8 min read
Future of Work
Oct 3, 2023
Silence is often seen as a virtue in the workplace, but it can also be harmful. Organisations that create a culture of silence can stifle creativity and innovation and lead to employees feeling disengaged and resentful.
Courtesy: Dilbert Comics
OUR RESEARCH SHOWS THAT SILENCE IS NOT ONLY UBIQUITOUS AND EXPECTED IN ORGANIZATIONS BUT EXTREMELY COSTLY TO BOTH THE FIRM AND THE INDIVIDUAL.
—LESLIE A. PERLOW
The silence starts when we avoid confrontation. With our different temperaments, backgrounds, and experiences, it's inevitable that we'll have different views, beliefs, and tastes. Most of us recognize the value of diversity: who wants to brainstorm with a bunch of clones? But we also know how painful it can be to raise and work through differences. (The French word "différend" even means "quarrel.") So, it's not surprising that many people find it easier to cover up their differences than to discuss them.
How do we break the cycle of silence in organisations and get people to speak up?
It is possible to replace the vicious circle of silence with a virtuous cycle of communication, but this requires courage and intention. Managers with authority must be especially careful not to punish people, explicitly or implicitly, for speaking out, especially on difficult issues.
The story of a military leader provides one example of how to create a culture of open communication.
A military leader, facing defeat in a mock battle, knew that he had to speak up in order to learn from his mistakes and improve his unit's performance.
Instead of blaming others, he took full responsibility for the failure and asked his soldiers to reflect on their own contributions.
One soldier, a junior scout, admitted that he had fallen asleep on duty. The leader thanked him for his honesty and used the opportunity to discuss the larger problem of exhaustion among his troops.
By speaking up and creating a safe environment for others to do the same, the leader helped his unit to identify and address a critical weakness. This made them a stronger and more resilient unit in the long run.
If an organisation wants to escape the trap of silence, everyone has to fight the urge to withdraw and work hard to speak up. This is not always easy, but it is essential for creating a more productive and healthy work environment.
Believe in your voice
Speaking up at work can be difficult, but it is an important skill to develop. When you speak up, you are sharing your ideas, perspectives, and concerns. This can help to improve the quality of decision-making, create a more inclusive workplace, and foster a culture of trust and respect.
Here are a few tips for speaking up at work:
Be prepared. Before you speak up, think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Be specific and provide examples to support your points.
Be respectful. Even if you disagree with someone, it is important to be respectful of their opinion. Avoid personal attacks and focus on the issue at hand.
Be open-minded. Be willing to listen to other people's perspectives and try to see things from their point of view.
Be persistent. Don't give up if you don't get the results you want the first time. Keep speaking up until you are heard.
When you speak up, you are also encouraging others to do the same. By creating a safe and supportive environment, you can help to build a more open and communicative workplace. Here are a few ways to encourage others to speak up:
Be a good listener. When someone else speaks up, take the time to listen to what they have to say. Ask clarifying questions and show that you are interested in their perspective.
Give credit where credit is due. When someone shares a good idea or makes a valuable contribution, be sure to give them credit. This will show others that speaking up is appreciated and valued.
Be a role model. By speaking up for yourself, you are showing others that it is possible and acceptable to do the same.
By following these tips, you can help to create a more open and communicative workplace where everyone feels valued and respected.
Create a feedback culture
The best managers are those who actively seek feedback from their team members. This shows that they are humble and value the input of others.
When a manager creates a safe and supportive environment, team members are more likely to speak up and share their honest feedback. This can lead to improved communication, collaboration, and decision-making.
Managers can deepen the conversation by asking specific questions about team members' experiences, concerns, and suggestions. This can help to identify areas for improvement and build a stronger team.
Trust is essential for a strong employee-manager relationship. When employees feel that their managers are listening to them and taking their feedback seriously, they are more likely to speak up about their grievances, concerns, and ideas.
This can lead to better communication, collaboration, and decision-making, and it can also help to build stronger relationships between employees and their managers.
There are many ways to develop trust, such as being honest and transparent, being supportive and respectful, and being fair and consistent. When managers take the time to build trust with their employees, it creates a more positive and productive work environment for everyone.
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