Trust and psychological safety at work: are you in the 2% or 98%?

A recent McKinsey report suggested that 89% of people at work say that having psychological safety at work is essential, with a further 9% saying it’s important. If I get my maths right that makes just 2% of workers saying its not important! Are you a 2%er or a 98%er? 
So this is a topic that is increasingly on people’s agendas. But do all employees mean the same thing when they talk about psychological safety and do all managers understand the same thing? And is a psychologically safe environment really achievable? Perhaps it is more something that we work towards and continually pay attention to just as if we were developing our confidence, assuming of course that we want great employee engagement and high performing teams? 
psychological safety training

At Jaluch, it’s our experience that whilst this is a phrase often used in today’s workplaces, there isn’t always enough clarity about what it means and how leaders can actually create a psychologically safe environment at work. It’s a bit last minute, but we do have an online event running on the 20th September if you can commit 3 hours at short notice, but otherwise here is an opportunity to check your current knowledge. A quick quiz, so enjoy! Contact us if you’d like to join the session.

Trust and psychological safety quiz

Here are five questions for you to check your knowledge! If you want more questions you can play our trust and psychological safety game, you can also find the link at the bottom of this article. Top of the leaderboard on 31st October will receive a £10 Amazon voucher! 

Q1. What happens in a team when everyone treats others ‘charitably’ or kindly?  

  • If you make a mistake, it won’t be held against you
  • If something is wrong, you can say so without fear of recriminations
  • If you need help, you can ask for it without worrying about a negative response

All are correct! Other benefits of working in a ‘charitable’ team include finding that when you change your mind, people will appreciate your humility, rather than berate you for changing your mind.  Is that your current workplace experience or might this be something to work on? 

Q2. If you want a group to have psychological safety, the number one thing you need to do is…

  • Get people to care about each other 
  • Communicate more
  • Get people to care

Get people to care. In a caring, kind environment people look to praise not criticise, they appreciate the good stuff without obsessing about what didn’t go right.  

Q3. The trust you have in someone’s capability and consistency is sometimes known as…

  • Cognitive Trust
  • Affective Trust  

Cognitive trust. Cognitive trust is about believing that the other person can and will complete the task they said they would complete eg holding your safety rope whilst you abseil down a cliff.  In contrast Affective trust is trust in someone’s capacity for empathy and sympathy, honesty and integrity. 

Q4. To achieve high team effectiveness researchers found that what really mattered was…  

  • It’s all about who is on the team
  • It’s all about how the team work together 

It’s all about how the team work together. You can have the brightest minds and the most experienced people on a team, but if they engage in a battle of egos you can have the weakest of teams! For some really powerful insights into this please do watch Margaret Heffernan’s superchicken TedTalk.

Q5. What are some of the benefits of psychological safety?  

  • Improved innovation 
  • Happier teams 
  • More resilient teams
  • Increased retention levels

All are correct. As well as these benefits there are others such as teams that take more intelligent risks, and that raise concerns sooner. Can you name any individuals in your organisation who would rather keep their head down than raise concerns, even where not addressing those concerns could cause damage to the organisation? Equally do you have team members who refuse to take risks or make certain decisions for fear of repercussions.? 

Focus on trust

One of the first steps to creating psychological safety is to focus on trust. What is the level of trust between colleagues, between colleagues and their manager, between employees and the leadership team? If there are areas of weakness here, building trust from the ground up is a good place to start.

Interested to learn a little more about trust and psychological safety? Why not ask us about our 3-hour live-online session we can run for your managers, or join our online session on the 20th September, but be quick as just a few places available. Call us for details!

If you want more questions and a bit of fun, play our trust and psychological safety game. Top of the leaderboard on 31st October will receive a £10 Amazon voucher! Make sure you leave your name/company on the leaderboard and email us if you make the top spot!

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Disclaimer: The information contained within this article is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of employment and associated law and employee relations issues as at the date of publication. Jaluch Limited, or any of its directors or employees, cannot be held responsible for any action or inaction taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be sought on all individual matters.



Helen Jamieson

Jaluch MD

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