Now that the new year is well underway it’s a good time to check in on the commitments and goals we have set ourselves. At Sima one of the most common resolutions we hear from participants year after year is to speak up more and make themselves heard at work. So what’s stopping people and is there anything that can be done to overcome the fears behind speaking up?

Over the course of 2023, we surveyed over 1200 individual contributors, across a variety of sectors and job roles, asking them: “What would you dare not say to your manager or director?”

The employees speak up

The responses formed the core of our programme on developing a culture of speaking up in the context of an individual’s job role. The statements were gathered anonymously, to ensure a certain degree of honesty without fear of being singled out. 

Pay Related – 13%

Employees may feel uncomfortable discussing their pay due to various reasons such as fear of retaliation or a perceived power imbalance. To mitigate this situation, organisations should strive for transparency in their compensation policies and have clear channels for employees to discuss their concerns about pay. Regular communication about salary structures, performance-based raises, and opportunities for growth can help alleviate some of the apprehensions.

About the Manager/Director – 30%

This high percentage suggests that there may be issues related to managerial or leadership effectiveness. Organisations should encourage open and constructive feedback channels to address concerns about managers or directors. Anonymous feedback mechanisms, regular performance evaluations, and leadership training programs can help improve the relationship between employees and their managers. Creating a culture of trust and psychological safety will also encourage employees to voice their concerns without fear of retribution. 

Processes and Job – 34%

This category indicates potential inefficiencies or frustrations with job-related processes. Organisations should encourage a culture of continuous improvement where employees can provide feedback and suggestions for process optimization. Regular check-ins, team meetings, and process reviews can identify pain points and allow for collaborative problem-solving. Implementing technology solutions or providing additional resources may address some of the concerns raised by employees.

Personal to the Employee – 9%

Employees may hesitate to discuss personal matters that affect their work, such as health issues or work-life balance challenges. Organizations can support employees by promoting a healthy work-life balance, offering flexible work arrangements, and providing access to employee assistance programs or wellness initiatives. Encouraging open communication and empathy within the workplace can help employees feel comfortable discussing personal challenges that impact their work.

Peers and Colleagues – 4%

While this category has a lower percentage, it’s still important to address any conflicts or performance issues among peers and colleagues. Organisations should foster a culture of open communication, conflict resolution, and team-building activities. Providing training on effective communication, conflict resolution, and collaboration can help mitigate these situations.

Work from Home (WFH) – 4%

With remote work becoming more prevalent, addressing concerns related to remote work is crucial. Organisations can provide clear guidelines, expectations, and support systems for remote employees. Regular check-ins, virtual team-building activities, and communication tools can help foster connection and productivity in a remote work environment.

Others – 6%

This category includes unique or specific concerns not covered by the predefined categories. It is important to have mechanisms in place to address these individual concerns. Encouraging open-door policies, feedback mechanisms, and regular employee surveys can help identify and address these specific issues.

Our Conclusion

Encouraging staff to speak up on their expertise is an important element of any successful organisation. This requires two things: 

  1. Staff must realise that they are experts in their job, no matter their level or role, they are being paid to do a job and only they can see where latent issues and/or improvements lie; and 
  2. The environment is key. Creating a psychologically safe environment promotes sharing and enables leaders to get the most of the team and develop staff to their potential. 

The challenge will be different for every department, for every team, for every organisation. Simia’s engaging and thought-provoking programmes on psychological safety and speaking up are designed with each client’s situation in mind. Through support for both leaders and contributors in creating the best environment to experiment, we help our clients reach their potential.