“You don’t get paid to have opinions ” ….”If I wanted your opinion I’d ask for it”. Two stock put downs that were turned to by television scriptwriters in the 60s and 70s to tag the workplace bully.
Of course we’ve moved on from there. Now the phrase is “I value your opinion but..” , which is as loaded as “we have every confidence in our manager..” or “with all due respect”. Value, confidence and respect too often get lip such service in the workplace. An opinion from a subordinate is as popular as a computer virus.
An opinion box is installed to lance the boil of employee discontent and the contents may be used to add some innocent merriment at the next staff management meeting. More IT-savvy companies may create bulletin boards which the occasional naive subaltern will post to. This to the amusement of colleagues who watch the post sit indelibe and isolated, to the embarassement of the hapless contributor.
All this of course creates resentment. The disempowered workforce gathers around water coolers- or more properly in the pub and vents their collective rage, they return to the workplace to get paid, not to contribute. Productivity drops, people leave, businesses fail.
The human spirit being what it is, people retain value, respect and confidence in themselves and find alternative means for self-expression. They sing, play football, do stand-up. Recently they have gone to social websites where huge numbers express the opinions that have no place at work!
And herein lies a great truth that should be embedded in the HR policy of every organisation.
When people feel free to express themselves without constraints they do so constructively. If you don’t believe me- look!
Twitter, LinkedIn and You Tube are jam-packed with information, advice and goodwill freely posted for the benefit of others.
It’s amazing- people leave work, go home and then post the things they wanted to say at work but couldn’t… and it’s all positive!
It suggests that social media is the pressure valve that releases our frustrations and allows millions of us decent people to walk back into our work places with our heads held high.
Great blog + insight Henry. We have to recognise that there are also the internet equivalent of “water-cooler” sites too. But its notable that these are specific areas. When given free reign, the natural bloggers are the creatives, those that want to cooment and observe; and aim for good.
As a general comment I am concerned at the amount of vitrol and intolerance of alternative cultures, lifestyles and politics. But even the vitrolic bloggers generally put forward suggestions for the change that they want.
Tolerance of intolerance is part of the process!
I’d rather people got it off their chest through a good rant than displayed their intolerance in other ways.
The process of putting things down in words is cathartic and draws the sting from excessive positions.
We choose where we want to go on the web and what we listen to and watch on radio/tv.
My specific point is that in trying to control that process through the muzzling of free expression, many employers are creating problems for themselves.