5 Ways to Create a Culture That Doesn't Need Incognito Complaints

By: MarkWeaver Monday March 23, 2015 comments

Passive aggressive behaviors seem to be the vogue in society and it’s spilling over into the workplace.  Current employees, former employees, and applicants can all provide totally anonymous feedback about your company on websites and mobile apps.  That means the disgruntled employee you may have just fired, the applicant who you did not offer a job to, or the toxic employee who is making your company miserable, all could be given more voice than those who are your best team members.
 
Worse yet, your competitors, your neighbors, your ex-spouse, your mechanic, or your mother could all pose as your employee to influence your reputation.  Anyone can claim to be your employee or your applicant and smear you.  There is no quality control.  The authenticity of the “employee” is not verified with the company because it’s anonymous.  I really don’t like incognito methods of providing criticism.
 
Anonymity doesn’t produce any real solution.  It reinforces indirect communication.  That makes it a pretty pathetic form of recourse to produce change – even needed change.    The feedback isn’t useful to the employer at all, because it’s anecdotal and unverifiable.  If you react to the disgruntled, you may disappoint the engaged.  Did you ever stop to wonder how we got here?  As much as we may not like passive-aggressive behaviors, think about how the following behaviors may have fostered this:
 
*  Employers (mostly decades ago) ignoring basic employee needs like safety and a decent wage, creating an environment where unions flourished as a solution to those needs;
 
*  Employers conducting anonymous Employee Opinion Surveys year after year, creating an expensive annual feedback mechanism as the best way for employees to share their opinions;
 
*  Employers having policies that direct employees to take any kind of complaint to HR rather than attempting to solve problems directly (with HR being a recourse at impasse), creating a sophisticated complaint department;
 
*  Employers giving more credence to exit interviews from those who have chosen to leave, than to the views of those who stay, creating an environment and change driven by the disgruntled rather than the loyal.
 
Websites and apps that do the same thing are just a natural progression.  The solution?  Create an environment - a culture - where the anonymous, the 3rd party, the app, the survey, even the complaint department, are not viewed as viable solutions in the minds of employees.  Behaviors can change when we stop reinforcing them.  No anonymous mechanism can curtail anonymity, passive aggressive behaviors, gossip, and other unproductive behaviors.  The anonymous mechanisms only identify a problem; they don’t fix it or prevent it.  If you want to build a culture where problems are identified, fixed, and prevented, where trust flourishes, and where direct commination is the norm, you need to:

  1. Lay a foundation.  Your mission, vision, and strategies are the foundation.  Define and discuss what you are here for and why.  Engage your team in that rather than just engaging them in employee engagement.  You’ll build an Open Door Culture and you’ll see your mission, vision, and strategies fulfilled.
  2. Lay ground rules.  Your values are your ground rules.  They can be the distinctives that mark your organization both externally and internally.   Done right, they become the group norms for how your team will function.  You’ll build an Open Door Culture and reduce all kinds of bad team dynamics that can make a workplace toxic and no fun.
  3. Listen.  Sometimes it is useful to do a survey, but the survey isn’t the point.  You can listen other ways also.  A real Open Door Culture is not just one where employees are free to come talk to the boss in his or her office, it’s also one where the boss exits his or her office and initiates conversations with team members.  Ask questions.  Sit down over coffee with one or more team members.  Create as much rapport as possible and portray interest in hearing issues.  You’ll build an Open Door Culture where employees learn to be direct and to listen.
  4. Act.  When issues come up, fix the low hanging fruit first, but act on it quickly.  Next, communicate thoroughly on the issues that can’t be fixed.  And then further engage employees on issues that take longer.  Take action wherever it makes good business sense so that your team sees that being straightforward was valued and listened to.  You’ll reinforce an Open Door Culture as the best way to build a great place to work..
  5. Communicate everything possible.  Use every opportunity to reinforce that improvements made are a direct result of feedback provided from valuable team members.  Give credit where credit is due.  Appreciate suggestions, appreciate efforts, appreciate improvements.  You’ll build an Open Door Culture where employees also listen to you because you’ve modeled that, and they know you to be sincere.

If that list looks familiar, it’s because it’s the same list I used to describe how to change from a Survey-Dependent Culture to an Open Door Culture in last week’s newsletter (http://opendoorhr.com/opendoorhr-newsletter/march-17-2015).  It’s the same issue.  We’ve got to stop reinforcing the wrong kind of solutions and build a culture that values an Open Door.
 
 
Open Door HR Solutions helps organizations through 7 Keys to an Open Door.  The first is “Create Culture.”  There’s a reason for that.  Every organization has a culture by intention or by default.  It’s way better to intentionally create the kind of culture you want to be part of.

About the Author: MarkWeaver



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