The secrets employees keep can be one of the most costly hidden expenses a business owner encounters.
The problem happens when an employee, who has inside information about the business, decides to keep that information a secret. While there are many reasons why this happens, there is one avoidable reason for the secrecy – the employee knows that it is not in the best interest of her career to tell the truth.
I have heard many accounts of secrecy in the workplace. In one situation a group of managers were discussing the plan to launch a new program. A second level manager, who had recently been promoted, expressed her concern to another second level manager during a break. She worked in the field and had important information leading her to believe the new idea would not work as planned. The other manager quickly warned her to keep her mouth shut and agree with the plan. He explained that the senior manager who wanted to implement the program really didn’t want her input, although he pretended to care. Instead the second level manager, with more experience, instructed her to speak favorably of the idea and work on the project as instructed. Then, wait for about two years and it would simply go away after upper management realized what they both already knew – it was a bad idea. This is how they protected the senior manager’s ego and their careers. After about 2 years, and several hundred thousand dollars, the project disappeared exactly as she was told.
Do your employees have to keep secrets from you in order to protect your ego and keep their job? As a business owner, are you able to hear constructive input from your employees? Can they tell you when you have a bad idea or they make a mistake? If an employee disagrees with you, do they have anything to worry about? Would you still promote them? Of course, most business owners would answer, “Yes, absolutely.” That’s great, but the business owner is not the correct person to answer these questions. If you’re a business owner, have a conversation with your employees and find out how comfortable they are with being honest with you, especially when they don’t agree with you. You may have to get a third-party to conduct a survey with anonymous responses. You could also invite your employees to give opposing ideas, just to get the conversation going and consider all options and possibilities.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24
In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni describes what it takes to avoid those costly employee secrets and create a highly productive team. While you will never be short of people who have opinions for you (see the Opinion Epidemic), creating a team that supports open communication may take your profits to a whole new level.
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