Skip to content

The Role Of Psychological Safety In DEI

Group of people in a meeting around a conference table

Image credit: Unsplash

Manage Magazine defines psychological safety as the assurance that employees within a specific work environment can voice their opinions without fear of negative consequences. Psychologically safe environments do not tolerate bullying, harassment, or humiliation, thus giving employees the freedom to openly ask questions, discuss new ideas, bring up concerns, and even make mistakes. In today’s employment landscape, competition for talent is fierce and companies need to do everything they can to attract top talent. Psychological safety gives employers a distinct advantage. Top candidates don’t just want high salaries anymore — they also want to work with leaders whose values align with their own, leaders that treat their team members with respect.

Psychological safety is of greater importance in companies that promote DEI. Experiences with systemic discrimination often discourage workers from oppressed groups — such as workers of color, women, and LGBT individuals — from speaking out.  However, the need for psychological safety applies equally  to all workers – whether they are from marginalized groups or not.  Without psychological safety, workers remain uncomfortable in their work environments, and their teams lose out on valuable input. In this article, we’ll discuss why psychological safety matters in DEI.

Psychological Safety Empowers Workers To Voice Their Opinions

Discrimination against specific groups or individuals disempowers employees from speaking their minds. For example, studies show that when men outnumber women in a group, women speak up as much as 75% less often.  And when women speak, men often interrupt them. Patriarchal power structures make women appear less authoritative.

Without psychological safety, these problems worsen. Workers from marginalized groups need the assurance that they will not be interrupted, humiliated, or unfairly criticized when they speak out. Leaders need to make sure that their teams are aware of their biases and correct them when interacting with others.

Psychological Safety Improves Mental Health

Workers will have a difficult time providing valuable output for their companies if their mental health is in poor shape. A lack of psychological safety puts workers, especially workers from marginalized groups, in stressful positions. If the negative consequences they receive while speaking out are rooted in discrimination, working in a psychologically unsafe workplace may reignite past traumas.

Psychological Safety Fosters Team Trust

More openness naturally leads to strengthened connections. In a psychologically safe workplace, where diverse workers are assured that they will be listened to, diverse workers will not feel the need to keep their guards up. When diverse workers are sure their teammates will see them as equals and treat them with respect, it becomes easier for the team to bond.

What Can Leaders Do?

The first step to fostering psychological safety is to include discussions on discrimination in training programs. Our previous article on the role of leadership in fostering inclusive workspaces explained that these programs can open the minds of team members and supervisors. Raising awareness and removing biases ensures that the achievements of diverse workers receive recognition.

Training programs should also teach workers subjects like active listening and how to provide criticism. When employees learn how to provide critical feedback, they’ll be able to spot and correct the mistakes of their teammates in a respectful and dignified manner. Active listening teaches employees how to value the voices of their coworkers.

To summarize, psychological safety encourages the I (inclusion) in DEI. And Inclusion is the part of DEI that motivates diverse workers to share their unique perspectives. If you want to make the most of your diverse workforce, invest in psychological safety.

Article exclusively written for
Authored by Rita Janet