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How to Get More Candidness from Employees Who Go Anonymous in Meetings

Businesses say they want honesty from employees, but do they really? As many workers suspect, leaders will often judge team members who tell the truth, labeling them as negative and even toxic to the overall work culture. But a culture in which employees don’t feel comfortable speaking up can be just as harmful, especially if everyone is secretly unhappy.

How do you, the boss, get that honesty out of employees? Here are a few tricks you may be able to use to get even your quietest employees to speak their minds.

Ask for a Review

Performance reviews remain part of many organizations, giving managers a chance to let team members know how they’re doing. But even if you schedule a one-on-one meeting once or twice a year, your employees likely won’t give their most honest thoughts.

You may think asking, “How do you feel?” will get someone to speak up about areas you may need to work on. However, people are often afraid to speak honestly, especially if the review was a positive one.

Why should your employees be the only ones evaluated? A periodic management assessment can quickly uncover issues within your organization. This will likely be most effective if you have enough employees to allow them to complete the evaluation anonymously. Many workers won’t be honest if they’re told they must attach their names.

Soliciting Specific Feedback

There are times when you need feedback on specific functions. You may want your team’s honest thoughts on the direction of the current project or on an idea you present in your meeting.

You’ve probably noticed the same people speak up each time, while others remain silent. As frustrating as this can be, calling on them can put them on the spot, possibly making them feel like they’re being singled out.

The first step toward addressing this issue is to acknowledge that every office has its fair share of introverts. Those employees are likely just as interested in contributing as the extroverts, but they do better in individual conversations. Consider communicating with one or two of those workers before each meeting to collect their thoughts, then include that input in the decisions you make.

Discussing Sensitive Information

An employee doesn’t have to be an introvert to feel uncomfortable discussing some topics, however. Whether it’s a health issue or a conflict with a coworker, employees need to feel they can bring issues to someone on the leadership team without repercussions.

If you’re leading a company with multiple managers, make sure you communicate that you have an open-door policy and that anything discussed with you will remain in your office. If you’re a manager, make sure your employees know they’re free to talk to you at any time.

It isn’t enough to say you have such a policy, however. Your actions are crucial to developing and maintaining manager-employee trust. If an employee brings something sensitive to your attention, use discretion. If you have an HR department, those team members should also create the same trust with employees.

Taking the Company’s Temperature

At times, you need feedback that goes beyond how a boss or idea plays with the team. Most companies would like to at least occasionally get feedback that helps indicate overall morale. Tools like 15Five can help you create anonymous surveys that your employees can complete in a matter of minutes. Companies have successfully used GoWall to gather employee input anonymously for individual meetings, projects, and overall work culture.

Gathering feedback is only the first part of the process, though. You need to be able to put the information to use. If your management reacts to negative feedback defensively, you’ll never get anywhere. After you’ve made changes, make sure you follow up to determine whether the improvements made a difference.

As important as honesty is, if employees feel it might hurt their job security, they likely won’t speak up. By finding ways to solicit feedback anonymously while giving employees a way to speak confidentially about issues, you’ll create a more transparent environment, which will benefit the company.

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