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The Future of Psychological Safety

In the second part of this two-part blog, LINDA RAY looks at the future of psychological safety and how creating psychologically safe workplaces will keep organisations on the right side of the impending psychological divide.

In the last blog, I looked at the “threat” drivers behind the rise of Psychological Safety. Now it’s time to explore the “reward” side, which is what I find much more exciting. With a global pandemic well into its second year, we are in not only challenging but changing times. We are being forced to change. Forced to pivot and become more innovative to survive. This presents us with a great opportunity to stop and think about how we do business.

Protective Mode v Productive Mode

Looking at the pandemic through a neuroscience lens, we can see change invoking a threat response and a natural reaction is to go into Protective Mode. This is where we hunker down, avoid risk, and try to protect what we have. In this mode, we also become less creative and innovative, which are the very traits we need to get ourselves out of the mess in which we find ourselves.
As many sporting teams have discovered the hard way, hunkering down, trying to protect a lead, is a sure way to lose a game. By switching our focus and forcing ourselves into Productive Mode, we can unleash the creativity and innovation we need to achieve new levels of high performance and come out a winner. And playing to win the game is much more fun than playing to not-lose the game.

Psychological Divide

Global history is littered with “great divides” – East v West civilisations, Left v Right political divide, the education divide, the gender divide, and, if you’re Australian, the Ford v Holden divide.
Winners might find themselves on the right side of any divide by good luck or good management. The Digital Divide, for instance, has created just as many winners as it has created losers. Some just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Others sensed change coming and positioned themselves to be in a right place and time.
What I see in the workplaces of the future is a Psychological Divide. The winners, who will find themselves on the right side of the Psychological Divide, will be the organisations where leaders created psychologically safe workplaces. Some might have naturally evolved psychologically safe workplaces with great leaders. Others will need to sense the shift and make the required changes before it’s too late.


For organisations to survive and prosper, they must continually innovate and find ways to do more with less. Today’s best practice is tomorrow’s minimum standards. That’s why the benefits unlocked by psychologically safe workplaces will become minimum standards required for survival.
In a psychologically safe workplace, people feel free to experiment, to share ideas, and take risks. This leads to the creativity and innovation that keeps an organisation productive and at the cutting edge of their industry. Instead of wasting time and energy worrying about staying socially safe, workers in psychologically safe environment can focus their attention on the things that get the job done – better and faster.
Psychologically safe workplaces also have lower costs associated with staff turnover and workers compensation. Those resources are better invested in areas of the business that generate growth and higher returns.
Taking this benefit to the next level, an organisation with a psychologically safe work environment can become an “employer of choice”. In the years and decades to come, we will see organisations struggle to cope with skills shortages for certain occupations and talent shortages across a range of roles. Offering more money may attract a few. But giving people purpose and making them feel valued and safe will not only attract the best but will motivate them to be even better.

Choose your side

There will be two sides to the Psychological Divide. On one side we will see the “employers of choice” who embraced change. They attract and keep the best people. They are more creative and productive. They are already innovating the next step.
On the other side will be the organisations who resisted change and went into protective mode.
The crack is opening up right now and is probably accelerating due to the pandemic. But there is still time to switch sides.
Once the die has been cast – and the divide is too wide to cross – which side will you be on?

NOTE: Linda Ray is conducting a free webinar on 15 September 2021 called Does your company have a psychological safety strategy? Why you need one!
You can register for the webinar here:

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