Employee Silence - 24 November 2015
Many failures in business, and many workplace errors that occur, can be attributed to just one thing: employees who were aware of the impending doom refused to say anything about it. They could see the disaster coming but didn't care enough to tell their boss.
But it's futile blaming your employees. According to a comprehensive new analysis by Griffith University, employees' reluctance to speak up and tell the truth comes down to the kind of climate you're creating as the leader. More specifically, there are two types of climate to which the scholars refer: a climate of silence and a climate of voice.
Climate of silence: If you sense your employees aren't telling you the whole story and that they're reticent to open up, there's a big chance it's due to the climate of silence that exists within your team. This is generated:
- When your employees think you're afraid of receiving negative feedback.
- When they suspect you believe management has all the answers.
- When they can tell you've got neither the time nor the appetite for action.
- When they don't feel trusted.
- When previous experience indicates you avoid conflict and dissent.
Climate of voice: This is clearly the opposite. It's the type of environment that inspires employees to say what's going on because they feel comfortable and safe to express their opinion and to share bad news. A climate of voice is generated:
- When you make employees feel as though they have something of value to share.
- When you demonstrate their contributions have the potential to influence decisions.
- When you genuinely consult and invest in face-to-face interactions.
- When you're perceived as trustworthy because of your ethics and authenticity.
- When you're indisputably open to change and have a tendency to take action.
Be mindful, though, of merely going through the motions just because you know it's what's expected. That just culminates in what the researchers refer to as a "hollow shell" - or the more common idiom: the lights are on but there's no one home.
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