Don’t we all want to work within a team where our voice is heard and our ideas are valued? What we are really looking for is a “speaking up culture”, being a workplace where we feel welcome and included, free to express our views and opinions and assured that our ideas will be acknowledged and heard.
However, not every workplace invites a speaking up culture. If your team remains silent during team meetings or never seem to come forward with any concerns, something may not be quite right. In this blog, we will discuss why your employees may not be speaking up, and what you can do to create a speaking up culture.
There are a number of reasons why your team may not be speaking up and understanding the why is the first step to improving your workplace’s speaking up culture. Your employees may choose not to speak up because:
If in the past, your team has expressed their ideas or concerns and you neglected to respond, chances are that they have given up. When they are consistently ignored, it is natural for employees to stop trying – they know that whether they choose to speak up or remain silent, the result remains the same.
It is possible that a team isn’t speaking up because they fear the reaction from their boss. Your employees may have a fear of retaliation due to a lack of trust, or fear looking stupid if they don’t have all of the right information. This reason is especially concerning, as fear-based leadership never works.
If a team member’s ideas for change are met with responses such as “this is the way we’ve always done it” or “we’ve tried this before and it didn’t work”, odds are that you have created a collective mindset of helplessness within your team. As a result, your team will stop speaking up, because the default attitude is that their ideas won’t work.
Ultimately, leading a team that is hesitant to express their honest opinions or new ideas can be dangerous for your business. You need your team to speak up: to tell you when you are wrong, to come forward with great new ideas and to keep you informed.
Here are four ways to encourage your team to speak up and create a speaking up culture.
Make a point of telling your team that you want feedback and ask for it frequently. When you are asking an employee for feedback, ensure that you ask questions with genuine curiosity and provide a safe environment for them to express how they feel. Make public examples of good cases to honour those that speak up, allowing others to realise that the trust is there should they feel the need to come to you.
As mentioned, there is always a reason why your employees are not speaking up. The best chance you have of improving your team’s speaking up culture lies in knowing and understanding your employee’s point of view. Actively listen to them and find out what they care about. Once you understand what they care about, work with them to help them understand what you care about. This is an effective way to build trust with your team, making them more likely to speak up in the future.
Engaging your employees in team learning conversations is a great way to build a rapport and encourage a speaking up culture. Some team learning conversations you can have with your employees to encourage them to speak up include:
Your team are never going to speak up if you don’t make yourself available to them. If you are constantly out of the office, in meetings or in a closed room, no feedback will ever reach you. Actively encourage your team to contact you by whatever means necessary, whether that be via phone, email or in person.
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