The success of an organization is closely linked to the freedom that its employees have to express their views and ideas. A company which treats questions to senior management as insubordination is bound to create a culture of fear.
If people cannot speak out frankly about the issues they face, business operations will be hampered and ultimately the corporation may lose its way and join the vast list of failed organizations.

How can a company promote honest discussions where workers are not scared to voice their views?

Openness should be encouraged

Every company should ask its employees to follow a culture of transparency where information is freely shared. Of course, access to data should be given only to those who need it to carry out their work.

But it is important to promote an atmosphere where staff is prevented from hoarding data. In many organizations, employees keep their knowledge a closely guarded secret so that they become indispensable and consequently ensure the security of their jobs.

Actions speak louder than words

Top management should make a point of praising those who are outspoken and have the courage to break unpleasant news.

Instead, many organizations promote and reward yes-men and punish those who are bold enough to speak candidly about the company's weaknesses. Workers will be quick to recognize that the senior leadership is only paying lip-service to a culture of candor.

When workers realize this, they will suppress bad news and only convey what top management wants to hear.

Be willing to entertain differing views

When a new policy is being formulated or a product is being launched it is important to hear the views of everybody concerned. In fact, employees should have the freedom to speak their mind and every participant should be encouraged, even prompted, to participate in the discussion.

A company has a lot to gain by allowing different opinions to be presented. This will allow the collective knowledge and experience of the entire set of staff members to be used to influence the topic being discussed.
If the persons attending the meeting have conflicting views, they should have the freedom to air them. This will help participants examine every side of the issue and finally arrive at what is the most appropriate way forward.

Those leaders who discourage debate and ignore or suppress views that differ from their own are doing their companies a great disservice.

Role of the CEO

It is crucial that a company's top management, especially its CEO, have the confidence to let employees work in an atmosphere that allows free expression of opinions.

There are CEOs who get all their information only from a closed set of senior leaders and who never allow subordinates to speak directly to them. They do not entertain any questions put directly to them and rely only on the chain of command to handle every issue that arises.

If a company is headed by a person like this, it is quite likely that sooner or later it will lose touch with reality and the marketplace.

Large benefits to be gained

If a company is successful in convincing its employees to voice their thoughts freely, it stands to reap great rewards. But it is not easy to implement and sustain a culture that allows workers to state their views without being afraid of the repercussions. It requires senior managers to suspend their egos and remain constantly vigilant so that the company's tradition of openness can be kept alive.