Countless times at work, I’ve thought to myself “is it just me?”, “am I invisible?”, or “surely that’s not right?”.
And I’m not the only one who has wanted to raise a concern in the office but didn’t – in fact, there are millions of us in the same boat.
Rungway’s market research recently found that almost half of workers have something to tell their managers but don’t feel like they can.
While this figure is too high, you can understand it – because workers need to feel psychologically safe in order to speak up.
The feeling of “onlyness”, which is based on a false sense that you are the only one thinking a certain way, is a common occurrence at work.
Many of us wear armour at work, and to ask too many questions can highlight the fact that we don’t know everything we might be expected to. That is the wrong mindset to have.
Letting onlyness thrive in the workplace is damaging for organisations because it can lead to unfounded assumptions and lack of collaboration, as well as loss of talent.
Instead, we should be creating an environment and communication framework where people can speak up and feel safe.
Employers should show their staff that they have been in their shoes in order to humanise the dialogue.
Finding someone who understands your challenge or has been through a similar situation is not only a huge relief, but makes tasks seem more manageable. Talking through a concern takes you out of your inner dialogue, and gives much-needed perspective.
Ultimately, this creates a healthier and more effective work culture.
But it’s not something that you can create overnight, and managers should take the lead by showing a bit of vulnerability.
If you want employees to feel able to speak their minds, you need to create a workplace where people feel psychologically safe, where they have the ability to challenge and raise their hand, without feeling judged.
People should also be given the ability to communicate anonymously on any topic. Without this, what happens? Some staff members will leave, while others will take their issues to the outside world, which can hurt the organisation’s reputation.
Just look at Google’s recent saga, with employees staging a walkout over the way the company handled complaints. Staff saw no other option but to voice their concerns externally, fearing retaliation or inaction if they spoke out internally. The resulting media coverage didn’t paint Google in a good light as an inclusive employer.
Leaders must also realise that once people are able to speak up, you need to be ready to listen.
The workplace has transformed over the years, and outdated “broadcast” communication methods need a radical rethink, as employees cry out for better and honest conversations.