It can be quite nerve-racking for an employee or a subordinate to speak up about work-related issues, differences, conflicts, and new ideas. This is mostly due to the fear and anxiety of upsetting their peers, their boss, or their manager. A leader must forge a healthy working environment where employees are encouraged to voice their troubles, opinions, and ideas, without the fear of repercussions and ill feelings. Here are a few ways in which leaders can encourage their employees to speak up.
1. Take their concerns seriously
One of the best ways of encouraging your employees to be vocal is to show them that whatever they have to say deserves your time and attention and will be useful for you in drawing out your leadership strategy. Additionally, you can reassure them that voicing their concerns will not get them in trouble. A positive attitude and approach towards those who speak up and their problems will motivate more of them to speak up.
Reactions that negate their concerns or discourage new ideas will deter employees from speaking up in the future. If you dont understand their input or dont agree with some parts of it, be gracious and ask encouraging questions to learn more about the problem or the idea theyve brought up.
2. Reward employees for speaking up
Reward systems are important in all walks of life. They incentivise people to do things they wouldnt normally do. This technique can be used with employees by establishing a policy that recognises and rewards employees for sharing their ideas, opinions, and concerns. A special reward can be allocated for employees whose suggestions or input help create a healthier work environment or save the company precious time and money.
3. Engage your employees periodically
To encourage your employees to speak up, it is crucial to make it a norm. When talking about conflicts and having healthy discussions is a norm in your workplace, it will motivate everyone to participate and share their ideas. You can do this by having weekly meetings or brainstorming sessions with your employees and encouraging everyone to open up. You can also take rounds in the office and chat with different people to learn more about their concerns and opinions.
4. Inaugurate a discussion forum or board
While chatting up employees is a great way to communicate, it can be limiting. Some people in your midst may feel more comfortable writing down their queries or posting them (anonymously or otherwise) on a discussion forum. Hence, it can be quite productive to have a system where employees can leave notes or comments when they dont necessarily feel like opening up about their concerns vocally.
5. Set the stage clearly
Having clear boundaries and rules is imperative in every relationship. In your case, as a leader, you need to set the scene for your employees where you establish clear expectations, boundaries, and rules to navigate the process of speaking up. This should include formal guidelines on how to voice their opinions and how your employees can do that without dismissing or belittling fellow employees or their managers.
6. Foster a company-wide inclusive culture
None of the above-mentioned tips will help if youre solely focusing on one department or cohort. Make sure that people from all positions, departments, and backgrounds are made part of this exercise and ask for their opinion on whats working for the company and whats not. This would greatly help in generating more good ideas for the company to run more productively and efficiently.
7. Set up inclusive rules
While setting up rules may feel inhibitory, it is actually quite essential for maintaining decorum amongst your employees and making sure that everyone gets a chance to speak up. These rules may shed light on how long a person is allowed to talk within a meeting so that more people can get to be a part of the conversation, and how many times a certain topic can be discussed, to ensure that the team doesnt get fixated or bogged down by an issue. However, the onus of ensuring that the rules do not curb freedom of expression is on the leader.
8. Be genuine and earnest
You can go on and on about the importance of voicing your concerns in the workplace, but if your actions don’t encourage your employees, your words will not make up for them. To show your employees that you truly care about them and will cheer them on, you need to be truly sincere and authentic with them. You need to personally listen to every single person working with you, or under you, and empower them in whatever way you can. It is only when they see that you truly care about them and their views that they will be able to share with you comfortably.
Employees are quick to follow their leaders, and for them to be comfortable around you, you need to share your thoughts and insights with them as well, preferably on a regular basis.
You may spark up a conversation about a problematic issue, or you could interest your employees in a new topic of conversation that they may not have thought much about.
In the end, it is entirely the leader’s or manager’s responsibility to ensure that their employees are not scared of speaking their minds and can make a valuable contribution to the company through their ideas and opinions. In letting them speak up, you promote growth and inclusivity within your workplace which will always foster great results.
SeraphCorp is a Singapore-based leadership institute that offers leadership development training, courses, workshops, and bespoke programmes.
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