Uncorking the Bottle
“Empty vessels make most noise.”
Plato’s legendary words will resonate with anyone who has ever had to contend with a boardroom loudmouth. While some people naturally brim with the confidence to gush ideas before they are fully formed, others can struggle to sound out their thoughts, often to their own detriment. There are many reasons that an employee might be concerned about speaking up, ranging from personal introversion to broader issues relating to the culture of the work environment.
Sadly, over-inhibition, for whatever reason, can often lead to a disconnect between the individual, and what they choose to reveal of themselves. This can be frustrating for everyone involved. Worse, as a recent Forbes article points out: “The less you say, the more you enable others to define your voice and your identity”.
It is generally agreed that employees who do speak up for themselves tend to thrive in the workplace. The question is, as an employer, how to foster volubility in those who are not, by nature, talkative. There are some general steps you can take as a mentor which can help.
Listen with sincerity
If an employee has worked themselves up to talking to you about something, listening is an easy courtesy to afford them, but one often sorely neglected. When quieter employees are vocal, encourage them by being an attentive listener, and responding with positive body language and comments.
Ditch the petty banter
Instinctively, you may wish to fill a lull in conversation at meetings and appraisals, but try to resist. It will give your employees more time to formulate their thoughts, deal with any sudden memory blanks and unpack everything they needed to say, to your mutual satisfaction. Consider a truly great interviewer. It’s amazing how much they get from their subjects, from talking very little at all, and even less about themselves.
Allocate a time for talking
Because even if it is only for one hour a fortnight, a window is more likely to let in the light if it is open.
Sometimes, these steps won’t be enough, and this is where Tickety Boo can mediate. You might need our intervention to help you hand over the conch to more reticent speakers. We might work with you to establish targets to help you nurture a more open, approachable environment in general. What is certain is that if you feel an employee is bottling up, with a little training, we can help you uncork the potential within.