Conversation Cards

How to foster psychological safety in academia



What are these Conversation Cards and how can I use them?

These conversation cards, How to Foster Psychological Safety in Academia, are developed by the Dutch Network of Women Professors as a conversation starter on psychological safety. The cards are based on the KNAW advisory report ‘Social Safety in Dutch Academia. From Paper to Practice’ (2022) and are designed to help us delve deeper into psychological safety, to understand diverse perspectives, to reflect on our thoughts, actions and leadership responsibilities, and to collectively contribute to finding solutions with regard to tackling undesirable behavior.

The cards are designed with the belief that collective engagement and leadership will have a lasting impact on the academic community.

Each card contains a main question as a conversation starter and several sub-questions. The questions are likely to trigger follow-up questions. When using the cards, you are encouraged to embrace follow-up questions as the beginning of a powerful conversation on psychological safety. 

The cards are divided into four situation-related themes: 

  • Personal reflection: These cards are suitable for moments of self-reflection and can serve as a reminder to take potential follow-up actions in your role as a leader. The questions are formulated such that you can use them as a checklist: am I doing whatever is necessary to create and maintain a psycholigcally safe work environment?
  • One-on-one conversation: Grab these cards in preparation for a performance review or a confidential conversation with a colleague or student. The questions can help to reflect on how to ensure a safe environment for one-on-one meetings.
  • Group conversation: Use these cards to reflect on the current situation and the degree of psychological safety in the workplace and to discuss improvements of psychological safety with your colleagues.
  • First aid Kit: These cards are relevant when dealing with unsafe behavior or events. You can use them as a checklist: did you take all aspects and perspectives into account and have you taken appropirate actions when necessary?


The LNVH is a non-profit foundation. The amount linked to the purchase of the conversation card set constitutes a partial reimbursement for the expenses incurred in the production of the conversation card set in order to support this initiative.