Prime the pump
August 24, 2021
Don’t muzzle the ox

In recent times, one can observe that more and more people are finding their voice in our society. The new trend has taken us away from the notion of ‘silence is golden’ to ‘speak up and be heard’. With everyone finding their voice it is critical that our organisations make sure they create an avenue where employees can freely and discreetly express their concerns, ideas and perspectives internally without fear of ridicule or retaliation. In the past, some have misconstrued a difference of opinion as an assault on the leadership, a demonstration of disloyalty and a deviation from unity in direction. Consequently, all attempts were made to muzzle every lyric that was detached from the company’s song sheet. After all, in many instances, these resulted in much embarrassment to corporate leaders not because of what was said but where it was said. Even so, how many corporations have an avenue where employees can be authentic about their fears and concerns about the corporation? Often it is when a staff is muzzled internally he or she resorts to an external audience and this never ends well. Have you ever wondered why the bible warns us, ‘not to muzzle the ox when he is treading grain?’

An alternative approach is for the organisation to promote and encourage employee feedback and utilise those opinions to improve productivity, innovation and engagement. This gives employees an opportunity to be involved in corporate decision making and corporate leaders a chance to embrace new ideas, improve work culture and resolve problematic areas within the organisation. Research shows that employees who feel included in corporate decision making are inclined to trust management and colleagues and are more empowered to do their best.

To this end, corporations can give employees a voice, first by recognising and rewarding employees for providing feedback. Second, give employees the option to either share their feedback anonymously or to select representatives who can share their suggestions with management. Third, facilitate periodic company meetings led by senior management where employees are encouraged to be candid and give their ideas. Lastly, respond to each employee idea and explain what is accepted or rejected and why.

As our people become more empowered and vocal, our corporations can use the many opinions to improve efficiency and effectiveness within their operations rather than demand their employees take orders, sit down and shut up.

Dr. Wendyann Richardson is a Management Consultant who specializes in corporate governance, business operations management and refining of skills through training. She can be reached at