Psychological Safety in the Workplace

PERKS Editorial Team

PERKS Editorial Team


October 13, 2021

The Building Culture Podcast - Episode 3.5

Anu Mandapati, "Psychological Safety in the Workplace"

What does it mean to have psychological safety in the workplace? Building Culture discusses with Anu Mandapati, VP and Head of DEI at Talking Talent North America. A culture of trust is essential for teams, especially in a remote or hybrid setting, and enhances the people experience when done well.


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Show notes:
  • Anu's transition from psychology and counseling to becoming a leader in the DEI space
  • Defining psychological safety: A shared belief held by members of a team that others on the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish you for speaking up. (Center for Creative Leadership)
  • What does psychological safety or having a safe space at work look like?
  • What responsibility do HR and People & Culture professionals have in building a culture of safety?
  • Leaders have heard that there needs to be more vulnerability to promote a culture of safety, starting from the top. Do you find this to be true in your work?
    • It goes back to this human component of culture that we always talk about on our show. It does start with one person coming to work authentically - and that sets the pace for the whole team.
    • Consultative or challenging leadership approach, where leaders ask their teams to reexamine assumptions about their work
  • What are the consequences of not having psychological safety in the workplace?
    • People don’t feel comfortable talking about what’s not working > no one in the organization hears about those issues > Employees feel frustrated, unseen and leave > Companies wonder why they’re losing talent
  • What kind of an approach do we need to take to foster a safe space? What practical things can we do?
    • David Altman, COO at Center for Creative Leadership: “Psychological safety at work doesn’t mean that everybody is nice all the time. It means that you embrace the conflict and you speak up, knowing that your team has your back, and you have their backs.”
  • Are there any differences in the way that psychological safety plays out in an in-office or more traditional work model vs. a hybrid/blended/remote setting?
    • Has trust overall decreased?
    • HBR: It’s not about sharing everything, but what is relevant from your personal life as it impacts your work life.
  • McKinsey recently studied this in-depth. “Positive team climate is the most important driver of psychological safety and most likely to occur when leaders demonstrate supportive, consultative behaviors, then begin to challenge their teams.”
    • Findings: skills that we can train people in:
      • Sponsorship, or enabling someone else’s success before your own
      • Encouraging a mindset of personal growth and curiosity
      • Psychological safety enhances the employee or people experience at a workplace, school, etc.