Choice Encourages Employees to Speak Up at Work

Korean Air had more plane crashes than almost any other airline globally, not because of old planes or poorly trained pilots, but due to its cultural legacy. Korean culture is hierarchical, where being submissive to elders and superiors is required. This cultural norm led co-pilots to defer to their captains, resulting in deadly consequences.

Encouraging employees to share their ideas is crucial for innovation and identifying weaknesses. However, over 85% of employees stay silent on important matters due to fears of negative repercussions. So, how can supervisors inspire workers to speak up?

The likelihood of expressing ideas is influenced by both corporate culture and individual personalities. A positive corporate culture can outweigh the role of personality in expressing opinions. Creating a culture that values speaking up is essential.

Research suggests that emphasizing choice can motivate employees to voice their opinions. Feeling in control is fundamental to a sense of belonging and ownership at work. Employees are more likely to share their opinions in a culture that affirms people always have a choice.

In a study, participants roleplayed as job applicants, reviewing two job advertisements – one emphasizing choice and one that did not. The company highlighting choice saw greater willingness from participants to share ideas and opinions. Emphasizing choices not only promotes employee engagement but also gives a recruitment edge.

People feel empowered when thinking about their ability to choose. The act of choosing allows workers to express opinions, preferences, and feelings while controlling their environment. When company cultures highlight choice, individuals speak up, reinforcing their perception as independent contributors who shape their futures.

While choice is beneficial, too many options can overwhelm employees. Businesses can design a culture that emphasizes the concept of choice without overwhelming workers with numerous options.

In conclusion, for businesses to support their workers in expressing opinions, they must create an atmosphere that encourages participation. Research identifies a simple yet effective aspect of corporate culture—highlighting the importance of choice—that can help supervisors and companies achieve this goal.

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