Published On: Fri, Aug 2nd, 2019

A problem shared: simple ways of encouraging staff to open up

Naturally, if you run a business or hold some other management position within a firm, you want your staff to be open with their feedback. That could include feedback about how the firm or its management are faring as well as thoughts relayed from other departments or your customers.

Sadly, though, staff could be so worried about the risk of upsetting you that they hold off sharing any issues even when prompted. Here are ways to make opening up feel less intimidating for your staff.

Investigate why employees remain silent

There are various potential reasons for this silence. Perhaps the worker fears missing out on a bonus or is simply convinced that, even if they were honest about their concerns, you wouldn’t act on them. The worker could believe this if you haven’t acted to tackle previously reported issues. 

Corporate engagement guru Alison Davis suggests in an Inc. article that you could have your HR department carry out focus groups or interviews exploring the sources of employees’ silence. 

Provide multiple avenues for bringing up issues

Gathering together workers in a group setting can make for an uncomfortable atmosphere if soliciting feedback is your objective here. Some workers might dislike feeling as though the spotlight is on them, while the possibility of unpopularity can also deter worried staff from speaking out.  

For this reason, you should provide staff with various means of contacting you – including one-on-one, informal conversations – in case they are concerned about anything. 

photo/ Rebrand Cities

Set a good example by being open yourself

Every organisation has certain, unsaid don’ts, like publicly disagreeing with the main boss or objecting to their pet project. However, all the same, you can’t expect your staff to be open with you about difficult subjects if you aren’t open with them in the same way. 

Show employees what they could stand to gain

This is about showing employees what stake they have in the business – and, therefore, how they could gain or lose depending on whether or not they share problems with you. In other words, it’s about fostering an “ownership mentality” in each of your workers. 

Through regularly updating staff about the organisation’s financial performance and how your own working practices – including errors of judgement – have affected this, you can lead staff to realise that reporting problems is, ultimately, a collective responsibility within the business. 

Be proactive – don’t just wait for workers to approach you

In an article for Harvard Business Review, Cornell University professor James Detert acknowledges that it’s a good idea to operate an open door policy for workers who might want to tell you something. Still, he insists that you should “stop waiting for people to come to you – go out and ask them yourself.”

Nonetheless, a worker with a particularly personal issue might be reluctant to share it to your face. Thankfully, you can still take the proactive approach by implementing an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) from LifeWorks and so inviting any of your workers to utilise wellbeing solutions digitally.

Author: Mel, Pepper Storm

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