Put Your Organization on a Solid Psychological Foundation


  • Today’s leaders face a broad range of challenges ranging from how work gets done to meeting employee expectations of their work experience.
  • At a minimum leaders must become agile at managing the dynamics of flatter, team-based organizations. 
  • One of the most significant challenges leaders face is navigating and meeting the psychological needs of employees. 
  • Creating a solid foundation of trust, psychological safety, and healthy relationships at work is critical to meeting those needs, ensuring people’s wellbeing, and building enduring value for the organization.

In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing business landscape, leaders face a unique set of challenges. People expect to find purpose in their work, receive continuous feedback, have opportunities to learn, and experience greater work-life balance. The emphasis on diversity, remote and hybrid work, and rapid technological change add to the complexity. One of the most significant challenges is understanding the psychological needs of employees, who are not just cogs in a machine but human beings with complex inner worlds. Leaders who become adept at meeting those needs for both individuals and teams will not only foster a more engaged, motivated workforce but also lay the foundation for a more resilient, successful organization. 

Three Vital Needs

When leaders understand and meet the psychological needs of individuals and teams, they create an environment where people feel seen, heard, and valued. But too often, leaders focus primarily on the external metrics of success and overlook people’s internal needs. The result can be like trying to build a house on a foundation of sand, prone to collapse at the first sign of trouble. The key to a strong team or organizational foundation is fulfilling people’s innate desire for a workplace that is characterized by trust, psychological safety, and healthy relationships.

Trust is the foundation upon which all healthy relationships are built. When people trust each other, they are more likely to collaborate effectively, communicate openly, and support one another. This leads to better problem-solving, increased productivity, and improved overall performance. Without trust, people are less likely to share ideas or take risks, which will hinder innovation and progress.

Psychological safety refers to an environment where people feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable without fear of negative consequences. When team members feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to speak up and share their ideas, which leads to better problem-solving and decision-making. Without psychological safety, people are less likely to contribute their full potential and are more prone to mistakes.

Healthy relationships are also vital for success. When team members have strong, healthy relationships with one another, they are more likely to feel a sense of belonging and commitment to the organization, which leads to increased job satisfaction and retention. Strong relationships also foster a positive culture, better communications, and commitment to collaboration.

It is unlikely that a team or organization without a culture of trust, psychological safety, and healthy relationships will be effective over time. They are foundational to a successful, high-performing organization. Without them people lack heart and relationships are likely to be marked by tension, conflict, and poor communication. People become hesitant to share their ideas and concerns, which stifles innovation and creativity. They are also less likely to hold one another accountable, which leads to a lack of progress and a lack of commitment to an organizations vision, mission, and goals.

Lay a Solid Psychological Foundation

People crave a high trust, psychologically safe culture, and healthy relationships at work. They are the foundation on which vision, mission, and values come to life. Yet, too often bullying managers, dysfunctional teams, and constant uncertainty are part of workplace reality. The stress and anxiety they produce come with an enormous psychological cost to employees and operational cost to employers.

Leaders learning to understand and effectively meet people’s foundational psychological needs may be the most vital leadership skill of the 21st century. This capability is especially essential in today’s workplace, where constant change and uncertainty can leave employees feeling disconnected, lost, and stressed. Placing trust, psychological safety, and healthy relationships at the core of organizational values and behaviors establishes a foundation on which leaders can ensure people’s wellbeing while building enduring value for the organization.

Like this article? Please share it!

Click on any quote to share it to Twitter or use the social links below.

About the Author

Dr. Jeb Hurley is a behavioral scientist and leading expert in team dynamics. Jeb’s work connects neurobiology, psychology, and technology with team effectiveness and performance. His leadership experience includes multiple founder, CEO, and global F100 VP/GM roles and over thirty years of developing teams and coaching leaders. Jeb holds a doctorate in organizational leadership and is the author of two books on team dynamics and leadership.
Learn more about Jeb’s work making good teams great at www.brainware-partners.com.