5 Ways to Build Psychological Safety: For Remote and In-Person Teams

Research shows that teams with high psychological safety share their mistakes more frequently. It’s not that they’re making more mistakes; they’re just sharing them more readily.

October 3, 2022
Gabriella Alziari

“Psychological safety”, or the ability to fully express one’s ideas and opinions without fear of being reprimanded, has become a buzzword in recent years (Edmondson, A. C. (2018).

Teams with high psychological safety feel comfortable taking interpersonal risks, like asking for help, engaging in debates, and sharing creative ideas. In addition to these positive benefits, psychologically safe teams also generate more revenue and experience greater retention than others.

But psychological safety isn’t necessarily easy to build. It takes intention and dedication. As a leader, you can build psychological safety by role modeling specific behaviors and establishing a culture of open communication. In this post, we’ll outline 5 ways to build psychological safety on your team.

#1. Admit when you’re wrong or don’t know something — and share what you’ll try next.

As a leader, you don’t need to know everything. In fact, admitting when you’re wrong or don’t know something can help build a psychologically safe environment. Make sure to share what you’re trying next as well.

This “role modeling” behavior gives others permission to share when they’re feeling lost, need support, or made a mistake. It also encourages them to think of new ways to address issues.

Here’s an example:

“Team, I’m trying to understand why there’s a drop-off in Sales in our product after Week 6. So far, I’ve determined that this isn’t happening after the previous weeks. I’m going to research if there are any bugs. I’ll be reaching out to the development team for help.”


  • Be open about what you don’t know and how you’re attempting to tackle it.
  • Encourage others to openly share their challenges and ask for support.

#2. Make it less “risky” to share mistakes.

Research shows that teams with high psychological safety share their mistakes more frequently. It’s not that they’re making more mistakes; they’re just sharing them more readily.

Typically, sharing mistakes is thought of as “risky” — people often fear that they’ll be penalized or fired. As a leader, you can “downgrade” the risk of sharing mistakes through creating an environment of support and encouraging people to speak up when they’ve made an error.

When team members understand that their mistakes won’t be met with retribution, they’ll be more willing to acknowledge their errors, fix them quickly, and pull in support. This helps the whole team iterate as a group.

At the end of the day, mistakes are opportunities to learn something new. The more your team can address them together (especially when under pressure), the stronger they’ll be.

Here’s an example:

“Hey team. It seems like there was content missing in our latest newsletter, which was sent out about 30 minutes ago. It’s okay — these things happen. We’re all human and I know it was just a mistake! Brandon, Jocelyn, and Lisa, could you work together to send out a new version? Let’s meet quickly after that’s done to talk about how we can cross-check better next time.”


  • Encourage team members to share mistakes swiftly and openly.
  • Frame mistakes as opportunities for learning — and tackle them collaboratively.
  • Ask team members to prioritize helping each other under moments of pressure.

#3 - Lean into change and discomfort.

When faced with changes such as organizational re-structuring or unstable market conditions, many teams retreat and default to what’s “tried and tested”.

But teams with high psychological safety embrace these circumstances, seeing them as a chance to innovate.

Frame change and discomfort as an opportunity — or a moment for growth. This will increase your team’s ability to think creatively and push the boundaries, even in difficult times.

Here’s an example:

“Team, I know that our organization is going through lots of change right now. It can be tough to navigate things when we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. But I encourage everyone to see this as a moment of growth. Over the next few weeks, try to lean into possibility. Always ask yourself and each other, “How can we treat this as a new opportunity?”


  • When change happens at the organizational or team level, help your team see it as a chance for innovation and growth.
  • In 1:1s, ask team members: “How can you lean into this change? What would that look like?”

#4 - Encourage diversity of thought.

Psychologically safe teams don’t always agree. In fact, they often openly disagree with each other. This helps them see new or opposing lines of thought, and helps them create better solutions.

Over time, this can lead your team to deviate from “the norm” and design more unique offerings.

Here’s an example:

“Team, it sounds like not everyone is in agreement here. Let’s take a moment to map out our opinions together, and assess the pros and cons of each. I’m sure there’s value in all of these ideas... let’s talk them through equally before we move ahead.”


  • When disagreements or conflicting views come up, pause — then frame them as a chance for productive debate.
  • Map out ideas on paper or a whiteboard so that everyone can see them. This helps to ensure that no one will dominate the discussion.
  • Ask everyone to share their ideas and be open to reaching a conclusion that’s best for the team — whether it’s what they initially suggested or not.
  • Feel free to seek dissenting views. Ask questions like, “Let’s play devil’s advocate — what are the downsides of this?” to gather a range of different views and address potential challenges.

#5 - Always refer to your team as a unit.

When teams are psychologically safe, team members feel a sense of belonging. Think of your team as one cohesive unit, and continually reiterate that you’re in this together.

This helps your team identify with each other and experience a sense of togetherness.

This can also help your team unite towards a common vision and feel responsibility towards broader goals. Rewarding the full team (and minimizing competition or individualism) is key.

Here’s an example:

“I want us to remember that we’re in this together and we have each other’s backs. That means helping each other pull the weight when others need support. It also means holding each other accountable for taking breaks and time away from work. Look out for each other, and take care of each other. We’re a team… not just individuals.”


  • When you address your team, regularly use unifying words like “unit”, “team”, “group”, “belong,” “together”, and “we/us/our”. This creates a shared sense of identity.
  • Reiterate that you’re here for your team members professionally and personally; you expect them to do the same for one another too.


Psychologically safe teams are not only more open, innovative, collaborative and vulnerable with each other — they also significantly outperform other teams. In this post, we outlined 5 ways to build psychological safety on your team:

#1. Admit when you’re wrong or don’t know something — and share what you’ll try next.

#2. Make it less “risky” to share mistakes.

#3. Lean into change and discomfort.

#4. Encourage diversity of thought.

#5. Always refer to your team as a unit.

By following these steps, you’ll build a more psychologically safe environment — and also improve knowledge-sharing, retention, and belongingness on your team.


Edmondson, A. C. (2018). The fearless organization: Creating psychological safety in the workplace for learning, innovation, and growth. John Wiley & Sons.

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