Want happier employees? Stop dominating the conversation

want-happier-employees?-stop-dominating-the-conversation

A new study found that when employees feel comfortable sharing ideas at meetings they are more likely to trust their manager and company.

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Employees feel much more engaged at work when managers communicate clearly and consistently with team members, according to a new study that compared communication styles and worker attitudes.

Image: Limeade Institute

If one person does all the talking at team meetings, the group probably has a communication problem. Sharing ideas is a risk, and team members calculate this risk before speaking up. Companies that make people feel comfortable sharing their ideas are likely to have more engaged employees and a lower risk of burnout, according to a new study. 

The Limeade Institute’s new report, “Organizational Communication POV,” found that positive communication behaviors promote trust and inclusion. The researchers found that open and honest communication styles instill a sense of mutual trust, support, and respect among individuals and for the entire company. The Institute published the report in July.

The study also found that communication and trust are reciprocal: Positive and effective communication habits foster trust, which subsequently improves relationships among employees. To create this environment, managers need to communicate clearly, encourage people to share their ideas, and make sure everyone has the same information. 

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Dana Auten, Reetu Sandhu, Ph.D., and Laura Hamill, Ph.D., wrote the research paper for the Institute which is part of Limeade, an employee experience software company. The survey found that employees who said their employers communicated clearly and sufficiently were:

  • Four times more likely to trust their organizations
  • Three times more likely to feel connected to their organizations

  • Three times more likely to feel valued by their organizations

The survey studied information flow–who knows what–and information adequacy–do people have enough information to do their work. The survey collected information about this element of work as well as how employees felt about working at their company, including: 

  • Employee sentiment
  • Burnout
  • Inclusion
  • Feeling valued
  • Trust
  • Well-being
  • Engagement

In the literature review that was part of this study, the white paper authors found that organizations perform better and have less turnover when employees share their suggestions and opinions. This is why managers should encourage employees to speak up: 

“When organizations and managers listen to and value what employees have to say, and utilize their opinions and feedback in decision making, employees see that they have contributed. This increases employees’ perceptions that the organization is dependable and honest and cares about employees’ well-being, thus increasing trust and engagement.”

The  “voice climate” of a company describes attitudes about whether speaking up is safe versus

dangerous and whether speaking up will have any impact on the group. The benefits of sharing information openly include improved work processes, error correction, and even limit illegal or immoral behavior. This also encourages learning and innovation through increased risk-taking in communication.

A climate of silence exists where employees have a shared belief that voice is ineffective and unsafe, according to research cited in the report. Silence is a result of unethical or abusive leadership, change-resistant culture, and climates that promote fear. This can be eliminated through positive job attitudes, ethical, transformational and servant leadership, psychological safety, and group voice climates, the authors said.

Unfortunately, employees often withhold input and frequently choose to remain silent about

important issues for several reasons, including personal inclinations, job attitudes, and supervisor behavior. 

Companies can improve Information sharing by giving everyone the same access to the same information and fostering a climate where sharing information, supporting teammates, and helping behaviors are the norm.

What to do differently

Leaders need to consider communication styles on all levels–organization, managers, individuals–for new habits to endure. Here is some advice for how people at all levels of a company about how to communicate differently.

Organizations

  1. Create an environment that promotes exchange: Support employees who speak up during meetings and create formal processes for employees to contribute to high-level decision making.
  2. Balance tech and well-being: Set policies on communication expectations during work and especially after hours to encourage people to disconnect.

Managers

  1. Model positive communication: Managers should model open communication styles and recognize employees who follow this example.
  2. Promote information sharing: Encourage employees to share unique ideas during meetings and create opportunities to collaborate with other teams.

Individuals

  1. Use technology to connect: Talk to a colleague who is not in your normal orbit to foster collaboration across departments and to support employee resource groups.
  2. Practice positive communication behaviors: Set a good example by sharing your own ideas on a regular basis and support open information sharing and unique information sharing. 

Methodology

The Limeade Institute conducted an online survey using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. After

screening the data and removing cases that indicated careless responding, the survey

included 354 employees in the US. Ninety percent indicated they worked more than 30 hours a week, while 9.9% indicated they worked less than 30 hours per week. Of the sample, 56.2% identified as men, 42.9% as women. The sample was predominantly white (65.5%) and aged between 25 and 35 (50.3%).

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