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POPin Blog

Getting Employees to Tell the Whole Truth

Let’s face it, in business the whole truth is often hidden from view like a dangerous iceberg looming just beneath the water’s surface. In every company and organization, some employees will be afraid to tell their bosses the hard realities about workplace problems for fear of creating office turmoil or sounding like a complainer. Yet the best leaders will actively root out difficult problems from their team members in order to find real solutions. Workers tend to “self-censor” themselves based on fears of blowback or possible negative job consequences, according to Tony Richards, a senior partner for Clear Vision Development Group, writing in a posting on the “Be A Leader” blog. “It’s a simple act of self-preservation” to not rock the boat, explains Richards. Richards adds that some companies also harbor “malignant” cultures for so long that making any type of change can cause undue friction, especially when those changes expose unflattering cracks in the organization. Yet the only way to patch up flaws is to identify their root causes, and that requires directly ASKING someone who confronts the problem every day in the workplace. Some employees will resist giving honest advice to their superiors due to concerns that their leaders will resent any suggestions for needed changes. Many workers tend to stay quiet, keeping the boss in the dark about how to solve organizational concerns. At other times, employees may decide to remain silent in the presence of senior staff, out of concerns that they may “show up” their bosses in front of fellow managers. Some approaches to overcome this disconnect include the use of employee hotlines, suggestion boxes and pulse surveys. All these tools can provide value, but leaders often need to engage in a deeper level of conversation with their followers to really understand what’s happening beneath the surface. And that requires LISTENING to people’s real concerns and IMPLEMENTING their best ideas. This is where the essential value of crowdsourcing sessions can make a big difference in developing solutions. As a leader, you should recognize that the people doing the work always know the truth of the matter, but it often isn’t safe for them to tell you. Anonymous crowdsourcing gives employees a powerful voice to answer the hardest questions. Even better, by implementing their best ideas, leaders can generate goodwill that increases employee buy-in, leading to increased alignment across the whole team. Good ideas can come from anyone, but drawing out those ideas requires asking people for their input at all levels of the organization – even including newcomers. In fact, management consultant Richards suggests interviewing new hires before they reach their 90-day mark on staff. In this way, managers can get a fresh perspective about how the outside world views the organization. At the very least, the newcomer is likely to be impressed by the boss’s interest, and at best, it could trigger dramatic new solutions to ongoing problems.