How a boss can make employees open up

Boss' reaction influences whether workers will speak up

By Author  |  Published: 12th Jun 2019  10:39 pm
Once bitten, twice shy

A leader’s response to employee suggestions can impact whether or not the employee opens up in the future. A latest study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology explains how leaders can use language that encourages workers to offer more ideas in the future, even if their suggestions are not implemented.After conducting two studies, a team of researchers found that people who speak up at work only to have their ideas rejected by supervisors will nonetheless offer more suggestions later, if their bosses respond properly.

“Given that many employee ideas for change cannot be endorsed, our results highlight the practical importance of providing sensitive explanations for why employee suggestions cannot be embraced,” said Danielle King, an assistant professor of psychology, and lead author of the study.The second study, including 223 students, involved two 30-minute online surveys. In this experimental study, students worked as interns for a advertising firm that catered to student-related businesses.

Students who provided suggestions about marketing materials received one of four responses, all of which indicated their boss didn’t agree with their advice. Those four responses covered a range of answers, from sensitive and well-explained to insensitive and poorly explained. The students then had a second chance to offer suggestions on different material.Researchers suggest organisations offer training for leaders on how to let employees down gently while encouraging them to speak up in the future.