Friday, May 6, 2011
Published: 23 hours 20 min ago
Singapore - When employees choose to remain quiet out of fear or for the wrong reasons, the silence can lead to disastrous outcomes for the organisation.
With Asians renowned for being more reserved than other cultures, an unwillingness to encourage employees to address issues out loud can lead to a breakdown in the company.
When Yee Ping Yi came onboard as CEO of CPF Board in January this year, he asked the HR function for the government agency to organise a series of chats with employees.
Derek Tan, chief human resource officer at CPF Board, said Yee then would sit in and "just listen" to the employees without any HR representative present. While Tan was initially worried about the silence, he realised the CEO was setting the tone for the organisation's senior management.
Speaking at an event organised by consulting firm True North Leadership Asia yesterday, Tan said "his silence speaks volume". His leadership style has helped shift the way managers hold meetings with their teams in the company.
According to Tan, listening to employees is twice as important when you're a leader because if no one dares to speak up, it means they deem the corporate culture unsafe.
Neo Boon Sim, director of HR development division in Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), concurs. He further highlights the "importance of breaking the silence and encouraging a culture of openness within the organisation".
"I don't think we have a big problem [at MAS] in the sense that people don't dare to speak up or there is a culture of fear," Neo said. "We might have that sort of environment in the past but it was about 15 years ago during the previous management style."
MAS has since then deliberately moved away from that. The HR function at MAS has been conducting in-house "Generative conversations" training programmes for every level of the organisation for the past three years. Neo said the training is designed to "help people break gridlocks in meetings and help them see each other's perspective".
A "Silence Fails: The Five Crucial Conversations for Flawless Execution" study conducted by VitalSmarts and The Concours Group found that a lack of "crucial conversations" can result in a 85% failure rate for projects. There have also been instances where team members refuse to speak up when they run into issues. More than half had employees who rather wait for someone else to broach the subject.
It found that leaders who conduct effective discussions are 50% to 70% more likely to achieve their projects objectives - within budget, on schedule, meeting quality standards and with intact team morale.
Yet those who do run into problems do not confront or resolve them. Out of half who do so, only 17% were able to air their concerns. The survey found that many managers (88%) lack the skills to provide leadership, political clout, time, or energy to see a project through to completion.