Three C’s to Rethink Employee Engagement: Courage, Candor, and Change

by Jody Ordioni

How do you envisage your ideal workplace? A majority of employees believe their ideal workplace is built on trust, transparency, accountability and progressive empowerment helmed by leaders. However, there seems to be an ever-present gap between the ideal environment of the employees and the picture of culture any organization strives for. To make these dreams and aspirations a reality, there has to be a willingness to work for it and a sound partnership between both the parties involved. Otherwise, such ideas never see the face of the real world and become the unfulfilled promise.

This widening gap can be seen in any organization in various forms, for example in the form of counterfeit surveys that claim to add value to the organization but in truth can actually derail the organization from working for their dream culture. Though the surveys provide the employees a platform to express their feedback, they do so in an unaccountable way which can be harmful for the company itself. Therefore, despite positive intentions, the surveys usually do not fulfill what they intend to do. While employees demand a certain level of transparency in the company, anonymous surveys hinder accountability for these concerns.

Chart-topping books, that are seen as gospel, such as Crucial Conversation and The Speed of Trust, acknowledge the power of engaging in honest and open dialogue in the company. Such texts encourage employers to introspect and execute honest and brave communication in the company so that it can become an ideal workplace situation for the employees. However, organizations that make use of such tools can flush all their hard work down the drain when they engage through the means of anonymous, one-track surveys that do not allow room for accountability. This is only the tip of the iceberg and the actual problem runs deeper than simple feedback surveys.

The following three steps consider development as an approach to substitute anger, arrogance, and anonymity with qualities such as courage and candor, to bring about a positive change in the culture of the company.

Courage instead of Arrogance

Leaders should always strive for a workplace that allows for purposeful professional growth. Without courage one cannot build a great company culture and can definitely not establish trust between an employer and employee. Courage can be defined as the willingness to act and take the initiative. It is your foray into a reality you want to build and reside in without the fear of things going sideways.

Courage can lead to the invention of business plan that stand on consistency, a secret ingredient to establishing a great culture. It is very well to talk of acting with courage but in reality, it is not so easy, otherwise everyone would do it. Barriers, both personal and professional, can hinder employees from taking initiative. Another reason is arrogance, that more often than not, blooms from a place of fear and insecurity.

Intrusive thoughts such as, “What if this does not go the way it was planned?”, are the first obstacle to acting with courage. Negative traits such as self-doubt, egotism, and self-aggrandizing behavior can prevent employees building respectful, brave communication that can lead to an ideal culture.

Candor instead of Anger

Candor does not imply brash conversations, rather it is dialogue with sincerity and good intentions. It does not have to be facilitated with anger necessarily; it should come from a place of constructive help for the receiver, based on facts. Many people do not hold honest conversations in the workplace due to the fear of backlash.

The “What if?” aspect- what if the person does not like my criticism, what if they are mad at me due to the feedback- holds back many people in the workplace. Not acting on an instinct that can only help other employees with their growth can negatively impact the company culture. The ideal culture only gets compromised when trust is sacrificed for the sake of peace. Just like courage, candor is a trait developed with practice.

Fear needs to be overcome to speak candidly, otherwise it just leads to a pent-up of emotions that may lead to negative conflicts. Pent-up emotions may lead to anger which inevitably lead to fabrication of facts. These give rise to a gossip culture that can tear down rather than build up an organization.

Change instead of Abstention

For change to occur in the workplace, the wheels to conversation must turn. It has to be a collective and active effort. Usually the team works to bring change by inducing small agents of alteration against the few negative people, not realizing that the bigger problem is the silent majority- those who watch the proceedings from the sidelines without participating in them.

It is this majority that need the boost to actively participate in conversations for growth. Allowing them the room for candor and courage can truly help shift the scales towards building an ideal culture.

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