Employee voice is a fundamental right in the workplace and, in a
post-pandemic world, it has become a critical part of what the future of
work will look like. During this state of flux, a new report from The Workforce Institute
stated that 86% of employees don’t feel that colleagues are heard
equally. And, 34% would rather quit their job or switch teams than
voice their concerns with management.
One of the report authors went so far as to say that there is a
“troubling inequality in the feedback loop at organisations across the
With so much uncertainty about the world of work, it’s more important
than ever to listen to your people. If there’s anything to be learned
from the fallout of tech company Basecamp, it’s that it’s worse to seek out your
people’s opinions and do nothing than to not listen in the first place.
So, how do we listen to our people in a way that matters?
It starts with psychological safety.
Employee Voice and Psychological Safety
Psychological safety is key to employee wellbeing and the foundation
of highly successful teams. People do not speak up unless they feel safe. It’s natural
for people to be a little cautious when providing difficult feedback.
However, it’s a key source on how you can improve your company. It’s
unlikely that you will make meaningful change without it.
But encouraging people to be honest can be difficult. When it comes to
people speaking up, there is a delicate balance between transparency and
anonymity. Research shows that people are more willing to share personal
information on the condition that it’s anonymous. On the other hand,
nameless sharing does not develop a sense of togetherness in a company,
nor does it create a shared sense of responsibility for organisational
In everyday life, we rarely enter into a conversation with someone
nameless and faceless. All of our human interactions are based on the
fact that we are accountable for our feelings and care about the
outcome. While we can give honest answers when we feel psychologically
safe, it’s not easy to speak up when we don’t feel safe.
Anonymous messages are psychologically unsafe
Anonymity might feel safe in the moment, but it doesn’t lead to
long-term comfort. There’s a truth about anonymity — it’s empowering and
often in the wrong way. We’re usually less careful about what we say
when we can’t be identified. This leads to more aggression and division.
As we all know, the internet is an excellent source of knowledge. Yet,
it’s also the relative anonymity of it that allows for the worst in
We only need to look at the wonderful internet for an easy example of
vitriol. Most recently, the results of the UEFA 2020 Euro brought
out the worst in racist behaviour. And it’s nothing new.
A study of online comments found that anonymity drove uncivil behaviour. 53% of
anonymous comments were not civil compared to 29% that were attributed.
As John Suler, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Rider University
“It’s very easy to take this shadowy image of this other person
online and start using that to create this internal dialogue where you
unleash all your stuff on this other person”.
In a company, this means a lot of time is spent second-guessing who said
what, which ultimately leads to wrong assumptions, confusion,
frustration and distrust. If we’re trying to build a psychologically
safe workplace, then incivility or rude behaviour is out of the
question. We should be responsible for what we say and do, and that
means taking ownership.
How Online Complements Attributed Feedback
Putting your name to words means you will accept responsibility — it’s
why the practice of signing legal documents and contracts is still very
much a reality. It comes back to psychological safety and what you are
doing to create that kind of space. The best way to make these safe
spaces is not just to show that you’re willing to listen but to act on
what your people suggest. Action creates trust, and trust is the key to
Using both online and physical, in-person meetings companies can
encourage better communication. It’s easy to imagine an office space
where the more outspoken employees are more heard than the quieter ones,
or a town hall where an outgoing person will voice their opinion over a
Thankfully, in today’s growing hybrid world, people can share their
views online which tends to be an equal footing for outgoing and
reserved people. And, for companies concerned with issues such as
diversity and inclusivity, it’s necessary to complement any online
experience with offline approaches like employee forums, resource groups
and affiliate groups.
A significant benefit of these spaces is that individuals expressing
concerns can experience safety in numbers. While this is a different
sort of safety than anonymity, it still provides some comfort to those
that want to share their opinions. By casting the net and collecting
both the quieter and louder voices, real change can happen and a third
of your workforce will feel confident speaking up rather than searching
for their next job.
How Friday Pulse Walks the Line Between Anonymity and Transparency
The people platform collects weekly happiness scores so that you can see
how your teams are faring in real-time. It also keeps individual data
scores private while allowing for group scores and open text questions
and answers to be transparent. This dual format creates bonding trust
and safety in a group while allowing everyone to be heard. For more on
how we can help you today, please reach out to us.