Fear Factor: Comfortable Environment for the Employee

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Fear is not only caused by tyrannical boss and it doesnt matter if a takeover in the organization took time long ago. Once curbed by fear, people will always justify their silence. Those in charge cause fear factor through the following even without realizing it.

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Dependence on anonymous feedback. Anonymous feedback is encouraged through the use of suggestion box and whistle blowing hot lines among other methods. One should encourage frank input. There may be no repercussions if the source of the information is unknown. Relying on anonymous means of obtaining information may underscore the risk of speaking up, lead to a witch hunt in case one receives negative feedback and the issue in hand may not be handled not knowing who raised it.

Issuing general invitations to employees to come and speak up their mind. In cases where the employees are not in interaction with their boss, they feel intimidated to approach and start a conversation with him. They assume that if they criticize on an issue you will take it personally.

Sending signals that you are in charge. Employees may freak out if you convey that you are in power through subtle cues. Youre sitting posture and the nature of your office may intimidate the employee and may not share what he wanted. Create a comfortable environment for the employee where he will feel free to air his views.

Utility factor

The major reason why employees withhold ideas and other issues is the thought of their employers doing nothing about it. Utility factor grows and persists because of:

Failure to be an example of free expression. If the employees speak up their issues to the boss and the boss fails to convey the same to those he works for, the employee would see it as a waste of time to talk to their boss about their issues. They lose motivation to speak to you about their issues if they know you wont help them solve it.

Being unclear about the output you want. Its good to notify your employees on the issues to be discussed when meetings are set up. If you fail to do this, your employees may give you the feedback they have and on that time you assume it because you dont need it. You just listen and dont follow it up. You may even fail to get the input that you wanted from the employees.

Providing no resources to address the issues of concern to the employee. The devotion of resources to collect lots of ideas and no effort to see some ideas put to use discourages the employees. The employees hold back information because they already have in mind that their input will change nothing.

Creation of a more vocal culture

How does one encourage the employees to speak up?

Make feedback a regular casual exchange. Make idea sharing more natural and not portentous. This is done by regularly asking employees for input and the conversations should be held face to face. Arrange meetings regularly and tell the employees what you will be discussing. If anyone criticizes something about the organization or management, appreciate them publicly and adopt some of the ideas they give. This encourages them to speak up without fear.

Be transparent on the ways you collect, analyze and implement the ideas or issues raised by the employees. Transparency in feedback makes contribution less futile.

Reach out and interact freely with people and ask them what they think about certain issues. Collection of information informally from employees encourages them to speak out their ideas than in closed doors. Interact with new employees so as to counteract the idea that people dont disagree with the boss. New people can give you information about the previous organizations they worked for and this can show the strengths and weakness of your firm.

Soften the power prompts. When interacting with the employees. Play down your power. Encourage the employees to open up by holding conversations in their territory and if the conversation must be held in your office, make it comfortable for the employee.

Dont send mixed messages. Dont make the employees feel that a little challenge to the status quo of the company is not welcome.

Be the example. If you want employees not to withhold any information, show them you can stand and speak on their behalf to your bosses and still involve them in the follow up of ideas and issues. Backing your employees inspires them.

Close the loop. When the employees provide you with their ideas, show them what you did with the ideas or they will just assume that you took no action. Create a friendly well publicized timeline for collecting, evaluating and implementing ideas.

Getting ideas from employees is quite challenging because what they mostly care about is their social and wellbeing rather than speaking to the leader. You can encourage them to open up by clearing all obstacles and showing them their ideas are of importance no matter their position within the organization.


Detert, J. R., & Burris, E. R. (January 01, 2016). LEADERSHIP Can Your Employees Really Speak Freely? Harvard Business Review, 94, 80-88

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