Psychological Safety

Creating a psychologically safe workplace is essential for fostering trust, innovation, and collaboration among team members. This intermediate-level program based on the work of Dr. David Rock of the NeuroLeadership Institute explores how leaders can promote psychological safety and belonging on their teams by mitigating threats to status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness.

TOPIC: Leadership
LEVEL: Intermediate
Core Skills & Behaviours​

Five Dimensions of Psychological Safety

  1. Status: Leaders can use status-affirming language and techniques, emphasize “power with” rather than “power over” their teams, and leverage their power to effect positive change on behalf of others.
  2. Certainty: Leaders can use “what if” scenarios to reduce uncertainty on their teams, particularly in moments of change or challenge.
  3. Autonomy: Leaders can use meaningful consultation and offer choices to maintain autonomy. They can also enhance autonomy, rather than restricting it, when responding to performance issues.
  4. Relatedness: Creating opportunities for inter-group collaboration can help foster a sense of relatedness within or across teams. Leaders can admit their own mistakes and challenges to be more relatable mentors.
  5. Fairness: Leaders should engage in transparent decision-making to reinforce fairness.
Snippet Title Topic Covered


Growing Pains

Demonstrates how threats to status reduce psychological safety in the workplace. Suggests ‘status-affirming’ leadership techniques.


Performance Reviews

Demonstrates how threats to status are inherent in all leader-subordinate relationships. Suggests that leaders focus on ‘power with’ rather than ‘power over’ their teams.


The Client’s Scandal

Shows that status threats can be compounded by leaders’ identities (gender, race, class, etc.). Suggests that leaders use their ‘power to’ effect change on behalf of others to disarm status threats.


The Team Shakeup

Shows that ambiguity causes a high degree of stress for some people. Suggests that leaders create certainty and use ‘what if’ scenarios whenever possible.


New Tech

Demonstrates that resistance to top-down changes is often rooted in a threat to autonomy. Suggests that leaders use meaningful consultation and create choices.


Another Mistake

Shows that threats to autonomy negatively affects job performance, particularly for neurodiverse employees. Suggests that leaders should respect and enhance autonomy when responding to performance issues.


Developer Delays

Shows how leaders should respond to intergroup tensions by reinforcing relatedness and creating opportunities for collaboration.


What Happened?

Shows that leaders are less effective coaches or mentors if they pose a threat to relatedness. Demonstrates how openness and admitting fallibility can increase leaders’ relatability.


The Ideal Candidate

Through the lens of hiring, explores how perceptions of unfairness can affect a team. Recommends that leaders engage in transparent decision-making.


Slipping Performance

Demonstrates that it is not always easy for leaders to discern why someone is struggling at work. Emotionally intelligent leaders must engage people with curiosity and ask them about their sensitivity to threats.

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