As the topic has come up recently, a few practical ideas have emerged. I don’t take credit for these ideas; mostly they’re common sense and I’m just sharing. They’re grouped into a handful of categories for ease of reference:
1. Designated intermediary
- An office whose job it is to share employee dissent messages at a high level
- An ombudsperson – “complaint central”
- Technology – create a neutral space where concerns can be shared by anyone (for example, a Sharepoint-based “issue tracker”)
2. Written communication, readily available, brief and high-level
- What does your office do? Why is that important? Who are your key partners?
- What are the key laws, regulations, policies, principles and standard operating procedures that govern your functioning?
- What are the ethical considerations that may occur during the normal course of business, and how do you handle those?
3. Training orientations, offered at regular intervals (e.g. a “lunch and learn”)
- Walk through the organizational chart: Who does what, who reports to whom, etc.
- History lesson: How did we get started? How did we evolved? What key events shaped our identity today?
- What are some of the “hot topics” in our world right now? What are the different angles on it?
- What is the culture like around here? What are some things to be aware of?
4. Build up the “trust bank account”
- Ask in advance how to disagree without creating conflict or embarrassment
- When an issue comes up, ask questions first and draw conclusions later
- Model respect and professionalism
- Assume good intent – common ground in your mutual wish to serve the American people.