Who’s Responsible for Psychologically Safe Organizations?

Creating a psychologically safe environment where employees feel that they can freely generate ideas, fail forward, and learn from mistakes is an organization-wide responsibility. In order to have each workspace flourish with psychologically safe spaces, organizations must be aware that psychological safety flows from the top, trickling down through multiple leadership levels.

Who Has Responsibility for Psychological Safety in Organizations?

Top Management and the CEO

Starting right at the top, the head of the company that determines where the company turns and what paths they take must understand the importance of psychological safety and be committed to creating that culture within the organization. The desire to create a culture where employees feel welcomed, valued, included, safe to speak up, and like they belong will help steward workplaces in the right direction. A commitment to replacing environments of fear and silence with encouraging innovation is an important consideration for these CEOs. [1]

With so many goals and essential aspects of running a company, an organization needs to be aware of psychological safety right from the top if it is to become a priority anywhere further down the line.

Human Resources

Although there are many steps and important people between the CEO and HR, their position as an organization’s backup and the regulatory system puts HR in a crucial position regarding psychological safety. Their power in creating psychologically safe workspaces ranges from the very beginning to the very end of an employee’s experience and through all the levels of an organization.

While the CEO abstractly puts the concept of culture into the universe, HR puts the practical applications behind that concept. This can be through policies, training, and mediation practices.[2]

Some of the ways HR can affect psychological safety include:

  • Establishing policies that encourage and facilitate open communication, freedom to speak up, and judgment-free spaces.
  • Creating a safe online environment. With so much communication happening virtually, establishing rules on acceptable online behavior is crucial to showing employees that they are protected and valued.

Team Leads

Team leads are the immediate superiors of employees, and almost everyone has a team lead (even team leads themselves have someone higher up unless they are the CEO). The team lead creates the climate of the team while helping shape the mindset and behaviors within that team. Therefore, team leaders must understand and value the creation of psychological safety. They can utilize the concepts from the CEO and the policies and procedures from HR, but they are responsible for actually implementing these things in a meaningful way with their teams.

The most important way that team leaders can create a psychologically safe workplace is by setting the tone for the team through their actions. Fostering the qualities of a psychologically safe workplace- open communication, judgment-free zones, support, and confidence- can start through the team lead’s example and create a framework the entire team can work off. [3]


Now that the CEO has said how important a culture of safety and acceptance is, HR has created policies to facilitate that, and the team lead has implemented those policies; it’s up to employees to work with all the things that have been provided to them to nurture this culture and enact it.

For example, let’s look at psychological safety as a shared belief that a colleague won’t embarrass, reject, or belittle them for offering ideas. It’s easy to see how a colleague choosing to belittle and ridicule anyway can undermine the culture of psychological safety. [4] Employees have a responsibility to help nurture psychological safety.

The Trickle Down of Psychological Safety

The responsibility for a psychologically safe workplace falls to the entire organization. It starts with the idea-maker CEO, who passes it along to HR to create concrete ways to make it happen, which is then adopted and enacted by team leads and bolstered by employee engagement. By working together, psychologically safe organizations can be a simple new reality. For more ideas on how to create safe and inclusive workspaces, check out our blog.

[1] https://ceoworld.biz/2022/04/15/a-ceos-playbook-for-workplace-psychological-safety

[2] https://www.blackdiamondleadership.com/what-hr-professionals-should-know-about-psychological-safety

[3] https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/psychological-safety-and-the-critical-role-of-leadership-development

[4] https://www.hrreporter.com/focus-areas/culture-and-engagement/10-ways-to-build-psychological-safety-at-work/359748

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