Why are people keeping their mouths shut?

Last year, I was working with Jim, a frustrated supervisor at a company that I was helping to implement our employee engagement and alignment system.

A few weeks earlier, we had put in place their improvement huddles that every team conducts weekly. He was puzzled about why one of his team members, Annie, wasn’t coming to their huddles with ideas for ways to improve their operations. After all, that was one of the big things that employees said they wanted more of in the survey we conducted. So why wasn’t she participating?

Jim said he hadn’t talked with Annie about it because he didn’t want her to feel pressured or defensive about the situation.  I suggested that he start by shifting his mindset from expecting or demanding participation to acknowledging her work and encouraging her contributions. 

The conversation started out a bit rough, but she eventually opened up.  After a while, she dropped a bombshell that stopped Jim dead in his tracks. “I’ve worked here for more than 20 years,” Annie said, a bit choked up and agitated.  “All that time, I’ve been told to stick to my job and stay on schedule, and don’t worry about anything else. So excuse me if I don’t feel quite ready yet and I’m not jumping up and down with new ideas about how to do things better.”

Here’s the deal.  People in the workplace like Annie are caught between a rock and a hard place. Many of them desperately want to be heard, but they’re afraid to speak up for fear of being criticized, punished, embarrassed, misunderstood, told to get back to work or just plain ignored.

Just having an “open-door policy” and telling people you want to hear their ideas won’t do the trick.

How to Create a High-Performance Culture of Trust

If you’d like to learn how to get employees tuned in, turned on and eager to contribute all they have to give, click on the button below and check out my upcoming course …

The course is presented in three modules, each with a live Zoom session. When you enroll you’ll also get a free 1:1 session with Les Landes to discuss your unique situation.