Psychological safety and trust are not the same thing



I have been listening to and reading The Fearless Organization by Amy Edmondson. It’s a book that was recommended to me by Dr Kevin Ruck, co-founder of the PR Academy, and one I have advocated since I started it.

Grounded in research and insight, the book covers everything you need to know about the importance of psychological safety in the workplace and why you need to pay attention to it.

There are several insights in the book that stand out for me but the distinction from trust is the one I want to share.

The book outlines what psychological safety is not:

  • It is not about personality; or
  • Being nice; or
  • Another word for trust; or
  • About lowering performance standards.

Edmondson defines the difference between trust and safety: “A key difference is that psychological safety is experienced at a group level… Trust on the other hand refers to interactions between two individuals or parties; trust exists in the mind of an individual and pertains to a specific target individual or organisation.”

This is an important distinction because it shows how safety links to groups, teams and the organisation as a whole. For me, this supports the importance of communication across groups and teams and the role of relationships in the workplace when it comes to getting things done.

There are huge links to risk, innovation, creativity, problem-solving and more. So, if you’re exploring anything this year around culture, teams and management – this is the book to read.

If you’re looking for some help to get your teams working better together, we have the tools and insights to help: take a look at our Training and Coaching services. If you want to ask me anything about this topic, or have an issue you’d like to discuss, please email me at And you can also listen to my podcast episode on fear and trust.

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