How to Develop a Speak-Up Culture with Megan Reitz

Megan Reitz

“Speak up!” – a common appeal in organisations today, especially after the Boeing or Volkswagen scandals that made it abundantly clear that the lack of psychological safety can be deadly – quite literally.

Many companies take elaborate measures aimed at encouraging people to speak truth to power and flag important issues before it’s too late, but their efforts are often ineffective.

Why is it that employees don’t speak up?

This is what Megan Reitz and I talk about in this interview. We also touch upon the polar opposite of the challenge and explore how to navigate the relatively new territory of employee activism – when people seek dialogue and commitment from their organisations around addressing social or environmental issues that they are passionate about.

“How you show up affects my voice, it affects whether I can speak up. If you show up frustrated, or busy or judgmental, I lose my voice”

Episode highlights
  • What are conversational habits and how do they impact our company cultures?
  • The link between conversational habits and innovation.
  • How can leaders build self-awareness in order to understand their impact on the psychological safety experienced by their team members?
  • Superiority illusion – a phenomenon that leads us to evaluate ourselves on our intentions rather than our actual behaviour.
  • The optimism bubble and the role it plays in overestimating the degree to which leaders believe that people are speaking up and their own accessibility.
  • The role that status symbols play in building barriers to open communication in organisations.
  • How our pathological busyness squeezes out the space people need for dialogue to thrive.
  • Why it’s not enough to say: “My door is always open” if you want your team members to come to you with important issues.
  • The importance of role modelling disagreement.
  • Employee activism – what it is and why you need to know how to navigate it.
  • Why we cannot delegate our listening to pulse surveys.
  • What it means to be a tempered radical – and why it might be the most effective approach to driving positive change in your organisation.

“You cannot delegate your listening responsibility to pulse surveys”

Listen to the interview in the player below or on iTunes. If you like what you hear, please leave a review, and it may be featured on a future episode.

More about Megan Reitz

Megan is Professor of Leadership and Dialogue at Hult International Business School where she speaks, researches, consults and supervises on the intersection of leadership, change, dialogue and mindfulness. She is on the Thinkers50 ranking of global business thinkers and is ranked in HR Magazine’s Most Influential Thinkers listing. She has written Dialogue in Organizations and Mind Time and her most recent book, with Financial Times Publishing, is called Speak Up which was shortlisted for the CMI Management Book of the Year 2020.

She is a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review and her research has recently featured in Forbes, on the BBC, in two TEDx talks and in numerous academic and practice-based journals. Her latest research on employee activism was nominated for the Thinkers50 Breakthrough Idea Award 2021.

She is mother to two wonderful daughters who test her regularly on her powers of mindfulness and dialogue.

Examples of her work and contact details can be found at

and on Twitter @MeganReitz1.

People mentioned in this episode

Ian Wilkie, the Founder of 50 Million Voices

Philosopher Martin Buber

Books mentioned in this episode

The promise that changes everything by Nancy Klein

Fearless organization by Amy Edmondson

The Master and His Emissary by Iain McGilchrist

Additional resources

CultureBrained® Community – a one-of-a-kind virtual community for Heads of Culture, founders, and leaders who want to up their culture game.

The Culture Playbook Guide

Discover Your Personal Values

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