The first step of the Psychological Safety: Inclusion – Why that matters and how to build it?

Published: 4.4.2023
Author: Ari Ruuska, Solution Architect, Akira Ahola, Head of Marketing & Communications
Categories: Culture, Delivery, Strategy
Reading time: 7 min
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Inclusion is the very first level of Psychological safety. Psychological safety is one of the key elements in employee happiness and also business success. At Wunder, we have had a designated group since 2019 to raise awareness of psychological safety at the workplace. In this article, we will share our experiences and tips on how to enhance inclusion. In this article, we will share our tips, the results from our internal survey on the role and implementation of Psychological safety, and hopefully provide you with some ideas on how you can enhance inclusion in your working environment.

The Wunder psychological safety initiative program for the year 2023 is based on 4 stages of the psychological safety method by Timothy R. Clarkopens in a new tab. Stages are: “Inclusion safety”, “Learner Safety”, “Contributor Safety,” and “Challenger Safety”. After every quartal of the year 2023, we aim to write an article about one of the subtopics, so let’s get started with the first stage: Inclusion.

Four steps of psychological safety by Timothy Clark: Inclusion, Learner safety, Contributor safety, Challenger safety

Inclusion is a crucial part of a psychologically safe workplace. If people (in any group) are very much alike, inclusion comes fairly naturally, but the more diverse the group of people is, the more attention and actions are needed to create an inclusive environment for everyone.

At Wunder, we have noticed and learned several things about enhancing inclusion. We share some practicalities and give some suggestions on the question, “What can I do for better inclusion?”

Understanding, Safe Space Principles and DEI in Communication

Sharing knowledge and enhancing understanding of the topic is the essential first step. Our next step was to create and publish the safe space principles – with go-to persons in internal events. The principles were defined in collaboration with Wunderers and are also present (in the form of printed posters) at our physical offices. On the top level, it’s pretty easy to understand what these are about, but with detail-oriented people, it is highly beneficial to enable discussing the principles and their interpretation of them as long and thoroughly as needed.

Our Talent and Marketing teams go the extra mile to ensure a higher level of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) in our job ads, visually and in the language we use. Diversity in presentation matters: if you can see relatable images, you can more easily think of yourself as an employee of that company. Inclusion in wording comes from not only using gender-neutral language but also paying attention to people's cognitive differences.

Gladly there are also very simple actions that increase the level of inclusion. Here are our “long-hanging fruits”:

  • Sensitory inclusion - for internal events, we create a designated chill-out area (with fewer stimuli),
  • Inclusive menus - ensuring that all allergies are taken into account and that there are also alcohol-free cocktails or vegan meal options available
  • Inclusive decision-making - asking in advance what people’s preferences are. This helps in planning and resourcing and often causes less waste than going with the default option for everyone. Asking also enhances the feeling of being heard and the feeling of belonging.

Psychological safety at Wunder – is it really working?

We surveyed our employees to get reliable data on how Wunderers feel about psychological safety and inclusion in particular. What works, and what we could do better? Here are the findings:

  • 41,9% of the respondents answered that Psychological Safety (with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) is one of the key factors they like working at Wunder. “We could be even more loud and proud about this!” they stated.
  • Another significant part (38,7%) of respondents admit that they value the work done with psychological safety and feel the benefit for them personally, on a company level as well as for other individuals.
  • No one (0%) shared an opinion that neither they nor someone else in our organization benefits from psychological safety.
  • The survey results confirm that the vast majority (over 90%) of us in Wunder perceive the actions for better inclusion as a really good thing. But this also means that still, 10% have more or less mixed feelings about inclusion or too little information to fully understand its benefits.

Based on the survey findings, the absolute majority of Wunderers were happy to have the Safe Space Principles in written format. We also found out that even if the core team for Psychological Safety feels these topics are overrepresented in our internal communication, there is a noticeable need for more information, discussion, and communication, especially about the roles, responsibilities, and processes when it comes to go-to -persons in events.


