In a recent webinar I hosted for IABC Emena, an intriguing question came up: “What’s the link between belonging and psychological safety?” In this blog post, we will explore the profound connection between belonging and psychological safety, and why they are essential for the well-being of individuals and the success of groups.
Belonging and psychological safety are two seemingly distinct concepts but are actually deeply interconnected, with each playing a vital role in creating environments where individuals can collaborate, innovate, and thrive.
The foundation of belonging
Belonging is a fundamental human need. It goes beyond mere inclusion; it is about having the capacity to be yourself, feeling valued, seen, heard, that you matter and, as a recent connection pointed out ‘feel part of the solution’. Whether in the workplace, social groups, or communities, individuals who experience a strong sense of belonging tend to be more engaged, motivated, and satisfied with their experiences.
Belonging is rooted in emotional connection. When individuals feel emotionally connected to a group or organization, they are more likely to invest their time and energy, which leads to increased loyalty and commitment. Belonging also often involves aligning one’s identity with the values and culture of the group. This alignment can provide a strong sense of purpose and direction, enhancing overall well-being. Employees I’ve interviewed have often pointed towards this values and culture alignment with their organizations that lead them to apply for a job and eventually make them leave or stay.
The essence of psychological safety
Psychological safety, on the other hand, is the belief that one can express their ideas, voice concerns, and take risks without fearing negative consequences. It creates an atmosphere where individuals feel safe to be themselves, make mistakes, and learn from them (Edmondson, 2003).
It encourages open and honest communication. When individuals are not afraid to share their thoughts and opinions, it fosters a culture of transparency and innovation. In psychologically-safe environments, individuals are more willing to take calculated risks, explore new ideas, and challenge the status quo. This leads to innovation and continuous improvement.
The interplay between belonging and psychological safety
Now, let’s explore the intricate connection between these two concepts:
Belonging leads to psychological safety. When individuals feel a strong sense of belonging within a group or organization, they are more likely to perceive that group as a safe space. They trust that their contributions will be valued and respected, which enhances their willingness to express themselves without fear of ridicule or rejection.
Psychological safety enhances a sense of belonging. When individuals feel safe to express themselves and share their authentic selves, it deepens their connection with the group. They feel valued not only for what they contribute but also for who they are as individuals.
“How you are treated greatly impacts what you can contribute.”– Elfi Martinez (he/him), Vice President, Jennifer Brown Consulting
The impact on well-being and performance
Belonging and psychological safety have a direct impact on individual well-being and group performance. When individuals experience belonging and psychological safety, their overall well-being improves. They feel happier, more fulfilled, and less stressed. Groups that prioritize these concepts tend to perform better. They are more innovative, adaptable, and productive, as individuals are not inhibited by fear or self-doubt.
In other words
Belonging and psychological safety are not separate ideals but interwoven threads that form the fabric of supportive, thriving communities and organizations. They have a huge impact on how we feel and perform, both personally and professionally. By recognizing and nurturing this connection, we can create environments where individuals feel valued, empowered, and motivated to contribute their best — all theirs skills, talent and creativity. In doing so, we unlock the potential for innovation, growth, and lasting positive change in our personal and professional lives.
- Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529.
- Edmondson, A. C. (1999). Psychological safety and learning behavior in work teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(2), 350-383.
- Edmondson, A. C. (2003). Speaking up in the operating room: How team leaders promote learning in interdisciplinary action teams. Journal of management studies, 40(6), 1419-1452.