Why Employees Keep Silent
A year ago a client shared he didn’t want to be ‘the guinea pig’ in his organization. This comment was made in response to a question I asked him. I wanted to know what was his response to an encounter he had with his director who, according to my client, treated him rather un-professionally and was unnecessarily critical of him and his recent decisions regarding a situation in his department.
My client went on to say he would have welcomed feedback designed to help him improve and grow but what he received from his director was criticism and comparison to another colleague who is seen favorably by the director.
One way for organizations to truly grow and be best in class is to create an environment in which employees are not afraid to challenge the process. To ask questions that may appear contrary to prevailing beliefs-but could create a new perspective for addressing an age-old problem. We know this is the kind of environment that fosters some of the most innovative and smart solutions to many different causes.
When I challenged my client to address the situation using the coaching and leadership skills he has acquired over the years- he balked. That’s when the not wanting to be a guinea pig comment surfaced. What would keep an employee silent in the face of being treated poorly?
I chalked it up to years of tyrannical, authoritative leadership. Similar to countries in which the people are kept quiet by oppressive means. This was the case for my client and his colleagues. And just like those autocratic, dictatorial countries-change eventually comes in the form of the people finding their voices and using them to affect positive change. True to form- this change needs a critical mass of followers for it to stick.
Here’s something truly interesting. I shared with my client that many of his colleagues have started to do exactly what he is being asked to do-challenge the process. Doing so following clear guidelines for developing positive leadership skills while building strong and healthy relationships via knowing how to communicate effectively and with respect.
My client was very intrigued to know this and I saw a glimmer of determination in his eyes-albeit short-lived. This encounter brought to mind what leaders need to do to create the conditions required within workplaces to truly invest in their people:
- Create the space/forum for employees to gather and connect in a way that pulls their collective minds together to form a master mind
- Encourage these master mind gatherings by offering up recognition and incentives for ideas/solutions that come out of these gatherings
- Support the healthy flow of feedback within the organization by flattening the organizational scale. Do so by investing in training and coaching all employees so they know how to speak to their managers and to those whom they manage-anyone on the organizational chart!
- Let employees know you their leader got their backs. They will remain silent if they believe no one will support them speaking up and challenging the process
So my client is working on shaking off the shackles of the old regime in which he first started his career. He recognizes that he is holding himself back by selectively applying the leadership and coaching skills learned only to his direct reports-not to his own managers.
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Here’s to loving how you live, work and play!