What is your workplace culture? As an leader do you know? Do you know the signs?
As an executive coach as well as a leadership trainer, I have been on the other end of conversations with employees that are too afraid to bring up challenging topics with their own bosses. It is discouraging that some organizations continue to perpetuate a fear of reprisal if an employee verbalizes an opposing point of view. Experts say, “we have become more brutal within organizations, and I don’t think that’s creating more productivity,” says Sheila M. Keegan, a London -based psychologist and business consultant who authored The Psychology of Fear in Organizations. If employees are frightened, they simply do not perform well. They are focused on the wrong things and are constantly looking over their shoulder waiting for the other shoe to drop. We all know that when we are happy and productive, we work more effectively.
How do we know if we have a culture of fear? One telling sign is how employees behave in meetings. Are they afraid to speak up until senior leaders leave the room? “Employees at such organizations tend to keep a low profile. They may work to the rule, doing exactly what is required of them but no more. They have been the product of having their suggestions in the past being rejected, so they have stopped sharing their thoughts.”
Employees suffering from high stress levels are less engaged and less productive. Even with improvement in the economy, fear and uncertainty continue to be fueled by technological advances that are eliminating more and more jobs. Fear can quickly spread and undermine the morale of the entire workforce. The best, but not easy, route is to get people talking and being honest with each other.
Keegan offers these tips:
- Build Trust. That means being straightforward, admitting mistakes, keeping promises, showing vulnerability and letting go of grievances.
- Improve your listening skills. Focus on what your employees are saying to you. Hear and interpret their verbal and nonverbal communication. Maintain a neutral and open attitude. Most importantly, don’t judge.
- Encourage risk-taking and reward. Urge employees to experiment, learn and improvise. Help them rediscover their sense of joy and intrinsic reward of working.
- Treat employees with respect. Acknowledge their worth and help them succeed. If you are nice to people and support them, they become loyal.
For more information visit: www.shrm.org.