Dissent in the workplace is a delicate thing. Challenging the status quo can be seen as a rebellious and necessary act, but normalising dissent is a lot easier said than done. People get defensive, or begin questioning their own judgement. There is a sense of discomfort in dissenting which has to be navigated sensitively.

That being said, those employers that are creating a space for constructive criticism to take place are the ones unlocking all of their innovative potential.

So, what does this space look like, and how can employers create it?

The first step is by ensuring that the space in which the team are discussing and debating is a psychologically safe one.

Firstly, leaders should clarify openly that they are welcome to opposing opinions. A manager or executive who is leading the discussion will carry natural weight in their words, so they should use this to their advantage; ask for contributions, ask for debate, ask for challenges to the status quo. Establishing the space as one where employees can contribute freely will immediately boost engagement in the topic being discussed.

It is then great to follow this with establishing that ‘there are no wrong answers’. Asking employees to take an interpersonal risk is a vulnerable thing to do; nobody wants to be deemed ‘incorrect’ or ‘silly’. The encouragement of dissent is all about the encouragement of innovation – in the right space, ideas that may have seemed far-fetched can ignite a domino-effect of thought from another employee and so on. Leaders need to actively make the space to be a bit wacky, as they may strike gold in unlikely places!

Once the debate is in full swing, the chairman (in this case, the manager in charge) will naturally notice who is more willing to be honest and open. They should actively engage with these people and ask them directly for their opinions – if others around them see that they can truly dissent without repercussions (within socially acceptable boundaries, of course) then this will likely entice and embolden the rest of the team to get more involved.

This is also a fantastic diversity and inclusion strategy, as it pushes for divergent thinking. For those employees who are more neurodivergent, they will feel much more comfortable and valued sharing their perceptions and ideas in a psychologically safe environment.

Dissent can unlock a wealth of opportunities for employers, it just has to be managed correctly. And it’s no secret that many contemporary companies have been wildly successful by challenging the status quo.

If you want to discuss coaching and training options for encouraging dissent in a productive way in your workplace, please get in touch with us here.

‘Hustle culture’ is a buzzword that’s become quite popular over the last year. With some dubbing it as ‘burnout culture’, it is the idea that you have to work extra hard and put in extra work to get recognised for promotions and opportunities at work – in short, you are always hustling.

Since the pandemic, employers have started to become more in-tune to helping their staff achieve a better work-life balance. However, the remaining prevalence of hustle culture suggests that there is still a way to go for employers to normalise happiness above hustling.

For instance, there has been a rise in hustle culture amongst the youngest generation of workers, partly to demonstrate how they reject this preconceived notion that Gen Z are prone to ‘quiet quitting’ (although, our previous article explains why this term is actually a misnomer). But by this logic, it seems that in order to successfully hustle, one must forgo personal time, boundaries, and essentially their happiness overall.

And yet, our own poll found a stark contrast to this conclusion, with 77% of respondents measuring their success by how happy they were, in comparison to just 11% stating they measured it based on how much they earned. So, while there seems to be a shift happening in favour of doing something that makes you happy, there is still this belief that working unpaid overtime and devoting yourself to your job is what you should be doing if you want to be successful.

This idea of being ‘always on’ and always hustling has been around for years – with the rise of Thatcherism and Yuppie culture in the 1980s came the normalisation of hard and constant work to contribute to your country and become a young, affluent person at the same time. But, rather ironically, those who partook and perpetuated this ideology are now, for the most part, measuring their success based on how happy they are. Recent data from Rest Less found that almost half of the self-employed workforce across the UK are over 50. This highlights how those who were once hustling like no tomorrow did, in fact, realise there was a tomorrow, and they wanted to be happy at work rather than hustling through it.

So, what we’re seeing here is a pattern of ‘hustling’ in the early stages of your career in order to be ‘happy’ later in life. And while this seems quite transactional, it raises the question: why shouldn’t employees get to be happy from the very beginning of their careers? Adhering to this old-fashioned idea of what work should be only perpetuates it more. Employers play a huge role in breaking this cycle of over-hustling, and this is rooted primarily in how they measure the commitment of an employee.

Hustle culture remains because employees are still led to believe that working more equates to being a better worker. When, the reality is, employers should be rewarding their teams based on the quality of their output, not the quantity of their input.

At the end of the day, people measure success on an individualised scale. Some people may thoroughly enjoy working overtime and throwing themselves into their work, and that is completely fine. Just as it is also fine to set and expect boundaries from your employer so that you can have a life outside of your job. And there is even a middle ground here, what some are calling a flexible hustle culture, where you can hustle here and have more time off there. But as an employer, it is key to remember that no matter how your employees define their success, the playing field for opportunities and promotions must have a set criterion. That way, employees are free to hustle where they see fit, but do not feel pressured to do so in order to get ahead.

If you would like to discuss how you can design and implement strategies for work-life balance and measuring quality of output, please get in touch with us here.

In the US, February marks the start of Black History Month – which aims to recognize the achievements of Black Americans and their contributions made to American history. It has been celebrated nationally since 1976, but was being taught even before this all the way back to 1926, with the founding of Negro History Week.

And yet, despite actively trying to be conscious of the value that Black Americans have brought to their country, we can see that, even today, they are still faced with severe disparity – especially in the workplace.

The first Black CEO of a Fortune 500 company was not promoted to this role until 1987 – now, if we fast forward to the 2021 research gathered by SHRM, there were only four new Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, two Black men and two Black women. This equates to 0.8% of Black people in a CEO position, compared with 86% of White men.

This is without mentioning the fact that the Washington Post found that only 8% of the 50 most valuable corporations in the US had Black workers in top executive roles. This is a stark realization that in a month where we celebrate the value of Black people in America, they are still heavily undervalued in the corporate world.

That’s why I find it so important to remind people why we still celebrate Black History Month.  Because we are still on the journey to equality and the eradication of prejudices. Therefore, it is crucial that employers are using this month to reflect on their diversity, equity and inclusion policies, as well as listening to the voices of their employees of color, so that they can show they are continuously committed to changing for the better.

Racism in the United States is deeply, deeply rooted, and it is still very much present in many of our society’s systems and structures. The first thing most organizations can and should do is admit that, to some degree, there are biases and inequalities still present in their workplace culture.  As these prejudices are systemic and subconscious, they can be easily overlooked due to being less overt. However, talking about disparity, shining a light on the fact that the experiences and opportunities for Black people are different and scarcer than their White counterparts, is a step all employers need to be taking to work towards achieving true equality.

Cultivating an inclusive environment at work that leverages differences is a continuous journey – it requires consistent work and dedication, but it produces real, beneficial results for your team and your company. Black History Month demonstrates all the incredible things that have been achieved by Black American trailblazers over the course of history, and employers who are educating themselves and their people around this will better understand that the best innovations come from diversified perspectives.

To continue this discussion and look at how you can take advantage of all the opportunities that being inclusive has to offer, get in touch with me at marty@orgshakers.com

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

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