June 30, 2006

How do you hear the silent voices of your employees? Employees often have their own view of their bosses, colleagues, policies, culture, day to day running of company. In fact, they have their opinion for almost everything going on in the organization. But these views and opinions are very often without a voice. These are not verbally expressed, except in close knit peer group with utmost confidentiality. But as with any human emotion, these do get reflected in the day to day behaviour of employees and many a times show in their work and the way they interact with colleagues and superiors at work. Most of the times what employees feel are mere personal opinions or even prejudices but sometimes their unspoken feelings tell an organizational story. This happens when personal opinions on certain issues become collective opinion and are felt by majority of employees. And these are the opinions which really have significance for an organization because these collective opinions may be a harbinger of hope or despair for an organization. So it will pay an organization well if it keeps its ears to its employee's heart.

Reading the silent voices of the employees can help an organization in many ways. Many a time, these can give subtle keys to what’s going on in the organization, how employees are relating to key people, whether majority of employees are getting annoyed with behaviour of a certain person, how employees feel about the new advertisement, how employees are feeling about new initiatives or policy changes, etc. Careful reading and interpretation can give enough ideas to management to constructively use these for furthering the cause of business and employee engagement, or to take timely remedial actions if things are going wrong somewhere.

But the question is how to tap into this immense sea of emotions and feelings of employees and channel them for the good of organization. I feel following measures might help organizations to decipher the silent voice of their employees:

  1. Inculcate a value system where each and every employee irrespective of position and grade is treated with utmost respect.
  2. Create an open and transparent culture where everyone can freely speak his mind without fear of reprimand.
  3. Encourage top-down as well as bottom-up feedback. This means subordinates can give any kind of feedback to any of their superiors and the superiors can give feedback to any of their juniors. The only condition being that the feedback is neither taken personally nor is it used for personal attack. It should be used for constructive purposes and to understand each other better and reflect upon one's own behaviour and way of interaction.
  4. Ensure that HR policies are aligned to the goal of making employees open up and that they encourage and reward open and heart-to-heart discussion among employees.
  5. Install proper channels of communication throughout the organizational structure to ensure frank and frequent two way communication.
So next time you are practicing “management by walking around” keep your ears close to the heart of your employees. The trick is: observe, empathize, read, interpret, and act. But never judge people!


  1. Ajit Chouhan // July 5, 2006 at 11:13 AM  

    I strongly feel that HR helps in establishing a culture which allows all such questions to be asked.