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What’s In It for the Manager When an Employee Speaks Up?


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by Kelly Vandever

One of my bosses (whom shall remain nameless for purposes of this post) had a bad habit.

Instead of the word “organization,” he would say another word that begins with the letters “orga” and let’s just say, the word he used really wasn’t suitable for use in our workplace. He only used the inappropriate substitution when in the company of the senior leadership team. He never ever did it in front of the rest of the employees. And other than the unfortunate substitution, he didn’t swear or use other lewd language. But he used his favorite substitute word on multiple occasions so I decided I needed to talk to him about it.

Alone together in his office I told him, “You’ve got to stop saying that word. I’m sure no one in the leadership team is offended. But some day, someone is going to overhear you and get offended and who knows what will happen. I know you don’t mean anything by it, but you need to stop saying that word.”

He hemmed and hawed as we spoke but he got the point and he stopped using the word.


Our Intent

The reason this situation resolved itself relatively easily was our intent.

I don’t think my boss had any ill intent with his choice of words. He wasn’t a jerk trying to create a hostile work environment. He just thought he was being funny.

I had no ill intent toward my boss. I respected him. Despite this particular lapse in judgment, he was otherwise a good manager and a good person. I also believed that if his behavior continued, he risked serious consequences for which he’d have no excuse. I didn’t want to see him get in trouble.


When An Employee Speaks Up

I was a manager for 23 years. There were times when I had employees who spoke up and told me things that I didn’t want to hear but needed to hear. I appreciated their candor.

Like my boss, I too didn’t see things that seems blatantly obvious to others. I knew I was lucky to have good people who were willing to watch my back.

What you get as a boss when you have a climate where your employees feel comfortable speaking up is invaluable.


Averted Problems

Why borrow problems you don’t need?

If you create an environment where people feel they have permission to speak, then they can help you from making mistakes that can be avoided.

And who doesn’t want to avoid mistakes!


Better Decisions

Employees who are willing to provide all the information, and not just what we want to hear, help us make better decisions.

By having all the facts, you can make the best call. You get all the facts when people are comfortable speaking up.


Employee Buy-In Increases The Chances Of Success

When employees feel part of the process and listened to, they’re more likely to actively contribute to the success of the organization.

We all want to matter. When employees speak up and see that you’re paying attention, they naturally will want to help make you and in turn themselves more successful.


It’s More Fun When You’re In It Together

There’s something about being part of something larger than yourself. When the environment you create helps your staff feel like they’re in it with you, it just plain feels better for you and for them.

Teamwork is awesome. When 2 + 2 equals way more than 4, it’s just more fun! It’s energizing to see what the “we” can do together.


Create A Climate Where Your Staff Is Willing to Speak Up

Take the time to build trust with your staff and encourage them to speak up.

The benefits for you all will be great. Try it for yourself and see!



Kelly Vandever is a leadership and communications expert who helps leaders and organizations thrive in today’s attention-deficit, entertain-me-now, wait-while-I-post-that-on-Facebook world.   Connect with Kelly and discover how opening up and speaking practically can bring you better business results. 

Contact Kelly by phone at 770-597-1108, email her or tweet her @KellyVandever.