Author: David Mizne, chief contributor and editor of the award winning 15Five Blog
In workplaces, collaboration and a culture that supports us to work toward shared goals are both imperative for success. Communication is at the heart of this, and open dialogue outside of the occasional employee performance appraisal is one of the mainstays of healthy, cooperative workplaces.
Examples of suppressed communication, where leaders or employees feel badgered into decisions or their opinions are disregarded, can give us insight into the importance of open communication and the pitfalls businesses become vulnerable to when workers are not free to voice their opinions.
Disputes, both personal and business related, can give rise to disruptions in productivity, sap team morale, and even cause good employees to resign. So how should open dialogue be encouraged, and what guidelines need to be put in place to ensure discussions on emotive topics don’t adversely affect the workplace?
The days of off-limit subjects at work are disappearing thanks to the recognition that workers aren’t just robots that show up, complete their given tasks, and pick their normal selves up again when clocking out at the end of the day.
Even so, some companies can be tempted to ban conversations on politics or other topics if they are likely to adversely affect business productivity. Doing so, however, is counter-productive and often leads to lower employee engagement levels, stunted collaboration, and a culture of distrust and finger-pointing, all of which are less than ideal for the business.
A rich and supportive business culture is built through allowing people to be themselves, and this includes allowing conversations about work and non-work related topics. Open-minded acceptance of differing viewpoints and approaches must be fostered, along with an understanding that business is performance based. While a diversity of ideas is important, it must be balanced with the understanding that the company needs to override personal or political views at work.
Allowing for Workplace Discussion
Openly acknowledging and addressing topics which cause tension is one of the necessary steps for encouraging open dialogue in the workplace. Doing so helps to alleviate displeasure, which is unlikely to dissolve on its own.
Guiding parameters for workplace discussions of all kinds should be established. Doing so ensures conversations are kept civil, people at all levels of the organization feel comfortable expressing their feelings or findings on any topic, and a safe and supportive workplace is maintained.
Policies of respect and collaboration should be built around the ideas that focus during work hours should be on business goals and that foster an inclusive and collaborative workplace environment is important. Such policies should be distributed to all within the business and referred to in company-wide meetings or one-to-one performance reviews when appropriate.
Soft Social Media Policies
The average person spends almost two hours on social media each day. Inevitably, some of this is during work time as social media is increasingly becoming the main source of news of all types – especially for Millenials. This not only distracts employees from their work, but it also increases the chance of heated discussions on topics which disrupt employee harmony.
Soft policies limiting social media and internet use at work can reduce daily disruption and help to keep people focused on the business. When heated discussions do arise, managers should aim to redirect conversation to work-related issues and encourage employees to keep conversations light-hearted by using non-combative questions.
Discussions between people with opposing views can be extremely constructive, as long as they are had with the intention of learning different perspectives and not for placing blame or changing strongly held opinions.
The skill of seeing both sides of an issue can help us in all areas of our lives, not least of all workplace problem solving. Learning to speak with diplomacy and actively listen are valuable skills that can aid us in shifting our focus from blaming to finding solutions, looking forward rather than back, and understanding all options available for business progression.
Conflict in the workplace should never be ignored, yet stamping out open dialogue in an effort to minimize the effects of it will never aid progress. Leaders and managers should display responsibility by enabling employees to express themselves within the bounds of acceptable behaviors that include respect, inclusiveness, and collaboration to establish and maintain a healthy workplace.
- Backed by research in positive psychology, 15Five uses proven employee development methods that drive businesses forward.
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