Some employees have no problem speaking their mind. Whether it's an idea during a meeting, concern about how a project is being handled or even falling victim or witness to workplace mistreatment, there will always be whistleblowers. But these individuals are the minority, with most never coming forward about behavior issues like harassment, bullying and microaggressions. In fact, 83% of employees say they wouldn't report harassment if they saw it.
So, why are employees remaining silent?
The answer is simple: company culture.
It's easy to think that if something were really wrong, an employee would say something. And as HR professionals or business leaders, we hope that is the case and want that for our people. So, why is that not the case? In most instances, employees fail to speak up because they believe their work environment is not conducive for it. For example, they fear that their concern won't be handled effectively (or at all), face isolation from peers, become labeled as a 'trouble-maker' or even that they'll lose their job. Perhaps they've even witnessed peers face retribution for speaking up, or know of other instances where a complaint wasn't taken seriously.
That is 100% a culture flaw. No one should have to feel this way or endure an environment where coming forward is looked down upon.
It all boils down to fear of the unknown. Employees avoid coming forward because they don't know what will happen when they do – or, like mentioned above, assume the worst. How will the situation be handled? Will they have to face the person they're experiencing conflict with? Who will be involved? These and other questions are critical to answer and establish ahead of time. Here are a few tips on how to encourage employee feedback and make them feel safe doing so.
Frequency: Often times, an employee handbook or new-hire orientation is the only time employees hear about workplace safety. Yikes! How to spot harassment isn't a one-and-done conversation – nor is how, when and why to report to HR. Leadership teams should consistently be spreading this message.
Education: Again, a one-time harassment training manual isn't enough. HR teams should continuously provide educational materials to employees. For example, posters around the office reminding employees how and when to report inappropriate behavior, quarterly training or expert-led workshops.
Availability: Make sure your employees know what resources are available to them. Again, it's not enough to simply include a phone number or email address in your employee handbook and call it a day. Chances are, employees won't go back to it if they need it. Instead, develop a communication strategy around keeping employees informed about their options. This could be as simple as a monthly company-wide email or as personal as text message reminders. You could even get managers involved and encourage them to include it as a quick reminder in team meetings.
Safety: Emphasize safety in speaking up. As mentioned previously, many employees have a fear of coming forward. And some HR reporting tools (like anonymous hotlines) can still make employees feel uneasy about speaking their truth. Employees are more likely to come forward when they know they can do it safely and privately. That's where Speakfully can help. Our platform takes the guesswork out of reporting mistreatment by allowing employees to document experiences safely, privately and without fear of retribution.
Remember – no news isn't always good news. Workplace issues may exist whether you hear about them or not. Let Speakfully show you – get your first 30 days free.