How to make your employees feel safe to come forward when something goes wrong
To keep a company productive, unified and secure, leaders need to know about problems as they arise so they can address them quickly. The same is true when your employees are facing a hardship or have made a mistake that could compromise security. When your employees are forthcoming about things like accidently clicking on a malicious link or even struggling with their mental health, it gives you the ability to come alongside them and address their needs.
It’s easy for employees to make mistakes like responding to a phishing scam. For those who made them, admitting a slip-up can be a daunting prospect. However, with a company culture of support and connectedness, that can change.
That positive company culture is also important for when employees are struggling personally. In Mind Share Partner’s 2019 “Mental Health at Work Report,” researchers found that while 60% of those surveyed experienced symptoms of a mental health condition in the year prior, only 40% of survey respondents had ever talked to anyone at work about their mental health. The study revealed that employees are craving a culture of support but often find it lacking in their own workplaces.
In order to build that culture and support system, you have to start by building a foundation of trust with your employees.
Trust and Self-Reporting
If employees feel they can trust their bosses, HR or company leadership, they’re more likely to feel comfortable coming forward. However, this trust needs to be built over time.
“You know that old saying, ‘If you have a hammer, the only thing you see are nails’? We can’t have that kind of culture,” says Yoel Bartolome, Chief People Officer of Adamo Security Group. “We have to create one [where we] understand that we’re all working together for the betterment of our community.” A sense of company unity, of working toward a common goal or value, can be essential in creating a community of trust.
However, it’s difficult to trust someone you don’t know. If you want to foster trust with your employees as a leader, one of the most important steps is taking the time to get to know them outside of just a work context.
This can look like setting up meetings to intentionally check in and chat with personnel, or as simple as regularly asking about their lives outside of work. Bartolome recommends asking open-ended questions when checking in, which allows them to divulge honestly where they’re at. If the only time your employees see you is when something is going wrong, they’re going to fear your presence.
Taking a Proactive Role in Leadership
Honesty and vulnerability have to start at the top. If you want employees to come forward when they’ve made a mistake or are personally struggling, you have to be willing to model that vulnerability yourself, according to Harvard Business Review (HBR). This includes being open about your own mental health struggles and being willing to be transparent and authentic with what’s happening in your life.
According to HBR, self-care is another practice that you as a leader will have to model so your employees can follow your example. This means taking breaks during the day, going for a walk and taking time off when needed so you don’t end up overworked or burnt out. If employees see a leader who never takes time for themselves, they may feel they have to do the same.
Flexibility is also an important value in supporting employees’ mental health. As needs change, you need to be able to adapt and problem solve. For some people, their needs might be simple, like a change of environment or some days off to recharge. For others, they may need more serious intervention, and you need to be ready to react to individual circumstances.
Of course, you need to have your HR or security team create an established protocol for when someone does come forward, Bartolome says. Taking the time to give clear direction and having managers and leaders trained in what to do can help employees feel secure in what will happen after they come forward.
“[The employee] needs to know the roadmap,” Bartolome says. “If you’re being reactive in your leadership, there is no roadmap, so process is the most vital thing you can have there.”
Self-reporting can often seem scary, as people fear the consequences they may face. For company leadership, encouraging self-reporting is crucial for the productivity and security of the organization. By building trust from the beginning and actively engaging with employees, you may be able to assist them and help save your company from potential harm.