2021 is a different year in many ways! One welcome change is the high profile finally given to the need to turn a culture of silence into a culture of healthy conversations.
Grace Tame showed great courage, poise and guts in opening the conversation around child sex abuse. A very appropriate choice for Australian of the Year for 2021.
I find it encouraging when people speak openly and honestly in calling out abusive behaviour.
Her courage has allowed others to bold and come forward, such as Brittany Higgins. Brittany coming forward has highlighted the culture of silence in the walls of Federal Parliament.
Both Grace and Brittany’s actions reinforce the need for all of us to speak out when we believe injustice is happening, including bullying and harassment.
Allowing Healthy Conversations In Our Workplace
However, this can only happen if the workplace environment allows this to happen. Otherwise, a ‘Culture of Silence’ prevails – and sadly these cultures abound outside of Parliament also.
In Grace Tame’s words, “it all starts with a conversation”.
I remember many years ago working for a steel company where I had 12 people from a shift team for 4 days on a Working and Leading Together program.
In debriefing one of the team challenges, it was clear that 2 men were not engaging with each other. This led to the failure of the exercise and reflected many of the failings in that workplace.
I called it out. Apparently the 2 had not spoken to each other for 8 years.
8 YEARS…. Unbelievable! Particularly when they were working on the same shift.
Are We Maintaining A Culture Of Silence?
Let’s ask ourselves honestly a few difficult questions:
- How dysfunctional is our workplace?
- Does our workplace allow open and honest discussion?
- Does it allow calling out ‘below the line’ behaviour?
- As a leader or key person of influence (which should be anyone and everyone in your workplace), does your behaviour encourage constructive open conversations?
- What happens if the bullying behaviour comes from our boss?
Indeed, not easy matters to address. Yet they come at a high personal price and damage any affected organisation
One of the great pleasures in my role as a facilitator is showing how workplaces driven by win-win attitudes have far stronger bottom-line results in profitability, LTI (Lost time through injury), reduced errors and rework and higher levels of engagement.
Unhealthy cultures follow a toxic template.
They channel power to a select few. Their leaders tend to be isolated. They do not listen to all voices, they avoid difficult conversations, and lack mechanisms to share problems.
You could rightfully say in this ‘unhealthy’ culture, people will avoid conflict at all costs; nothing is said thus the problem remains.
In Grace’s words “perpetrators thrive on that silence”
Do All Your People Feel Safe To Express Themselves?
So what does a ‘healthy culture’ look like? I love the description as given by Daniel Coyle, author of “The Culture Code”
Healthy cultures distribute power the same way a healthy body distributes energy: they channel it throughout the organism. They employ mechanisms to ensure that the weakest voices have a place to express themselves without fear of reprisals. They aren’t immune from problems, but they have ways of bringing those problems to light and dealing with them swiftly and fairly
Does this sound like your workplace? If not, let’s talk.
Finally, in Grace Tame’s words: Every voice matters!
Just as the impacts of evil as born by us so too are solutions born to us
It starts with conversation. This is the start of change.