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Gen Z's Workplace Imperative: Psychological Safety in The Workplace

4 minute read

By Stavy Papasotiriou, Organisational Psychologist and Founder of Work Unlocked

Gen Z – the digital natives who can navigate the complexities of Snapchat filters with the same ease their predecessors handled a classic rotary phone – are causing headaches for employers across all industries, geographies, and sizes. Why? Because they demand to be heard and respected and to feel safe to speak up and share their ideas without being judged or punished.

To me, they seem like a distinct cohort with a keen eye for authenticity, a thirst for inclusivity, and an insatiable appetite for workplaces that prioritise their mental wellbeing. Gen Z-ers are asking for none other than to feel psychologically safe in the workplace. Psychological safety is a need we all have that is shown to contribute to increased creativity, loyalty, and belonging at work.


Economic instability, technological advancement, and social change have been constants throughout Gen Z’s formative years, shaping their worldview in profound ways. Unlike previous generations, who may have experienced more stability in their upbringing, Gen Z has had to navigate a rapidly changing landscape, both online and offline. 

Gen Z is acutely aware of the pressing social and environmental issues facing the world today. They are passionate about making a positive impact and seek out employers who share their values and are committed to social responsibility. For them, a paycheque is not enough; they want to work for companies that are actively engaged in creating a better world for future generations.

They value authenticity above all else, craving genuine connections where they can be their true selves, free from the pressure to conform to traditional norms or expectations. They thrive in environments where they can voice their opinions, experiment with new approaches, and receive constructive criticism without feeling threatened or marginalised. 


Psychological safety is more than just a buzzword — it's the cornerstone of a healthy and productive work environment. Coined by Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, psychological safety refers to a climate in which individuals feel comfortable expressing themselves, taking risks, and being vulnerable without fear of judgment or repercussion.

In psychologically safe workplaces, employees feel empowered to voice their opinions, share their ideas, and engage in open dialogue without the fear of ridicule or retribution. It's about creating an atmosphere of trust, respect, and empathy, where everyone feels valued and supported.

Psychological safety is not about coddling employees or avoiding conflict; rather, it's about fostering an environment where individuals can challenge the status quo, experiment with new approaches, and learn from both successes and failures.

Research has consistently shown that teams with high levels of psychological safety perform better, innovate more, and are more resilient in the face of challenges. By prioritising psychological safety, organisations can unlock the full potential of their employees and create a culture of trust, collaboration, and excellence.

Now, let's explore how you can cultivate psychological safety in your workplace.


Creating a psychologically safe workplace doesn't happen overnight; it requires a concerted effort from leaders and employees at all levels. Here are some strategies for building psychological safety in the workplace, tailored to meet the preferences of Gen Z:


Encourage open dialogue and active listening across all levels of the organisation. Provide multiple channels for feedback, such as anonymous surveys, suggestion boxes, or regular check-ins with managers. 


Leaders set the tone for the organisation's culture. Demonstrate vulnerability, humility, and empathy in your interactions with employees. Be willing to admit mistakes, ask for input, and provide support when needed. 


Create a culture that celebrates diversity of thought, background, and experience. Ensure that all employees feel valued and included, regardless of their identity or perspective. Encourage collaboration across diverse teams to foster creativity and innovation. 


Encourage a growth mindset where failure is seen as a natural part of the learning process. Celebrate both successes and failures and encourage employees to take risks and learn from their experiences. 


Provide opportunities for skill-building, professional development, and mentorship. Equip employees with the tools and resources they need to succeed and empower them to take ownership of their career growth.

In conclusion, psychological safety has emerged as Gen Z's favourite workplace attribute for its alignment with their values, preferences, and aspirations. As we continue to adapt to the evolving needs of the modern workforce, prioritising psychological safety will remain essential in attracting, retaining, and empowering the talent of tomorrow. By fostering environments where individuals feel safe, supported, and empowered to be their authentic selves, organisations can unlock the full potential of this generation and create thriving, innovative workplaces for years to come. 


Stavy Papasotiriou is an organisational psychologist and the visionary behind Work Unlocked — a leading HR consultancy on a mission to revolutionise employee engagement, performance, and retention in businesses worldwide. With a profound understanding of HR practices, Stavy leverages psychological principles to unleash the untapped potential of workforces. At Work Unlocked, Stavy crafts bespoke strategies that are grounded in research and tailored to each organization's unique needs. These strategies are designed to yield remarkable results while requiring minimal resources. Book a free discovery call with one of our skilled organisational psychologists at Work Unlocked.

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