Can You Hear Me Now? 5 Ways To Create A Culture Where It’s Safe To Speak Up
Little is more frustrating in a workplace culture than fearing repercussions for giving honest feedback.
This is not about outrageous illegal violations, (because those you must report), or the “moral harassment” France Telecom executives are accused of practicing following multiple employee suicides.
This is about the more subtle egregious acts such as bias, discrimination, inflexibility and disrespect. Feeling that you cannot freely speak up in any context to offer what you honestly witness and experience without negative consequence is only seconded by offering heartfelt feedback and having leadership nod in agreement, and then do nothing. Ever. To change the situation.
“Creating a culture where feedback is accepted can not only make your employees feel comfortable expressing themselves, but can also help you understand what needs to change now and in the future, “ Forbes reports.
Yet few feel safe enough to do so. And women in the workplace are more afraid than men are to speak up honestly. This should surprise no one.
“New research by Fierce Conversations reveals that 63 percent of employees aren’t sharing honest opinions and concerns because they want to continue being viewed in a positive light. These responses cut across gender and seniority level: 78 percent of men and 82 percent of women thought it was important to be seen as nice. Terri Williams writes in MultiBrief.
Moving up the ladder, nice figures less often in importance. “Also, 80 percent of entry-level employees, 70 percent of senior leaders, and 75 percent of C-suite leaders agreed. Only 5 percent of respondents rated being nice as not important at all,” Williams writes.
Yet success is driven by honesty and critical feedback, extensive research proves. Scott Mautz writes in Inc., “Google studied 180 teams as part of ‘Project Aristotle,’ named after the philosopher’s quote ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’”
One key determinant to success of a workplace culture, was “psychological safety. Members of the most successful teams aren’t afraid to take risks in front of one another. They know when they admit mistakes, ask questions, or share new ideas, they won’t be punished. They see the team leader modeling acceptance of everyone.” Mautz writes.
So what can you do as an employee and as a leader to change your company culture to one where it is OK to offer feedback without being targeted as negative, and suffering the consequences of being labeled a “troublemaker,” or “not a team player?” Take The Lead has gathered some stellar advice to make your culture more open to honest input and one where employees feel safe saying what is on their minds.
Listen. Whether that is in regular team meetings, conferences, or if you offer an anonymous feedback portal. Leaders who present themselves as open to criticism, feedback and suggestions are more likely to retain talent and to foster loyalty. “Listen to the employees and take action. We use targeted online anonymous surveys a couple of times of year. Targeted surveys could range from policies and benefits, leadership or training. Listening to employees’ feedback and showing them you are listening by taking action from their comments is key. If you don’t take action then employees will stop providing feedback. – Brandi Andrews, Daifuku Elite Line Services, tells Forbes.
Bad is good. It’s great if you are consistently doing a good job as an organization and if you highlight success. But if all that ever happens is applause, awards and congratulations in public and private encounters, then no one will feel safe enough to rock the boat. A team member who is brave enough to say what could have gone better, what needs to improve –with concrete suggestions, not just whining—then applaud that input as well. “Be willing to accept positive and negative organizational feedback gracefully and without judgment. Be open to communicating transparently with your employees about organizational challenges, as well as plans to address these challenges. Having an open dialogue around the issues, acknowledging the feedback and focusing on the future improvements leads to establishing trust with your employees. – Alina Shaffer, LivingHR, Inc., tells Forbes.
Trust. Some call this benefit of the doubt, but in a culture of transparency, it is less likely you will feel you will be persecuted for your honesty. You will believe that no one is out to get you and that everyone is likely to be supportive because from the top all the way down, everyone is open and honest and without prejudice about being open and honest. Clare Abner writes in Thrive Global, “Always encourage transparency in company culture. Remember, trust is the actual foundation of great cooperate culture. Your team members will not trust you if you leave them in the dark. They need to be enlightened about the direction of your business operations. If a company is not good at trusting its employees, it is definitely not nurturing good company culture. If a company promotes transparency, it will have a great impact on their business as well as their employees.”
Every idea matters. Some may not believe in the adage that there are no bad ideas, because there are. But being able to talk about new ideas, shape them and turn them into good ideas is important. Dismissiveness will not promote creativity or encourage collaboration. And if your workplace makes you feel as if your individuality is meaningless and what you offer has no value, the organization will not benefit. Business Mattersreports, “There’s nothing worse than feeling like a cog in a machine. With increasingly diverse workplace cultures, employees have varied needs, priorities and motivations. Leaders need to identify large scale tactics that don’t seem too generic or ‘catch all.’But before we can practice inclusion, we must first understand what really matters. Run surveys, diverse focus groups, and find out what’s important to your employees across various career stages, generations, genders, backgrounds, ethnicities, and functions. Enabling your employees to simply feel seen and heard is a crucial part of successfully managing cultural change.”
No fake feedback. Generic responses and critiques that seem rote help no one. If you are afraid to speak up, you may also be afraid to offer sincere feedback. But that is not helpful. Justin Bell writes in Forbes, “It’s never easy to share hard feedback with a co-worker, but I believe speaking the honest truth can be one of the greatest gifts leaders offer their teammates. Although some might disagree, I’ve found that it can be cruel and selfish to avoid sharing the truth — no matter how painful it is. If we have the best interests of those we lead in mind, we should have the courage to share with them where they are falling short or might have the opportunity to grow. Do this in a thoughtful, clear and nonjudgmental way. This is what (is known as) ‘radical candor:’ the ability to care about your employees’ well-being while also challenging them.”
All these tips follow under the umbrella of one of Gloria Feldt’s 9 Leadership Power Tools. The co-founder and president of Take The Lead, advises in Leadership Power Tool # 4, “Embrace Controversy. It gives you a platform. Nudges you to clarity. It’s your teacher, your source of strength, your friend, especially if you are trying to make a change.”
Stepping into your power to change the culture where you work will help create a workplace where it is safe to speak up, offer suggestions and move forward in action.