Manager intimidating employees

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Once people become afraid to speak their minds, they’ll keep justifying their silence with explanations like “That’s the way our culture is—you don’t disagree with your boss.” Without realizing it, leaders tend to make the problem worse with the following practices: The promise of anonymity is a common way to encourage frank input.

Suggestion boxes, whistle-blowing hotlines, ombudspeople, 360-degree assessments, and satisfaction surveys all serve this purpose.

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So getting all this right pays off—not just for the individuals eager to make contributions but for the organizations they want to improve.

(In our years of studying employee “voice” and advising organizations, we’ve never heard anyone say, “I have a closed-door policy.”) Think about it: How often do employees come to you, on your turf, to tell you the unvarnished truth simply because you’ve encouraged them to do so?

The reality is, they worry—rightly or not—that you’ll take their comments personally, or that they’ll come across as disrespectful know-it-alls.

And if you really want to know what people think, go ask them.

Research shows that when employees do speak up, organizations see increased performance.

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