The Crucial Link Between Psychological Safety and Burnout

Despite the growing prevalence of flexible and remote employment, burnout has become a serious concern that many organizations are grappling with.

We have all heard the term, but what does burnout mean? Burnout is largely the result of ill-managed chronic workplace stress. It manifests through emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a diminished sense of personal accomplishment. Burnout seriously affects employees’ physical and mental well-being, productivity, and overall job satisfaction. Understanding the relationship between psychological safety and burnout is essential for fostering a healthy workplace environment.

Psychological safety refers to an individual’s perception of the consequences of taking interpersonal risks in their work environment. In other words, psychological safety is the perception that we can express thoughts and ideas, challenge the status quo, ask questions, and admit mistakes without fear of punishment or humiliation. This is not to say that we should feel comfortable being constantly negative, argumentative, or combative without consequence. Rather psychological safety is the perception that we are safe to raise unpopular questions, be authentic in our curiosity, think outside the box, and learn from missteps. This sense of safety is critical in mitigating burnout and enhancing overall employee well-being.

Psychological Safety as a Buffer Against Burnout

Research consistently shows that high perceptions of psychological safety significantly reduce the risk of burnout. When employees feel safe, they are more likely to voice concerns, seek support, and collaborate effectively—all of which are essential to managing stress and preventing burnout.

Psychological safety provides a buffer against the pressures and demands of modern work life. Employee confidence that ideas and feelings will be respected can result in greater resilience in the face of challenges. This resilience stems from the assurance that their workplace is a supportive space where they can rely on their colleagues and leaders for help and understanding.

A Leader’s Role in Fostering Psychological Safety

Leaders play a critical role in establishing and maintaining psychological safety within their teams. Effective leaders create an environment where open communication is encouraged and diverse perspectives are valued. They model behaviours that promote trust and respect, such as actively listening to employees, admitting their own mistakes, and responding to feedback constructively.

  • Encouraging Open Communication: Leaders can foster psychological safety by encouraging open communication. This involves creating regular opportunities for team members to share their thoughts and concerns. Team meetings, one-on-one check-ins, and anonymous feedback channels can all contribute to a culture of openness.
  • Modelling Vulnerability and Empathy: When leaders are open about their own challenges and show empathy toward employees’ struggles, it humanizes them and reduces the stigma associated with vulnerability. This modelling can encourage employees to be more open and supportive of each other.
  • Recognizing and Valuing Contributions: Acknowledging employees’ efforts and contributions builds a sense of value and belonging. When leaders celebrate successes and recognize the hard work of their team, it fosters a positive and motivating environment.

The Dark Side: Leadership and Psychological Safety

Conversely, leaders who lack the experience to create a safe and supportive environment contribute to a climate of fear and anxiety. This exacerbates burnout. Leaders who are overly critical, dismissive of employee input, or inconsistent in their expectations can undermine psychological safety. Such behaviours can lead to a culture where employees are afraid to speak up, share ideas, or seek help, increasing stress and the risk of burnout. For example:

  • Micromanagement and Overcontrol: Leaders who micromanage can stifle creativity and autonomy, leading to frustration and stress. Employees who feel they have no control over their work are more likely to experience burnout.
  • Inconsistent Behaviour: Leaders who are unpredictable in their reactions create an environment of uncertainty. Employees in such settings may constantly feel on edge, worrying about potential negative repercussions for their actions.
  • Lack of Support and Recognition: When leaders fail to support their team or recognize their efforts, it leads to feelings of isolation and undervaluation. This lack of support drains employees’ emotional and psychological resources, making them more susceptible to burnout.


The interplay between psychological safety and burnout is a critical consideration for any organization aiming to enhance employee well-being and productivity. Leaders hold the key to creating environments where psychological safety is the norm, not the exception. By fostering open communication, modelling vulnerability, and recognizing contributions, leaders can mitigate the risk of burnout and cultivate a thriving, resilient workforce. However, leaders must also be vigilant about their own behaviours, which could significantly diminish psychological safety and, in turn, amplify the risk of burnout. The responsibility lies in leadership to nurture a culture that not only prioritizes psychological safety but also actively works to sustain it.

