Corporate Payroll Services

As an organization, you may be asking “How can I make our workplace more inclusive, diverse, and equitable for all employees?”

For these efforts to be successful, employees need to be able to speak freely, offering critical and candid feedback about individual behaviors, workplace practices, and organizational policies.  None of this can happen, however, if employees believe it isn’t safe for them to speak up, and often, it isn’t.

According to a study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 75% of employees who spoke out against workplace mistreatment faced some form of retaliation.  Employees who report harassment and discrimination, speak candidly to their supervisors or challenge the status quo often find themselves excluded from projects, denied a promotion, or out of a job.  Given this reality, it falls on employers to show their employees that they can report incidents of discrimination, identify institutional failures, and recommend solutions without fear of retaliation.

Here are a few other ways to establish a firm foundation of trust, openness, and respect:

Admit mistakes and make amends

Employees will be reluctant to hold their leaders accountable if their leaders never admit fault or acknowledge areas for growth.  However, if leaders show a willingness to be vulnerable and a desire to learn and be better, they can help put their employees’ minds at ease and more effectively solicit their feedback.

Reward instead of retaliating

Creating a real sense of safety takes more than preventing retaliation.  Employees need to see that providing candid and critical feedback is met with appreciation, gratitude, and action from leadership.  In other words, it has to be rewarded.  Employees who identify problems in the workplace or propose solutions shouldn’t fear being ostracized or having their career derailed by a vengeful peer or supervisor.  On the contrary, they should be recognized as leaders in the organization (informal or otherwise), given opportunities to make a further impact, and empowered to help make decisions that elevate the workplace, its culture, and its practices.

Tolerate no retaliation

For some employers, the hardest part of building trust will be appropriately disciplining anyone who violates it, especially if the one being disciplined is a star performer or high up in the chain of command.  One instance of retaliation, if not immediately addressed, can undermine months or years of work and ruin even a stellar reputation for diversity, inclusion, and equity.  Any retaliation, for any reason, no matter who does it, must not be tolerated.  Fortunately, swift action to discipline the offender and prevent future instances can help repair the damage and restore trust.  It shows you’re serious.

Psychological safety takes time to establish, even in companies without a history of overt retaliation.  Implementing the three strategies above can help lay the groundwork for a culture in which employees feel safe speaking up for diversity, inclusion, and equity.

This post is provided by the HR Pros at the HR Support Center and Corporate Payroll Services.  It is for information purposes only and is not to be considered legal advice.  When you need essential information on human resources issues, from benefits, hiring, and management, to culture, technology and regulations, HR Support Center is a resource on which you can rely.  To learn more, visit or contact us at 770-446-7289 x2102.