This week, I made a social media post that received some interesting feedback. The post itself was fairly innocuous. It was about exercising your right to speak up, at work.
There were people who responded to my post by saying that it helped them understand the value of having a say at the workplace. However, I also received a fair share of people writing in, and grumbling about how impractical I was in saying this.
For instance, one person wrote lamenting about how they wished that their line leader would just give them a moment to hear their grievances.
And another argued that they should have left the country to go south of the border, where they felt their well-being at work would have been better cared for.
Do these moans sound familiar? Have you also griped along these lines?
Having a say at your workplace is crucial. There is definitive research that confirms this. It is in fact one of the fundamental drivers of what makes a good workplace.
Almost twenty years ago, in 2001, Dr. Daryll Hull and Dr. Vivienne Read, from the University of Sydney, with backing from the Business Council of Australia, published their findings to this effect.
Their study examined some of the top performing workplaces in Australia, and analysed the reasons for their success.
And, one of the primary reasons these companies were successful is because their staff felt that their companies gave them room for speaking up and saying what they felt.
If fact, over the first half of this year, I conducted a series of programmes for a large international company. I worked with about six hundred employees. And, in my anecdotal discussions with them, I discerned that their biggest problem was their inability to feel safe about having an opinion, different to management.
I found that this bred a culture of fear and oppression in large portions of junior level staff. Ultimately this led to the disengagement that I was brought in to rectify.
Of course it is easy to point the finger at the leaders and bosses.
You can argue that they need to create a conducive and supportive environment; one that encourages constructive conversations about the company’s mission and goals, as well as the welfare of their staff.
I reckon that is a given.
If you had a boss who did not subscribe to this philosophy, I recommend you start updating your resume, and put yourself out in the market-place for a move elsewhere.
But, while reflecting about this, I also understand that employees have an important part in the establishment of such a setting at the workplace.
You have a major role in ensuring that you help your bosses create this environment of open dialogue.
I know through experience that you need to be completely honest with your bosses when something goes wrong, or when something is not working according to plan. I can also say, quite unequivocally that through experience, this level of openness is not seen in the average Malaysian worker, at all.
Fear stops most employees from being candid with their employers, but ironically being truthful and straightforward is the first step towards having a real say with what goes on in your workplace.
But remember when you arrive to tell the truth, quickly move on to concentrate on concrete solutions to the problem at hand, and get straight onto ideas for fixing it.
What will give you the courage to go down this direct path of honesty, which so many people fear?
It starts with self-confidence and personal efficacy. Be sure that you develop an open line of communication with your bosses. Make a deal with them that you will be totally honest.
Tell then quite clearly at the onset that you are open to your boss telling you frankly when you have messed up. And that you would do the same.
Assure them that you will stand up to your mistakes, and ask that they do the same.
This is the attitude you must have of you want a successful relationship with your line leader and company.
The three significant steps that you must work on to ensure that you have a voice at
your workplace are:
• Become an expert at your job, have self-efficacy, and develop confidence in your own ability;
• Focus on building strong, open, and mature relationships with your bosses; and
• Own up when you mess up, and show them that you can turn things around quickly.
When you successfully cultivate these three habits, instantly your value increases exponentially.
Connect with this reality because complaining that your bosses do not give you a say, does not get you anywhere. Take responsibility, and make the necessary changes so that you will be heard.
That is your role. Don’t just grumble; help yourself by being honest, upright and clear.