Do you get the sense that members of your team may be scared to say what needs to be said at work?
Through my work, I’ve seen what happens when people go from being scared to say what needs to be said at work to feeling that they have a voice and are empowered to use it. I’ve seen the transformations that occur when people learn to address those difficult issues that are typically avoided.
I’ve also seen what happens when these types of uncomfortable conversations don’t take place.
There is always a cost when conversations that need to take place do not happen.
One of the most immediate symptoms of unresolved communication issues is that resentment builds, leading to increased tension across team members. This may be subtle at first. However, if it remains unaddressed, it can grow into outright conflict quite quickly.
Team members begin working in silos, with no real sense of team cohesion or collaboration. The weight of the conflict and lack of collaboration begins to impact both workplace productivity and performance, as people become disengaged in their roles.
Eventually, this will lead people to start looking for a position elsewhere. Internal interpersonal communication problems have led many companies to lose great employees. And we all know that more than ever, this a time when finding new employees is no easy task.
No one can ever force anyone else to speak and to share. People must feel safe to do so. However, as a leader, you’re responsible for creating an environment in which employees will feel safe speaking up– one where people can begin to feel comfortable addressing difficult topics even when they’re scared to say what needs to be said.
By consistently modeling and encouraging open, honest, non-reactive communication patterns, your team members will slowly begin to open up and contribute to rich, collaborative discussions in respectful ways. Any changes you implement will trickle down to others on your team.
I’ve seen firsthand how much team dynamics can change when individuals start feeling that they can share whatever is concerning to them with their boss and colleagues without reprisal.
When everyone is able to talk about the real problems going on within your organization and within a team… well… that’s where the magic happens.
Here are a few tips on how you, as a leader, can encourage team members to say what needs to be said:
1. Manage your own reactions.
Be aware of when your own communication is being impacted by stress. Engage in discussions only when you’re in a calm, receptive state.
2. Set limits around reactive team discussions.
If team discussions begin to get out of hand, give your team a short break to reset. If reactive interactions are common, meet with your team to collaboratively set ground rules around how to respectfully engage in conversations.
3. Acknowledge and explore the perspective of team members, even if you disagree with them.
Taking the time to listen to, validate and consider the opinions of your team members may seem time consuming. But it will save loads of time in the long run. People who feel heard are more easily able to get on board with decisions they disagree with. Plus, you may just find that your team members have raised important points that you had not considered.
4. Consider your own needs, those of the company and the needs of team members when making decisions.
The best organizational decisions are those that are able to balance the needs of all concerned stakeholders. This may feel impossible, but with good communication, this can be achieved.
By implementing the above tips, you will find that your team members will gradually see that their opinions are valued. They will start to feel heard and more valued, and become increasingly willing to open up more.
The resentment and anger that had begun to build will start to dissipate. Your team members will once again become motivated and engaged, leading productivity to soar.
And if you get stuck, know that you can always set up a free 30 minute discovery call to explore other tips to help encourage your team members to say what needs to be said, even if they feel scared.
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