You’re not the only person dealing with an issue between the hours of 9 to 5.
It’s likely that your coworkers might be dealing with the same or similar issue, and even if they’re not, they may be willing to throw their support behind a fellow coworker (like you). And you need their support.
After all, the more voices you have in support of an issue, the higher the likelihood it’s taken seriously. Below, we’ve compiled some steps you can toward outlining your issue and gaining the support of your coworkers.
So, what’s your issue again?
Before you bring your issue to fellow coworkers, you need to know, well, what your issue is.
A firm understanding of your issue will help you more effectively communicate your grievance when you’re relaying it to a coworker, and it may help clarify who you should present it to once you gained other coworkers’ support.
As an exercise, we recommend running your issue through the five Ws:
- What is the issue?
- Why is it an issue?
- Who does the issue affect?
- When did the issue arise?
- Where is the issue taking place?
Aim for clarity and conciseness off the bat, then fold in nuance and additional detail later on once you’ve gathered more information about your coworkers’ experiences.
Time for a temperature check
There’s power (and safety) in numbers. The more people you have putting their support behind your issue, the higher the likelihood your issue gets taken seriously by management.
So, gauge your issue’s prevalence among your coworkers by seeing if they’ve had a similar experience or know someone else who has. (But, before striking up a conversation at the water cooler or in a virtual meeting, ensure the coworkers you’re reaching aren’t potentially involved with the decision-making behind your issue — you can’t just slide into anyone’s DMs.)
If your coworker signals that they have experienced this issue, knows someone who has or otherwise supports the issue getting resolved, ask if they’d be comfortable being involved in efforts to bring the issue forward.
Keep track of coworkers who signal their support (in a spreadsheet like this). Gathering your coworkers’ personal emails and phone numbers ensures your efforts are kept private until you’re ready to bring your issue forward (side note: companies have tools that enable them to monitor your communication at work).
Finally, understand that there’s a fine line between a temperature check and an accusation. In the early stages of organizing, conflict has the ability to turn heads away almost instantly, so don’t point fingers just yet. Treat this stage as an information-gathering session — the more you find out about an issue’s effects, the wider net you cast and the more support you may garner.
Meet consistently with your coworkers...
..and that doesn’t necessarily mean that in a literal way. But that helps, too.
Group chats, email threads, and shareable project management tools are just some of the ways you can get together with others. (Another friendly reminder to be wary of where and how you interact with your coworkers, as communication within your workplace is likely being monitored.)
Whatever the means of communication, ensure you outline the purpose of the communication, the goals and timeline for resolving your issue and any updates you make on resolving your issue. Maintaining accountability and transparency of your efforts ensures that your issue doesn’t fall by the wayside and reinforces why getting your issue solved is important.
Resolving your issue
At this step in the process, you might have a handful of coworkers who have signaled their support for your issue. What’s next? Begin by drafting a complaint to management, and get at least one other person to sign off on your issue (thereby ensuring your employer can’t single you out).
Here are some components you’ll want to include:
- The issue(s).
- Where the issue(s) took place, who/what was involved, and how you/your coworkers responded.
- A potential solution(s).
An email to the relevant department (likely human resources) ensures your issue is heard (and better yet, kept on file).
Whether or not your issue is acted upon is now largely left up to management, who has historically held the upper hand in workplace disputes. If presenting your issue ultimately fails to enact change at your company, you’ve got other options.
Forming a labor union can formalize those efforts and provide you and your coworkers more long-term leverage to negotiate issues. Unsure about how to get those efforts started?