Psychological Safety

Ingrid M. Nembhard and Amy C. Edmondson

in The Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199734610
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Psychological Safety

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  • Psychology
  • Organizational Psychology
  • Social Psychology



In this chapter, we describe psychological safety and organizational learning, how they are related, and how they contribute to a positive work experience. We begin by defining psychological safety, then provide a theoretical and evidence-based argument that psychological safety facilitates three key determinants of organizational learning: speaking up, collaboration, and experimentation. We further propose that these activities promote both organizational performance and more satisfying work environments. We also discuss aspects of the work environment (e.g., status hierarchies and narrow performance goals) that undermine psychological safety by highlighting the interpersonal risks of engaging in learning behaviors. Finally, we address overcoming these barriers, identifying leader inclusiveness, high-quality peer relationships, and opportunities to practice offline as factors that promote psychological safety and set the stage for organizational learning and improvement. We conclude with suggestions for future research.

Keywords: Psychological safety; organizational learning; team learning; speaking up; communication; collaboration; experimentation; leadership; performance

Article.  9628 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Organizational Psychology ; Social Psychology

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