Organizations must prioritize creating a safe and supportive work environment where employees feel comfortable speaking up, taking risks, and sharing their ideas. By focusing on these key areas, organizations can effectively address burnout and create a culture that values their employees’ well-being and success.

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Weaving DEI into Your Professional Practice

A magician’s sleight of hand reveals a silver dollar from behind your ear. How did they do that?! There’s something awe-inspiring about a magician and their tricks, leaving us both amazed and frustrated as we wonder how they picked our card out of a deck or pulled a rabbit from their hat. But here’s the twist: the magic of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) isn’t a trick at all. Too often, DEI is seen as someone else’s job, confined to specialized teams or committees. But here’s the exciting part: DEI is for everyone, and it can be seamlessly integrated into your daily work, no matter your role or industry.

Why DEI Matters for Everyone

Embedding DEI in your professional practice isn’t just a matter of policy compliance or social responsibility. It’s about leveraging the full potential of diverse perspectives to drive better outcomes. Research consistently shows that diverse teams are more creative, better at problem-solving, and achieve higher financial returns. 

Despite knowing the benefits of fostering inclusive environments, many of us feel uncertain about where to start, especially if DEI isn’t our main focus. But here’s the fun part: everyone can play a role in making our workplaces more inclusive!

Practical Steps to Integrate DEI

Self-Education and Awareness: Dive into DEI principles that fit your role, whether you’re in IT, marketing, or customer service. There’s a treasure trove of webinars, articles, and training sessions out there to help you. Check your workplace learning management system or your professional association for courses.

Inclusive Communication: Evaluate your communication style and practices. Are you using inclusive language? Are you actively listening to and valuing the input from all team members? Small changes in how we communicate can make a big difference in making everyone feel valued and heard.

Equitable Opportunities: Advocate for and contribute to equitable practices within your team. This could mean ensuring everyone has access to professional development opportunities, recognizing and mitigating unconscious biases in hiring and promotions, or supporting flexible work arrangements to accommodate diverse needs.

Making DEI a Part of Your Routine

Integrating DEI into your daily routine doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your work processes. It’s about being intentional with your actions and decisions. Consider how you can incorporate DEI into meetings, project planning, client interactions, and even in casual workplace conversations. By consistently applying a DEI lens, you’ll help create an environment where everyone feels respected and empowered to contribute their best.

DEI at Home: Empowering Stay-at-Home Caregivers and Parents

DEI principles aren’t just for the office—they’re equally important at home. Stay-at-home caregivers and parents can also weave DEI into their day-to-day work. By teaching children about the value of diversity, encouraging inclusive play, and fostering an environment where everyone’s voice is heard and respected, caregivers can build a foundation of empathy and understanding. Reading books from diverse authors, celebrating different cultural traditions, and discussing the importance of equity can help raise the next generation of inclusive thinkers and leaders.

Your Role in the Bigger Picture

Remember, DEI is not solely the responsibility of HR or designated DEI officers. Each of us has a role to play in fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. Your efforts, no matter how small they may seem, contribute to a larger culture shift towards inclusion.

Not sure where to start?

Reach out to us at Edified Projects to discuss how you can integrate DEI principles into your professional practice. 

Image by Ahmed Sheraz on Unsplash

Two-Eyed Seeing for Inclusive Leadership

Hands are lined up along a tree trunk.

Etuaptmumk means Two-Eyed Seeing. The term was shared by Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall and refers to the ability to see the world through both Indigenous and Western perspectives simultaneously, acknowledging the strengths and insights of both knowledge systems.

At its core, Two-Eyed Seeing emphasizes the importance of integrating Indigenous ways of knowing with Western scientific methods to address complex challenges and create more holistic solutions. It recognizes that each perspective offers unique insights and approaches that can complement each other when combined thoughtfully.

Two-Eyed Seeing encourages inclusive workplaces

In practice, Two-Eyed Seeing encourages collaboration and mutual respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, fostering partnerships that draw on the strengths of both knowledge systems. This approach is applied across various fields, including education, environmental stewardship, healthcare, and community development (see Institute for Integrative Science & Health for more information).

