Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Surprises and Speaking Up

The same organizations that hate unpleasant surprises often discourage speaking up about the unpleasant surprises lurking over the horizon.

Such surprises are unwelcome and yet the central message is "We only want to hear good news."

When working within such environments it is important to be able to translate the phrases and terms that are substituted for plain speaking. Much like the Japanese citizen who explained that he knew Japan was losing the Second World War because its victories were increasingly closer to the mainland, managers and employees have to develop a fine sense for the omitted subject, the incomplete sentence, the odd timing, and the vague response.

The subject of frank discussion deserves frank discussion. Candor will not automatically take place and, as with ethics, its absence causes a multitude of problems. Consider some of the excuses for a lack of candor:

  • "I'm being kind."

  • "I want to be a team player."

  • "I don't know that much about the subject myself."

  • "I saw what happened to the last person who was candid."

  • "The subject seems to be closed."

  • "They probably already thought about my concern."

Most organizations say they want people to speak up but then signals are sent indicating the precise opposite. Candor won't arrive until it becomes a major value of the organization.

1 comment:

Eclecticity said...

"Most organizations..." does not bode well for most employees and managers. Yipes!

If it's so, (and I happen to agree that it is) why, oh why, dear Michael, is it so?

We need a staight talk express, pun intended.