to make it as positive as possible, consider this your sign to do so. In fact, according to McKinsey, a positive team culture/environment is the most important driver of psychological safety in the workplace. Unfortunately, less than half (43%) of respondents say their team has a positive culture/environment.

Team culture is the top driver of psychological safety in the workplace (1)


2. Build Strong Manager-Employee Relationships

In 2023, Boston Consulting Group found that older employees, lower-ranking employees, and employees from less-advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds are the least likely to feel psychologically safe at work. However, it’s their direct manager’s behavior and their relationship with them that has the power to change that for the better.


3. Invest In Leadership Training

Two separate studies, conducted a year apart, both concluded that providing people leaders with highly relevant and practical leadership training is essential to creating psychological safety at work. In 2022, a study by Ecsell Institute found that when a leader’s skills were rated a 9 or a 10 by employees, they had an average psychological safety score of 84%. On the other hand, those whose overall skills were rated a 6 or lower had an average psychological safety rating of just 36%.

Meanwhile, in 2021, McKinsey identified that leaders need to be trained in the following areas to create psychological safety:

  • Group dynamics
  • Creating an open dialogue
  • Self-awareness
  • Cultural awareness
  • Relationship building
  • Mindful listening
  • Situational awareness
  • Unconscious bias
  • Situational humility
  • Sponsorship

Unfortunately, only 26% of respondents say their organizations include sponsorship (enabling others’ success ahead of one’s own) in their leadership development programs, while only 36% are taught situational humility (personal-growth mindset and curiosity).

Leaders skills impact their employees psychological safety score


4. Lessen The Fear of Mistakes

Part of creating psychological safety means making it more acceptable to make mistakes, admit them, and try again. In fact, in 2020, it was found that tolerance for errors and mistakes positively influences psychological safety, which in turn, helps people see errors/mistakes as opportunities to learn rather than as a threat to their image.


5. Adopt the Right Leadership Style

If you want to create psychological safety, your leadership style can influence your success - for better or worse. In fact, in a study by McKinsey, the consultative and supportive leadership styles were found to be the best to adopt for this purpose, while the authoritative leadership style is the one to avoid. To learn more about the most common leadership styles, read this article and take this quiz.

Consultative and supportive leadership styles encourage psychological safety (1)


6. Take a Human-Centric Approach

Never underestimate the importance of treating employees like people with unique experiences, strengths, weaknesses, and interests both inside and outside of work. According to a study by MIT Sloan in 2022, those that take this sort of human-centric approach and treat team members as unique individuals significantly boost the team’s overall level of psychological safety.

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