In modern societies, job precarity has become more and more the norm. As a result, employees have adapted their working style and increased their average level of compliance, because they believe they have better chances to keep their jobs if they agree with the boss !
The consequence is that they challenge less and less their hierarchy and keep doing what they have been asked to do, whatever they really think of their assignments.
What follows such increased compliance is then lower innovation and ultimately lower competitiveness in the societies affected by such syndrome.
The solution then to get honest feedback from employees while making sure that they don’t feel threatened by the process is called “the Confession Room”.
This confession room would be a place where freedom of speech and confidentiality are both perfectly ensured. Independent consultants would listen to anonymous complaints, aggregate them and communicate with senior management to help improve company’s operations.
This proposal should help curing the frequent “blindness” of senior management towards what is happening inside their own company by introducing a new channel of communication. It should also enhance “good” whistle blowing and reduce stress levels and frustrations.
How many times have you carried out a task that you knew was incorrect or implemented an initiative that was guaranteed to fail just because your boss told you to so and you were too afraid to challenge him/her?
Increasing competitive pressures and economic turmoil have resulted in greater job precarity. As a result, employees will almost do and say anything to please their bosses and secure next month’s paycheck. As a result, as managers, we surround ourselves with “yes” men and women; teams that will praise and reinforce our judgments. It is rare to come across leaders who have the self-confidence to surround themselves with people who are as good – if not better – than them at certain tasks. Hiring people that can see right through our mistakes would be to become vulnerable, and so, gradually but inexorably, we adopt dictatorial management policies. As a result, we erase all trace of sincerity and independence from our employees. And this handicap is translated into numbers: in countries were hierarchy is too rigid, too oppressive for employees to openly voice concerns and opinions, innovation and consequently, competitiveness declines.
But would you not want true, honest feedback from your employees? What if we could come up with a solution that could help employers obtain feedback, but sparing the feeling of confrontation and humiliation? How truly valuable would these sincere comments and opinions be? Would they not help you become a better manager? Would they not help you to learn and continuously improve, as opposed to stagnate in blissful ignorance?
The Confession Room!
Our idea is to borrow the concept of a confession room to the corporate environment. In a company, we can set up a ‘confession room’, where every employee could go to and say anything they wish. The room is absolutely sound proof and 100% confidentiality is ensured. The confession room space will be divided into two compartments – one for a company employee and the other one for a consultant. They cannot see each other and the voice is masked by a special device installed in between the two separate spaces.
The consultants who sit inside the ‘confession room’ are professional psychoanalysts who have extensive experience in coaching for corporate performance. Their job consists of three main tasks:
- Listen to the employees and give professional advices and guidance on-site.
- Collect data based on employees’ feedback to identify and analyze problems related particularly to the behavior of individuals in the company.
- Feedback these problems in a periodical review format to the senior management for follow-up actions with identified individuals. In the review, no specific incident or quote should be given from employees’ direct feedback. Instead, psychoanalyst will be able to generalize observations, identify behavior patterns of certain employees in the company, develop hypotheses of the root cause and give recommendation for improvement.
To make the feedback mechanism more effective, a company will encourage its employees to go and speak in the confession room regularly. For example, it may require every employee to be in the room for at least 30 minutes every quarter so that people who do have things to complain or ‘confess’ cannot be singled out. At the same time, employees should be encouraged to speak about anything they wish, not only about things they do not like. If they are happy about certain things in the company, they should provide such feedback as well.
The company will also develop a clear implementation framework to follow up on psychoanalysts’ findings and recommendations. Tracking and measuring systems have to be in place to evaluate the effectiveness of the initiative. Continuous improvement will be based on experience and employee feedback.
Introduce a new anonymous channel of communication between employees and top management.
After implementing the initiative employees will have an opportunity to communicate any new ideas and concerns to the top management and will actively use such opportunity. Those who were previously afraid of negative consequences for proposing a radical initiative (in case it fails) will now be more free to speak out. This will boost creativity and innovation in the companies.
Enhance “good” whistle blowing.
Many employees see wrongdoings within the company but are afraid to inform their top management, because of fear of revenge from those exposed. The proposed practice will allow them speak out without fear. Many of wrongdoings within the company will be exposed. Those engaged in wrongdoings will be more worried about being exposed and so will have to stop.
Reduce stress levels and frustrations.
Often people simply need a channel to their worries and frustrations to top management to create awareness. The initiative allows to do so very efficiently. Employees will feel that they are heard and understood, which will create more positive environment and in turn boost productivity.
The professional confession box is a revolutionary and possibly even controversial management initiative.
The first steps of communication will start with the circulation of a memo and through advertisements on company’s websites and posters. The poster advertisements will be posted at the most frequented sites by employees such as the canteen, elevators and toilets. The advertisements and memo should not be in great detail, but need to be eye-catching and merely to outline the general overview, concept and the benefits that are to be gained for the stakeholders from the initiative.
The second steps entail two-way communication between the management and employees. The management will have a face-to-face meeting with employees. Here, management will explain in much detail on how professional confession works. Employees will be divided into working groups to discuss and suggest on ways to improve the tool and of any concerns on its integrity. Further to this, a detailed document on the initiative is circulated for the employees to refer to at a later time. An open blog will be employed to allow continuous feedback from individual employees.
The final steps involve ensuring the smooth execution of the initiative and that it keeps to the spirit of its purpose – to create transparency and bottom-up guided organization. The successes and problems that are observed during the running of the initiative will be communicated down to employees, in line with the aim to achieve transparency within the organization. A new blog will be created to allow feedback on the execution of the initiative, enhancing the spirit of bottom up approach the initiative strives to achieve. The management will collate and review the feedback and make changes as demanded. The aim is to have a closed loop continuous improvement process.