Psychological safety: Insights from Squid Game: The Challenge

Psychological safety: Insights from Squid Game: The Challenge
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Squid Game: The Challenge allows us to reflect on human nature and think about what employers can do to create workplaces that unite and flourish, rather than divide.

Is Squid Game: The Challenge a psychologically safe environment? Definitely not. It’s probably about as far away as its possible to be. That’s sort of the point. Peril lurks at every turn and one false move can mean elimination from the game.

456 people compete to win $4.56 million, the largest prize in game show history, by taking part in children’s games. Competitors from different backgrounds form allegiances, try to get themselves on the strongest teams and decide whether to give others an advantage or eliminate them from the game. It’s a fascinating and exposing insight into what happens when you put a group of people who don’t know each other together to navigate the tensions between teamwork and individual reward. Not that dissimilar from a workplace, right?

What is psychological safety?

Psychological safety is the bedrock of a healthy, inclusive, and harmonious workplace culture. Harvard Business School Professor, Amy Edmondson, used the concept to describe a ‘climate where employees feel safe to take interpersonal risks, voice their opinions, and express their thoughts without fear of negative consequences’.

Psychological safety is about creating an environment where authenticity is valued, mistakes are viewed as opportunities for growth, and diverse perspectives are not just welcomed, but actively sought. In Squid Game: The Challenge, mistakes are not viewed as opportunities for growth, mistakes lead to blame, often leaving the individual visibly crushed.

What are the benefits of a psychologically safe working environment?

Enhanced Employee Engagement and Retention

Psychological safety enhances employee engagement, increases investment in discretionary employee efforts, and further results in an increased sense of ownership, commitment and belonging to an organisation.

Greater Diversity in the Workplace

Organisations that prioritise psychological safety tend to have greater diversity amongst their workforce, as employees feel safe, included, and comfortable to share their ideas and celebrate their differences.

Open and Effective Communication

Psychological safety encourages open and honest communication. When employees feel safe to express themselves, communication barriers break down, leading to greater transparency and effective collaboration.

Enhanced Innovation, Creativity and Problem-Solving

A psychologically safe working environment creates an open and safe space for employees to share their ideas, be creative and innovative, and find sustainable and supported solutions.

Effective Conflict Resolution

In psychologically safe working environments, employees feel confident in discussing and resolving conflicts constructively and in a conciliatory manner. This contributes to a reduction in adversarial workplace disputes which can have a negative impact on the workplace and employee wellbeing.

Positive Employee Wellbeing

Psychological safety is linked to mental health and overall well-being. When employees feel safe and supported, stress and anxiety levels decrease, contributing to a positive and healthy workplace atmosphere.

What measures can organisations implement to promote psychological safety?

Conduct a workplace audit to assess psychological safety

Organisations can conduct a workplace audit to assess psychological safety. This would include a review of employee policies and practices, as well as facilitated discussions with groups in the organisation.

Training and Development

Invest in leadership development programs and training workshops to raise awareness about the importance of psychological safety within teams and the workplace. Training should also focus on the necessary tools and communication strategies to create a supportive and psychologically safe working environment

Measuring and Monitoring

Implement tools and indicators to regularly monitor psychological safety in the workplace. This will assist in gauging evolving needs and adjustments that need to take place.

If your organisation would like assistance and guidance on how to create a psychologically safe working environment and/or to empower your leadership team with the necessary tools for maintaining a psychologically safe working environment, please contact Megan Britz at