Julie’s Story – A Case Study

Julie was a senior manager attending her first management team meeting in her new workplace. Twenty other managers were in the room, plus the executive members and the chief executive officer (CEO).

What surprised Julie the most was the total lack of discussion and feedback from the management team. A confident individual who had always been valued for her contributions in other organisations, Julie initially viewed the other managers as disengaged, disinterested, and (if she was honest) ineffective.

The CEO was charming and engaging, and the executive often sought the managers’ views during these meetings, but the management team rarely offered any thoughts or opinions.

It was a static workforce, with long-tenured individuals, and Julie thought they perhaps just needed to move on. As an energetic new member, Julie was keen to make a difference. She actively participated in the meetings sharing her thoughts and encouraging others to do so.

At times, Julie was sure she caught knowing looks from some of the long-termers. Smug looks that said, ‘Just wait. You’ll soon find out’.

It didn’t take Julie long to realise something was truly amiss. Well-meaning colleagues gave her a friendly warning that challenging the status quo in that workplace was akin to career suicide. And a long line of people had gone before her.

Julie shook off the negativity, confident in her ability to influence. Her skills were recognised, and she started to climb the corporate ladder. But that climb came to an abrupt halt when she spoke up to the executive about areas that required remediation if the organisation was to achieve its strategic objectives and re-engage the management group.

In hindsight, Julie told me the signs were obvious at that first meeting, but, as a natural optimist, she chose to ignore them. ‘The reason there was utter silence in those meetings is that it was not safe to speak up. It was a fear-based culture where the only thing you were expected to say was ‘Sounds great’, ‘I agree’, and ‘Yes, of course, you are awesome.’

She recalled that most of the executives did not want to discuss, collaborate, or be challenged on anything. It was a command/control environment.

The meetings were more about lip service and the appearance of collaboration than genuine efforts to innovate and work together with experienced and senior workforce members. Julie felt it was such a missed opportunity for that workplace.

Sound familiar? Julie’s case is not unique. I regularly see and hear of similar environments. The ability to contribute to discussions or challenge ideas or how things have always been done is absent from teams and workplaces that are psychologically unsafe.

“Psychologically safe workplaces value diverse thinking and invite contributions from all people.”

Psychologically safe workplaces value diverse thinking and invite contributions from all people. Unafraid to hear bad news, they are inclusive places to learn, where it is safe to contribute, offer your thoughts, solutions, and ideas and challenge the status quo.

Reach out for a chat to discuss Psychological Safety Workplace Training or Programs.

Tan x

Tanya Heaney-Voogt

Director & Principal Consultant
MBA, ICFACC, MAHRI, Dip Mgt, Dip Coaching, Prosci® Certified Change Practitioner
E: tanya@tanyaheaneyvoogt.com

Recent Blogs

The Advantages of Playing to Your Strengths

It is a cliché to ‘Know your strengths’. We see it emblazoned across LinkedIn platforms, job advertisements, newsletters and other media. Leaders use it. Sports coaches scream, ‘Play to your strengths’, and we all smile and nod as though we know what they are talking...

Why is change so hard?

I received an email recently from someone I don’t know very well directing me to do something.  Not asking, but telling.  It was curt and commanding and it made me bristle.  It also made me dig my heals in and not want to do what I was being asked.  There were no...

Seven Ways to Model Safe & Effective Leadership

Are you a safe and effective leader? Safe and Effective Leaders have a dual focus on people and outcomes.  They understand that the two have a symbiotic relationship and the needs of both must be met. Safe and Effective Leaders step up to the plate to have those...

Why Having an ‘Open Door Policy’ Isn’t Always a Good Thing – Rafael’s Story

Rafael was the school principal of a large metropolitan primary school.    Every day Rafael would have a stream of students, parents, teachers and support staff entering his office for queries, guidance or to let off steam.   He prided himself on his “open door...

Wellbeing Washing; All Talk, No Action

I’m sure there’s a group of creatives in a room somewhere coming up with snappy phrases for modern workplace woes - quiet quitting, well-being washing etc etc... However we want to label it, this post below by Adam Morris speaks to the crux of the matter in that if we...

“My boss’s capacity for work is extraordinary. But she seems to think that’s normal and expects us all to function in the same way.” – Workload Management Tips

“My boss’s capacity for work is extraordinary.  But she seems to think that’s normal and expects us all to function in the same way.” It’s easy to fall into this trap as a leader, and I’ve certainly been guilty of this in my early leadership career, not realizing my...

“I’m struggling with my workload. What can I do?” – Workload Management Tips

I’m struggling with my workload. When I raised concerns with my manager they said “That’s just the job. We’re all busy.”  What can I do? There’s often a waterfall effect taking place in workplaces in regard to workload.  Chances are your manager is also struggling...

“I have a team member who keeps telling me they’re bored. What can I do?” – Workload Management Tips

“I have one team member who keeps telling me they’re bored.  They still have plenty on their plate and I don’t want to give them anything more as I’m worried I’ll overload them.  What can I do?” Our ideal state of work utilisation, generally speaking, is “active”....

Can you achieve high levels of ‘mastery’ in your role? Find out!

Can you achieve high levels of ‘mastery’ in your role? Find out! We've all heard phrases such as 'master your role' or 'I've mastered my job', but what does 'mastery' really mean and how is it linked to improved job satisfaction? Mastery is a component of good work...

Anticipatory Grief & Emotional Turmoil of Supporting Ageing Parents

Today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day. According to the World Health Organisation this day is for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.  In recognition of the spirit of this day and particularly in the remaining...