When Employees Are Open With Each Other, But Not Management by Amy C. Edmondson

It’s human nature to grumble a little about the boss, the boring meeting, or some seemingly clueless directive from several layers above. Strictly speaking, such grumbling doesn’t cause real harm; everyone needs to vent now and then.

But an organization is in serious trouble when most discussions on crucial issues take place in side conversations, rather than in formal meetings, where concerns can be addressed thoughtfully with people in a position to instigate a change of course.

Recent news reports on Boeing reveal what appears to be an epidemic of side conversations about the 737 Max jetliner. In private emails and instant messages, employees expressed rampant concerns about the Max during its development — and outright disdain for some of the decisions being made, technologies being put forward, and even for the company’s customers. The 117 pages of internal communications turned over to the U.S. Congress last week paint a damning portrait of Boeing’s culture — captured in persistent side conversations. Its employees derided airline customers as incompetent and “idiots,” and had similarly harsh words about regulators and Boeing senior executives.

As Captain “Sully” Sullenberger noted in the New York Times, “We’ve all seen this movie before, in places like Enron.”

Side conversations occur because people believe it’s not acceptable to tell the truth publicly. They happen because employees have learned that meetings are places where you go along with the boss or the majority, even if you disagree with what’s being decided or planned. Because we all want to express ourselves and feel heard, we can’t stay silent forever. So we seek out our peers — the ones with whom we believe we can talk straight — and then say what we really think.

Here’s how to tell whether your organization might be plagued by an unhealthy degree of side conversations.

Read the full article @ Harvard Business Review
Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.