One of the biggest challenges that any leader faces is to ensure that employees feel comfortable speaking up when they have difficult issues to discuss Although such topics that are difficult to talk about, they can have a significant impact on the workplace, such issues as harassment, discrimination, or concerns about the company's culture.
Years ago, I worked in an organization where one of my managers would come to me and complain about others on our team. I encouraged him to talk directly with the individual that he was complaining about. He always responded to me by saying that he was just blowing off his frustration.
But he never brought up his issues, so things stayed the same.
Encouraging open communication and creating a culture of transparency is essential to address tough topics and ensure a positive workplace environment. Here are eight steps to take to create a culture of openness.
1. Lead the charge. As a leader you must set the example for the behavior that you would like others to demonstrate. If you want people to speak up, then you must be willing to do so yourself. You must also know how to share tough topics with respect and without negative emotion. What you do frequently will give people hope that they can do the same.
2. Encourage others to share. Some people are just more on the quiet side. If this is the case, notice who is not speaking up and invite them to share their perspective. If they don’t engage, move on, but tell them that you would really value their opinion. Keep inviting them. Some people have a history of speaking up and being the recipient of negative consequences. It will take time for them to feel confident that you really value their ideas.
3. Provide training. Some people have never received any type of formalized training in how to give constructive feedback. Providing your team with such an opportunity not only helps them to learn the process for giving feedback, but it also allows everyone to be on the same page as to the steps that should be followed. Giving people such training also represents a firm commitment to candor and openness in talking about tough topics.
4. Provide anonymous channels. Some people are not comfortable in speaking up or in offering a different opinion in front of others, especially when it comes to sensitive topics. Providing anonymous channels, such as suggestion boxes, online surveys, or anonymous focus groups is a great way to get people to contribute without fear of retribution.
5. Provide follow-up. Once someone has shared their opinion, it is critical to follow-up with them to show that their concerns are taken seriously. Follow-up communication can help build trust and reinforce the message that speaking up is valued and important to the success of the team.
6. Explain decision-making. If you ask for input, and people offer their perspective, and your final decision runs counter to what they offered, be sure to take the time to explain what the basis of the decision rested upon. Failure to do this will lead people to interpret that you had already made up your mind, and that you were only asking for their opinion as lip service to the cause of candor. This will do more harm to the culture that you are trying to build. And if you made the wrong decision, own it. Admit your mistake and do better next time. To establish a culture of candor and transparency, you must demonstrate the same.
7. Celebrate success. Recognize and celebrate those who speak up about tough topics. Celebrating successes reinforces the behavior and encourages others to do the same. Celebrations can be done through recognition programs, public or private acknowledgments, or other forms of positive reinforcement. When the collective pool of knowledge is expanded because people were courageous enough to share, the learning, decision-making, and problem solving will be so much better.
8. Keep talking. Consistency is the key. Keep inviting people to speak up. Speak up yourself. Solicit others’ input and don’t give up. It may take some time before people begin to believe that you are really serious about talking about tough topics
Creating a culture where employees feel comfortable speaking up about tough topics takes time, consistency, and effort. However, the benefits of an open and transparent workplace can increase employee engagement, improve productivity, and contribute to the quality of your company’s future. By following these steps, you can build a workplace culture that values open communication, constructive feedback, and transparency.View Comments