What kind of a workplace culture do you have? One where employees feel confident about voicing their concerns, or one where workers keep their mouths shut and don’t question anything? While the latter model may appeal to a business owner’s pride, a new study shows that it comes at a steep price.
The study, performed by best-selling authors Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, show that every time an employee fails to have a conversation with management that they know they should, it ends up costing the company $7,500 and seven work days.
Additional findings include:
- One in three employees say their workplace culture doesn’t promote or support holding crucial conversations.
- 40 percent of employees estimate they waste two weeks or more ruminating about a problem.
- Only a mere one percent report feeling extremely confident voicing their concerns in crucial moments.
The last statistic is shocking. Only one percent? It’s essentially saying that, should something crucial go down in your organization, 99 percent of your staff won’t speak up about it. When it comes to human behavior, this kind of quiet compliance is the cultural byproduct of the employee-boss relationship. Therefore, in order to overcome this cultural norm, you have to be deliberate about enacting steps that change how your office operates, or risk suffering a major blow that could have been prevented.
To give you an idea of how a culture of blind compliance negatively affects operations, consider the problems experienced by Korean Air during the late 1990s. As reported by The Wall Street Journal. “Korean Air had more plane crashes than almost any other airline in the world for a period at the end of the 1990s. When we think of airline crashes, we think, ‘Oh, they must have had old planes. They must have had badly trained pilots.’ No. What they were struggling with was a cultural legacy, that Korean culture is hierarchical. You are obliged to be deferential toward your elders and superiors in a way that would be unimaginable in the U.S.”
In the Korean Air scenario, co-pilots being overly compliant to their captains ended up costing lives. Thankfully, Korean Air was able to enact measures and change this cultural dynamic which helped solve the problem. For your business, enacting measures that encourage employees to speak their mind will go a long way in saving your business many costly problems.
How does a business owner go about doing this? One way is to enact policies and technologies that improve workplace communication. The Walker Group can provide your organization with several solutions that can help with this, such as VoIP and collaboration software.
Technology issues are another good example of this issue. While some employees might freely report everyday problems with their computer or other devices they use for work, many might just stay quiet. One reason for this might be that they’re afraid to bring up a problem that will cost the company money and make them look bad. Utilizing a helpdesk solution that permits your end-users to get the support they need directly from your IT provider can take the middle man out of the solution, and agreements can be established to allow users to get all the support they need, all without increasing what you spend each month.
However, policies and technologies are only one piece of the puzzle. For example, how many businesses having 99 percent of their employees not confident enough to speak up, also have a stated open door policy? Likely, most of them. Therefore, deep cultural changes must take place too; changes that help employees feel comfortable and confident about speaking up.
Creating a workplace culture like this may require big changes for companies characterized by strong leadership. Although, taking a first step could be as simple as requiring managers to simply ask questions and take the time to listen. Regarding the longevity of your business, it’s crucial that you’re able to foster such a workplace environment. Otherwise, compliance can become a means of defiance, which will end up costing you dearly.
Have you seen scenarios like this play out in your business where employee silence on an issue came back to bite you? To discuss how you might use technology to improve communication and collaboration, turn to us at The Walker Group. We’ll help you assess what you have in place and consult with you on how you can make improvements. Connect with us and ask to speak with one of our experienced Account Managers.