As a manager, the words ‘Freedom to Speak Up’ had filled me with dread and fear.When my manager spoke to me about a speaking up case, my heart sank. I was upset, angry, confused and felt a bit lost and lonely, as it had come completely out of the blue. My manager and I met with Abbey Harris, the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian to attempt to understand the issues. But at this point, I was still feeling very negative and defensive about the incident and the Freedom to Speak Up process. I felt I didn’t have a voice. Being spoken up about made me feel very vulnerable. It got to the point of me handing in my notice – which thankfully wasn’t accepted.
Abbey offered to help me improve the speaking up culture in my team. I reluctantly agreed to work with her in doing some Freedom to Speak Up training, as well as to present a general Freedom to Speak Up session for my whole team.Through the training, which is aimed at managers, I was able to see that the role of the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian is to work with managers, not against them. And following the presentation, two members of my team felt confident enough to approach me and ask if I would support them in becoming Freedom to Speak Up Champions. I now work alongside the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, to share learning internally and externally, and to support others in a similar position to the one I found myself in earlier in the year.I’ve been able to work with Abbey and my leadership team to roll out the “Freedom to Speak Up Manager’s Handbook” and run an awareness session with the rest of the department. The department has seen how the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian is working with the leaders in the team which in turn I believe is only enhancing a positive speaking up culture within the department.Speaking up is becoming a normal part of everyday life in my team. I encourage them to talk with me so I can listen without judgment and offer support when required. Sometimes they might want to speak to someone who is not their manager or is separate from the team – like the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian – which I encourage.
I co-presented my journey with Abbey to the public Board of Directors in early 2022. This led other managers in similar positions to come forward and get support.Speaking up about my experience has shown that for learning, improvement and growth to truly take place, both individually and culturally, the speaking up process must also be clear about the importance of engaging with and providing appropriate support to those who are spoken up about as well. As a manager who has been spoken up about, I’ve had the opportunity to speak up and, more importantly, feel I have been listened to. Working more closely with Abbey has altered my thoughts and approach to speaking up. As a result I have had the opportunity to help shape the future of speaking up in the organisation to ensure all parties involved have the support needed.
This 100 voices story is included in the National Guardian’s Office 2022 Annual Report
If you would like to share a speaking up story for our 100 Voices campaign, please contact [email protected] for more information.