It involves creating spaces for dialogue, knowledge sharing, and learning from each other’s perspectives to promote cultural understanding, reconciliation, and sustainable development. This has applicability in all workplaces. By embracing Two-Eyed Seeing, individuals and organizations can work towards more inclusive and equitable outcomes that honour Indigenous ways of knowing while also leveraging the advancements of Western science and technology.

At Edified Projects, we practice Two-Eyed Seeing as a core tenet of our work. And we routinely coach organizations on implementing the concept in practice as a means of fostering a more inclusive workplace and culture. We believe that Etuaptmumk is a skill that senior leaders in any organization or community should work to develop. 

Nine principles of Two-Eyed Seeing for leaders

Here are nine principles of Two-Eyed Seeing that leaders can apply in their leadership practice:

1. Respect and value diverse perspectives: Embrace diversity in all its forms, including cultural, social, and professional differences. Recognize that each perspective (for example, Indigenous and non-Indigenous) has something valuable to contribute.

2. Seek out multiple viewpoints: Actively seek out different perspectives and opinions on key issues. Engage with knowledge holders, community members, clients, and team members from a variety of backgrounds and experiences.

3. Embrace uncertainty: Acknowledge that not all questions have easy answers and that ambiguity can be a source of creativity and innovation.

4. Practice humility: Recognize that no single worldview has all the answers and be open to learning from others. Two-Eyed Seeing avoids a clash of perspectives or the assimilation of views. Instead, it is the practice of co-learning and drawing on the strengths of multiple perspectives to advance solutions and understanding.

5. Foster collaboration: Create opportunities for people with different backgrounds and expertise to come together and collaborate on solutions.

6. Promote inclusivity: Create a safe and inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

7. Embrace change: Be willing to adapt and advance your thinking based on new information and insights. This is how knowledge evolves. And how big transformations can happen.

8. Lead with compassion: Show empathy and understanding towards others, recognizing the challenges they face and the contributions they make.

9. Commit to lifelong learning: Be open to new ideas and perspectives and continue to educate yourself on different ways of knowing and being.

By embracing the principles of Two-Eyed Seeing, senior leaders can cultivate a more inclusive and sustainable leadership approach that honours the unique strengths of multiple worldviews. This holistic approach can help drive innovation, creativity, and positive change in your organization and foster an organizational culture that benefits all employees.

Image by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

Inclusive Leadership: Respecting the Many Facets of Self-Identification

While Shakespeare’s famous line, “What’s in a name?” may suggest names are inconsequential, the reality is quite the opposite, especially when it comes to inclusive leadership. Inclusion should not be reduced to a mere buzzword. Instead, it should represent a commitment to fostering an environment where everyone feels valued and respected. This commitment begins with the fundamental act of respecting the many facets of self-identification, including people’s names, pronouns, and other key elements of their identity.

The Power of Names

Names carry significant weight — they are an integral part of our identities. As leaders, it’s essential to invest time in learning the correct pronunciation of each team member’s name. This seemingly simple act demonstrates respect for their culture and individuality, thereby fostering a sense of belonging.

The Importance of Pronouns

In today’s diverse workplaces, acknowledging everyone’s pronouns is crucial. This acknowledgement is not just a sign of respect, but also a meaningful step toward creating an inclusive environment.

Honouring Self-Identification

Self-identification refers to how individuals identify their gender, race, or any other aspect of their identity. Respecting self-identification involves acknowledging and honouring these identities without making assumptions or judgments. For instance, while Statistics Canada refers to visible minorities as “persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour,” many individuals prefer “People of Colour” (POC) or People of the Global Majority (PGM). As leaders, it’s important to understand and use the terms that resonate most with those we interact with.

Inclusive Leadership Course

To further explore the nuances of inclusive leadership, we have designed a comprehensive course, available now as a facilitated webinar and later this year as an online asynchronous course. This course offers practical strategies for promoting inclusion, from fostering open dialogue to implementing inclusive policies. By participating in this course, leaders can equip themselves with the tools necessary to cultivate a truly inclusive environment.

Get in touch with Lena at to discuss your workplace learning needs on inclusion.