"I am not afraid of my truth anymore and I will not omit pieces of me to make you comfortable." - Alex Elle
In my last post on employee voice, I outlined the importance and background of employee voice. It's sad to say, but some of us often trivialize employee voice as ratings on an engagement survey or an hour with a focus group.
But here's the important truth: Organizations are made of people and voices are the veins that run through the organization. So, faced with this awareness, organizations sometimes ask, "How do we bring more employee voice into the organization?" I would answer this question by offering these 9 tiny voice lessons to build employees' comfort and competence as they strive to bring their unique voice to work.
Here are 9 tiny lessons to encourage and enable employee voice:
Seed your voice through mindfulness
Bring full attention to your work. Notice your thoughts, emotions, experiences and stories as work unfolds each day. Ask yourself: Am I bringing and expressing my unique voice to my experiences and perspectives at work?
Identify the audience for your voice.
You can shout in a canyon or empty corridor and hear the sound of your own voice. But the purpose of voice is to be shared and to communicate, not to be a hollow echo. Who needs to hear your voice and why? Do you merely complain when you get home from work or complain with co-workers without saying things to key leaders and managers? Pick your time and place to voice. Be very clear about your intentions. Ask yourself: Why am I about to say what I plan to say and what would I like to see happen because of my voice?
We do not pay enough attention to psychological safety at work. We will not voice, and others will not voice to us, when we feel unsafe. Simply asking to speak to someone for a moment will often trigger fear in another as we are wired for threat.
Safety is predicated on genuine caring and respect for everyone you speak with. Ensure you attend to safety, and build safety before fully bringing your voice to work. Be cautious of speaking with someone that you don't care for or don't have a basic level of civility between you.
Assess the real risk
There are times when it is not safe to voice at work (even though it can be a career-limiting move.) But if those moments turn into days, months and years, you'll need to recognize what happens when you fail to voice. There may be consequences in voicing something, but there can also be consequences such as burnout or disengagement when we don't bring voice at work.
Own your voice
Each voice is unique, yet many voices can synchronize into a choir. Always remember that what you say about work often says as much about you as it does about work. If what you want to say is consistently negative about work, take a moment to see what that also says about you. Preface much of what you voice with qualifiers such as: "to me," "this is how I see it" and "from my perspective."
Build a constructive ratio
Numerous studies have suggested that we have a positive to negative ratio of 3 to 1. We tend to voice when we feel very safe or feel really bad. Does your voice expression ratio follow the minimal 3 to 1 positive to negative guideline? Is your voice positive and constructive without being compliant or disingenuous?
Infuse your voice with caring curiosity
Voice is a pathway to engaging in curious conversations. Be more curious. Let your voice open your mind. Voice with an open mind, and let your mind be changed by what you hear.
Here are 6 questions to ask yourself when you bring your voice to work:
- What specifically do I want or need to say?
- Why do I want to say this?
- Who do I need to say it to?
- How do I need to say it so it will be heard?
- When and where do I need to say it?
- What do I hope or expect to happen because you expressed your voice about this issue?
Learn more about voice
I encourage you to study two books to improve your voice at work. First, I recommend Stephen Covey's The 8th Habit. This habit is "find your voice and inspire others to find theirs." Working effectively with voice is key to leadership. According to Covey, five negative behaviours in relationship to voice are criticism, complaining, comparing, competing and contending. The other book I recommend you study is Crucial Conversations. This book outlines how to make your voice heard, structure a conversation and infuse safety and respect into your interactions.
Engage your voice at work to express and strengthen yourself while also helping yourself, others and the organization achieve results, build relationships and cultivate well-being."If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced." - Vincent Van Gogh