Copyright: <a href=''>eye4detail / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Are your employees scared to speak out? Copyright: <a href=’’>eye4detail / 123RF Stock Photo</a>











If there’s one thing the tidal wave of allegations that have swamped the Hollywood film industry and the FA, BBC, and Houses of Parliament closer to home have shown, it’s the importance of being able to speak out. It seems one of the key reasons people have been able to act as they have done for so long is because their victims are afraid to speak out.

We don’t all work in the glamorous surroundings of Hollywood or the Palace of Westminster though, and some of these examples are very extreme. But if someone in your organisation wanted to speak out about someone or something, like their manager, a team-mate not performing properly or some of the things making the headlines, would they feel confident to do so? Would they be afraid of what might happen to them and the possible repercussions they’d face?

Losing their job, being isolated and not having anyone believe them are all genuine fears stopping people speaking out whether they produce movies, play sport internationally, run the country, or work in an office or factory.

As well as fear, another factor stopping people talking is futility. Too often, people keep quiet because they don’t think there’s any point. They feel they won’t be believed or it won’t make a difference so why bother? They suffer in silence and hope things get better.

Creating a culture where people feel comfortable about speaking freely is one of the most difficult things to achieve. A lot of organisations claim to do it, but not many really do it well. Where they crack it though, their employees perform better and stay longer.

This could involve putting in place a code of conduct (Harriet Harman spoke about exactly this following the list of MPs accused of improper conduct) so employees know exactly what is and isn’t acceptable in the workplace. This will cover things like bullying, harassment, respect, and generally making people think about their behaviour so they don’t cause offence unintentionally.

It’s about getting people to think about their actions at work and how they relate to everyone around them by developing skills, like listening, honesty, support, keeping an open mind, and not being judgemental over gender, sexual orientation, race or religion to name but a few. The list is pretty extensive, but you get the general idea. It applies to visitors and suppliers equally as it does to those they work with every day.

There’s a very fitting Winston Churchill – he knew a thing or two about leadership – quote to end with:
‘Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.’

Taking heed of Churchill could be a good place to start when creating a culture where people speak out. The cost of silence can be devastating. Look at the reputation of the film production, and anyone involved with it, at the centre of the allegations in the USA – it’s been trashed for good. Just imagine if that was your organisation.