What is the Value of Employees Speaking Their Truth to Power – and the Cost of Them Keeping Their Mouths Shut?

February 27, 2017 Monday Morning Wake Up Tips

Most businesses have clear goals. Many have worked on developing a mission statement and organizational values. These are signs of a good solid business, one that understands the importance of having direction and taking the time to set up agreed-to cultural norms. This helps employees in many ways. For example, it’s important for an employee to be in alignment with the direction of the company, and corporate values can be an excellent guide when making tough decisions.

However, one challenge I notice universally and one that most employees have faced at some point in their career is how can they possibly speak their version of the truth to those holding the power to fire them if they speak up?

Most leaders will say they are “open” to feedback and that the employees know they have an open door policy. But, I promise you there are key employees who should be walking through that door and speaking up who won’t because they fear the overreaction of their boss. They are also often concerned about being perceived as a “complainer” if they give the boss less than Pollyannaish feedback. Some folks simply don’t want to hurt their oh-so-hard-working leader’s feelings.

Many leaders understand the value of the feedback but lack the Emotional Intelligence skills needed to sit and receive it with a genuinely open mind. Imagine what would happen if they could? Imagine the richness of the feedback when truly welcomed. Now, this feedback may not have a 360 degree perspective on all things organizationally important, but it is still a critical piece of information, one the leader should be honored to receive.

What are the ways you support honest feedback? What are the messages you send when hearing it firsthand, or even secondhand? Are you welcoming of dissenting points of view? What would your employees say if you asked them what they are truly thinking about a hot topic, a decision yet to be made?

Why don’t you ask them, and let them know you are interested?

By Mary Anne Wampler,
PRINCIPAL, TRANSFORM, INC.