Psychological Safety for High Engagement

Have you ever worked in an environment where you or others held back from speaking up? Held back from sharing ideas? Held back from speaking up when you could clearly see things are going wrong? Held back from admitting a mistake? Or held back from asking a question?

You are likely to have experienced a lack of psychological safety.

In a culture where there is a lack of psychological safety, people are often afraid to speak up, present ideas or challenge the status quo. In situations where it is about life or death, like the operating theatre or on an aircraft, this can be detrimental to the safety of humans. In the corporate work world, it impacts the team’s performance and hits the bottom line.

‘Low levels of psychological safety can create a culture of silence. They can also create a Cassandra culture – an environment in which speaking up is belittled and warnings go unheeded. – Amy C. Edmondson

In her book ‘The Fearless Organization’ Amy C. Edmondson explains that it’s human instinct to 'fit it' and 'go along'. Our job as leaders is to create psychological safety where our people feel safe to bring themselves in, no matter 'how crazy' the idea might be and ask questions without fearing they will get laughed at. That's how teams stay innovative.

Edmondson describes Psychological Safety as the belief that ‘one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.’ However, a recent Gallup report shows that only three in ten workers strongly agree that their opinions seem to count at work. Creating psychological safety has to be front and center of every people leader's mind in every organisation.

‘Psychological safety is not a perk; it’s essential to producing high performance in a VUCA world. – Amy C. Edmondson

We won’t be able to make our workplaces completely fearless, but we should do our best to create a high level of psychological safety, not just for performance but also to protect our team members and clients.

Creating psychologically safe environments increases engagement where team members speak freely, bring forward bold ideas, admit mistakes and ask for help. And, as we know, this kind of engagement has been identified as the main driver for performance and growth.

How does DISC help to create psychological safety?

People who feel understood trust you. And when people trust you, they feel safe to ask for help, speak up and admit mistakes.

We all show up through our behaviours. In fact, culture means how people show up, behave and make decisions. DISC helps you to understand what your and other people’s natural preference of behaving and communicating is and how you relate to other people.

Once we have that awareness, we can act upon that and lean into other people’s preferred way of doing things which makes them feel understood and safe.

I am working with a leadership team at the moment where the leader is very direct and can come across as brash and rude. The team wasn’t trusting him and constantly ‘walked on eggshells’. They didn’t feel safe and in turn didn’t deliver creative and bold enough solutions. We used DISC with the leader to help him understand that it was upon him to amend or flex his style in his meetings to create a safe environment, adapt his feedback and take a softer approach. We spoke openly about it in our team coaching sessions and the conversations have shifted over the last few months with team engagement increasing.

DISC is a practical tool to create psychological safety. And when psychological safety is present, engagement is evident too!

To get a deeper look into the benefits of creating a psychological safe environment, download our e-book here:


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