Very often the culture of silence was built on stories, often myths, of someone who had spoken up and was quickly gone. Sometimes employees felt that input would be resented, or that speaking up in front of the manager’s superiors would embarass their manager.
So, how do you create an environment where staff will speak up?
In a recent article, consultant Robert Flowers, PhD., suggested five relatively simple points:
- Help employees develop new skills
- Show them they are valued
- Give them practice
- Create a culture of feedback
- Ask yourself what your role is
Flowers’ last point is a tough one–managers have to be honest with themselves, to take the hard look and acknowledge where they may be creating the atmosphere that stops open employees. Among his steps to counter this: help employees gain new skills so they gain confidence.
I’m partial to Flowers’ third poijnt, although I take a different approach: I encourage routine staff meetings that include physicians. One way to break down reticence is to start with issues that are not contentious. Ask individuals what they think of an idea. Don’t push them too hard if they seem reluctant. I would bet, however, that at least one person will speak up. Once one speaks up–and nothing bad happens –another will, and then another. Find a way to implement at least part of some of the ideas which come forward, to demonstrate that you are listening. I would also bet that you will find some good ideas.
Your employees see things from a different perspective than you do. Your employees also hear patient comments which you will never hear. Good ideas that will help you grow and improve your business are real added value that your staff can bring to your practice.