If you’ve ever been a member of a work community, you’ve probably experienced the things that have gone unsaid. These are the unspoken frustrations, the ideas that are never shared, and the thoughts and feelings that get pushed to the wayside for fear of receiving a negative reaction from management or other coworkers.
The problem with the unsaid lies in the unfulfilled potential and building resentment. When people feel like their ideas aren’t being heard and their annoyances aren’t important, they become disengaged. We’ve talked about lack of engagement in this blog before, but it’s important to reiterate the importance of having a workforce that’s excited and enthusiastic about their day to day activities. Otherwise, the quality of the product or service is likely to drop.
Now if you’re a leader, you might be wondering how to address the unsaid. What would that look like in a meeting? A free-for-all of negativity and harsh comments or ideas that would take years to hash out and capitalize on? What’s the point of taking a deep-dive into the minds of employees and other members of management?
The point is to create space.
According to The Three Laws of Performance by Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan, when your employees have their grievances cleared from their minds, there’s more space for new thought and creativity. Employees are no longer bogged down by things they once felt they couldn’t control, and they’re happier and more productive in the workplace. They’re open to what The Three Laws of Performance refers to as a “clearing.” With all this new space open in their minds, teams can move forward towards a new future versus what had settled in their minds as inevitable.
We, as humans, receive things differently. What one person might take as an offhand remark, someone else might internalize and hold onto for days. For this reason alone, the unsaid is extremely harmful. In an instance where someone says something seemingly offensive, it’s imperative that the other person address it immediately to avoid conflict and harbored emotions. Humans across the world react to things differently. It is part of what makes up who we are and how our personalities handle differing situations. Being more mindful of that helps ease the impact of the unsaid.
It is, however, important to clear the air productively. If an employee has been harboring ill feelings of a coworker or manager, unleashing those emotions can be tough. In a productive setting, addressing these issues can lead to problem-solving conversation and solutions to employee disputes in the workplace. Many times, these conversations stem from blockages in beliefs of what the future could look like if things in the present were changed.
For example, If 85% of employees are disengaged and disgruntled in the workplace, it’s likely very hard for the remaining 15% to stay motivated to work diligently. The future for this company might look bleak. But having some productive conversations around what’s causing the disengagement--whether it’s lack of understanding from leadership, unclear goals, lack of resources, etc--will help create the aforementioned clearing for new ideas and ways to push forward. With all this newfound space, the sky's the limit for productivity and innovation through future thinking.