How to Get Your Employees Speaking Up More

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Whether someone speaks up at work or keeps quiet often comes down to their sense of social threat or reward, which leaders play a crucial role in creating.

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We’ve written a great deal on the effect leaders have on their employees. In fact, leaders may be the single biggest arbiter of change within an organization.

Which is why, when it comes to people speaking up more — either in collaborative settings or to report questionable behavior — leaders play a critical role. They are the ones who must help people feel empowered to use their voice.

To be the kind of boss people speak up to, leaders must first minimize the related social threat, or the sense that speaking up will result in negative outcomes. People tend to keep quiet because they fear retribution against themselves or others — a byproduct of social threat’s tendency to limit performance.

In its place leaders should focus on building psychological safety, since people can better focus on the job or project at hand when their minds at ease. At NLI, we believe the way to do that most effectively is through building new habits and systems.

For example, a leader can build the habit of making voice less threatening by using a simple system in meetings. At the top of the meeting, the manager can remind everyone that all voices are welcome. Assuming the staff takes her at face value, they’ll be more likely to contribute to the discussion, rather than keep the ideas to themselves.

To learn more about becoming a voice-friendly boss, check out the recent Quartz article, “How to be the kind of boss that people speak up to.”

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