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The 10 Best Ways To Get Employees Or Team Members To Speak Up At Meetings

The 10 Best Ways To Get Employees Or Team Members To Speak Up At Meetings

How can you get employees or team members to speak up at meetings and briefings? There seem to be built in defence mechanisms which lead to people walking on eggshells around authority figures. Enlightened managers know that this is wrong and complain that they are not getting the ideas and feedback to complete projects successfully. Here are 10 ways to get round the problem.

1. Give employees advance warnings of new proposals or procedures

Nobody likes to be taken by surprise and asked to speak about it something he or she hasn’t prepared for. Many managers make the mistake of introducing a new plan or idea or policy without any warning. Of course, employees are reluctant to speak because they have not had time to think about it. They naturally fear that there may be consequences for them when speaking in an improvised way.

2. Don’t let silence fester

In other situations, managers may find that there is a worrying period of time from when problems arise to when they are finally aired. Usually, the delay may be due to some or all of the following:

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  • Fear of being blamed
  • Worry about losing a bonus
  • Scared of being seen as overcritical of management
  • Afraid of criticizing current practice
  • Passing the buck or brushing the matter under the carpet.

The key to getting things out in the open is suggested in the bestselling book by Joseph Grenny, Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High. He recommends using a technique in which the team members know when they can be totally open. The manager can use a term like ‘frank conversation’ or ‘crucial conversation’ to signpost that this is about to happen. It can be on a one-on-one basis or in a group setting, whichever is most appropriate. Team members should feel secure when they contribute with their ideas and feedback.

3. Don’t dominate the discussion

When managers were observed chairing meetings, many of them fell into the trap of talking far too much. When they asked for feedback, they made the mistake of immediately giving their own views on the issue which of course discouraged everybody else. Participants may actually feel that as the boss has answered his own question, there is nothing left for them to say!

4. Ask precise questions

Asking team members what they think of a new product or changed customer service procedures may get a stony silence. It is much better to use precise questions such as the following to get the discussion going:

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  • What can we do to improve safety standards?
  • What incentives can we offer to gain more customer feedback?
  • In what ways can we simplify the accounting procedures?

5. Take ideas on board

If the boss or manager regularly shoots down new ideas for improving products or customer service, then silence will reign. Employees will feel snubbed and worse still, demoralized. A much better approach is to take the idea on board. The LCS approach is one of the best I know:

  • L- stands for what you like about the idea or suggestion.
  • C- stands for some concerns that might make it less profitable or impractical
  • S – represents suggestions for dealing with the concerns or issues that might arise.

6. Give credit for suggestions

Usually, having a list of action points from a meeting is a good way to get things down on paper. It also gives space to acknowledge the originator of a new suggestion or proposal for improving a certain procedure.

7. Ask each member to contribute

I hated this at the management meetings we had every week. The director would always go round the table and ask each member for their views on a problem, reporting on a successful event or anything else. If you are shy, like me, you will know that this can be agony.

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But managers can make it easier by using eye contact effectively. Nodding in the person’s direction can encourage the shyest of people. Empathizing and making comments which show that the manager has actually listened and rewording it are all ways of encouraging people to speak up. Using the person’s name is also helpful. Ask other members if they have felt the same way about an issue or had a similar problem with implementing a new procedure.

8. Encourage them to think of long term success

Building a great company depends on superb teamwork. An integral part of that is making sure that your employees’ feedback is being used to give the best service possible for your clients. That guarantees the success of the company and secures their own jobs. This is why contributing and talking openly at meetings is crucial. Make sure that progress towards achievement of goals is regularly logged and updated.

9. Don’t call too many meetings

It is all very well getting feedback but calling too many meetings is a sure way to kill that valuable process. If the meetings are badly organized and do not follow a set agenda or time limit, then you are wasting valuable resources and time. A good question to ask yourself is what would happen if we do not have this meeting? If the answer is ‘nothing’, then do not bother having it. An email may be more effective.

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10. Don’t discourage dissent

Many managers try to get people to agree to things as soon as they can. The point to note here is that when there are diverging views, this actually generates more discussion. It can lead to better problem-solving. Managers can also play devil’s advocate to stimulate even more discussion. It is a great way of drawing hesitant participants out and getting everyone involved.

Let us know what your techniques are for getting people to speak up at your meetings.

Featured photo credit: Client Meetings at Dynamic Signal/ Jim Larrison via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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