Wunderers see the level of psychological safety as one of the key factors they like working at Wunder


Wunderers value the work done with psychological safety at the company


Wunderers believe psychological safety is beneficial for themselves and the company

Robust baby steps on the path of inclusion

During our initiative to enhance psychological safety’s first stage, inclusion, we have noticed that actions for inclusion are not as straightforward as one may imagine. At least, it has not been so in our case. Often there is a second (or even third and fourth) opinion and point of view – and to ensure everyone comprehends the purpose and principles of inclusion in the first place already requires effort, patience, and will to hear and understand also those who are not immediately comprehending the benefits and principles of inclusion.

On the other hand, since the fourth level of psychological safety — the Challenger Safety — is questioning the status quo (the inclusion initiative in this case), the high level of questioning can also be seen as a positive thing: our people dare to ask and say out loud their altering views to the topic.

This is a long-distance sport rather than a spurt; different actions work in different environments, but here are a couple of actions we have found beneficial in enhancing the level of inclusion at Wunder:

  • Remember that to err is human; apologizing and accepting the apology is civilized and usually fixes things without much more. Actions for better inclusion, e.g., safe space principles, are not because of becoming too cautious of wording or speaking. If you use language or terms that someone finds offensive, there is always an opportunity to apologize and accept the apology. Attitude toward inclusion for all is more important than how clever and skillful you are. If you want to learn, you will. And learning often includes making mistakes. So making mistakes is part of the learning process – it’s important to keep this in mind.
  • Instead of assuming, try to have the guts to ask. Asking is a very effective way to avoid issues caused by assumptions. We perceive and think in different ways, so worth to ensure you receive the information as the other one intended it to be understood. Also worthy of saying aloud, “I perceived the matter like this. Did I get you right, or did you perhaps mean something else?”
  • Care. Take care of yourself, others, and the surrounding environment. Just having a caring attitude is a lot. You can’t do much wrong if you have a caring approach.
  • Reflect on your own behavior. It's good to take some time to think about your attitude and the wording you normally use. If there is something to correct, do it, or if you are not sure, ask someone, don’t guess!

Ideas on how to actively enhance the inclusion

If your position enables you to grow the culture and you feel there is still room for growing the inclusion, this list might help you to take the next step in making your organization more inclusive (and successful):

  • Clearly communicate why inclusion is important and what is planned to happen around this topic. Allow people to ask and discuss, not only when communicating about this, but also provide a virtual space (for example, a Slack channel) or another way to do that at any time.
  • Growing and supporting inclusion is a change (bigger or smaller) in the operating culture, so treat this initiative as any other change in the team or company; with good plans, communication, involving people, and by informing the shareholders how the initiative is progressing.
  • If you consider using safe space principles, try to formulate them as clearly as possible and in collaboration with the shareholders – and be ready for someone to understand them differently than planned.
  • Be mentally prepared that there can be persons who might take actions for better inclusion as limiting factors – with these persons. It’s highly important to maintain the dialogue and to provide them with examples of desired behavior.
  • Sometimes reminding that also neurodiversity is diversity and inclusion means inclusion-enhancing actions also from a neurodiversity perspective can help people to understand the overall picture better.

So all this said and done, we definitely recommend paying attention to psychological safety, creating safe space principles, and going the extra mile to make everyone feel that they are heard and that they belong.

The importance of inclusion in a nutshell

WHY: Be vocal about why inclusion is important: it’s the first step towards innovative and happy teams. Often worth reminding that there are multiple diversity factors. It’s not only about gender or sexual orientation, minorities, ethnicity, or world view. Also, neurodiversity and permanent or situational disabilities are under the diversity “umbrella”. Actually, it is a very small percentage of people who do not have any diversity factor - so the vast majority consists of many, many minorities.

WHAT: Do your best to pay attention to differences in people’s preferences and ensure diversity and inclusion in your communication – and nurture culture to support this kind of thinking.

HOW: With patience, encourage people to discuss this topic, combine words with actions, collaborate with stakeholders to create the policy, and include information on what happens if the policies are not followed.


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