By Nico Strydom
The Covid-19 pandemic gave rise to many changes in the workplace due to the accompanying restrictions that resulted in many people having to work from home.
Helene Vermaak, business director at The Human Edge, believes that leaders who created a culture where employees are encouraged to have their voices heard early on, to identify their concerns and to make the necessary changes will ensure that their businesses emerge stronger and more resilient on the other side of the pandemic.
“Companies that was adaptable during the pandemic, communicated effectively. These companies were able to make quick changes, to create a sense of security to be able to talk about things that needed to change, and to let go of interpersonal or organisational sensitivities to make necessary bold moves.”
Creating such a culture in the workplace involves not only encouraging people to make their voices heard, but also creating the necessary space and processes for that to happen. Often, employees’ concerns are ignored or dealt with in such a way that it leads to them not wanting to voice their opinion.
According to Vermaak, during the pandemic, it was found that the ability to engage in conversations about sensitive and highly emotional issues was extremely important to businesses. Topics of discussion included clarity regarding new expectations, concerns, suggestions, successful workload management, and requests and maintaining of a work-life balance.
However, it is not always easy for employees to voice their opinions or to make their voice heard. Some fear that it might have consequences, or that they could be victimised. “We often succumb to pressure and are afraid to speak, and then tell ourselves that it would be better for us to keep quiet and just go with the flow.”
Often, employees will first consider the possible risks when deciding to raise their opinions. According to Vermaak one should rather consider what the risk might be shouldn’t you make your voice heard. “By choosing not to have your voice heard, you can perpetuate and even worsen the situation which may result in you having to work around the problem.”
Emotions can often prevail as well and it is therefore important to ensure that when making your voice heard, you do not do it in such a way that it comes across as being offensive as you may then convey the message incorrectly. Therefore, employers must also create a safe space for employees where their voices can be heard to ensure that employees will feel comfortable with airing their opinion and not feel that it might lead to retaliation.
The Human Edge: https://www.humanedge.co.za/
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2019/04/research-why-managers-ignore-employees-ideas