Have you ever felt disappointed because not everyone on your team had their voices heard? If so, you are not alone. One research team conducted a study to analyze the reasoning behind why some teams fail to give credit where credit is due. The team sat in on nearly eighty team meetings of the same group. At each team meeting, the research team took notes of what happens to ideas and those who share said ideas over time.
As you may have anticipated, the research team’s findings from the group meetings are far from surprising. The team found that the group in question repeatedly overlooked ideas that certain group members proposed. On occasion, the group would reiterate the overlooked ideas. However, the group would not give credit to the people who initially mentioned the discussed ideas. What is least surprising about these findings is the group that finds their voices least accredited or amplified during the meetings. The team found that women, people of color, and members of various other unrepresented groups are most likely to be spoken over or disregarded when expressing an idea. And when their idea did come up in conversation, the conversation would rarely credit members of these marginalized groups for their novel suggestion.
It is evident from the study that professionals need to be more mindful of how marginalized populations may feel disrespected and disregarded in brainstorming settings. Here are some strategies to approaching the conversation around amplifying all voices, especially those that are historically marginalized.
What is amplification?
Amplification describes a public endorsement of someone’s idea while correctly attributing credit to whoever initially suggested the idea. It may take a bit more conscious contribution in the workspace to commit oneself to amplification. However, it is a critical step towards creating a more diverse and inclusive professional setting.
One example of amplification comes from the Barack Obama administration. In 2016, a group of female staffers in the Obama administration believed that their contributions had less impact than their male counterparts. To call attention to this gender gap, both male and female administration members decided to call more attention to one another’s ideas deliberately. And when they would circulate others’ ideas with intention, they would also make sure to give each other credit for their contribution. As a result, staffers found that the amplification strategy helped mitigate their frustration while expanding their influence in the workspace.
The impact of status in getting your voice heard
When professionals use amplification to gratify their teammates’ contributions, everyone involved reaps the benefits. One study from the Academy of Management Journal found that those who have their ideas amplified by their teammates are perceived as more influential. Those who amplify another team member’s idea also tend to look more high-status after giving credit to their peer that initially suggested said idea. It is also important to note that the previously mentioned study took place as part of three research projects analyzing the impacts of amplification in the workplace. In sum, these studies confirmed that learning to amplify colleagues’ voices is a simple, practical, and effective way to ensure that all employees can have their voices heard.
How can you use amplification to improve your status at work? And how does that status improvement impact the initial “voicer” of the idea in question? Research from the Academy of Management Journal confirms that those who focus more on the problem than the solution when voicing an idea tend to come off as a lower-status professional. For this reason, I believe that both the voicer and the one amplifying the voicer’s suggestion should focus more on positive, solution-based language to boost morale and excite their co-workers about what lies ahead.
Amplification should be used to promote equity in groups. To do so, you and your co-workers should rely on amplification to lift any employees, especially those from marginalized populations. Amplification can effectively raise the esteem of those who already enjoy high status. However, those with low status can reap the benefits as well due to the process’s inherent focus on giving our coworkers a well-deserved seat at the table.
About Krishen Iyer
Krishen Iyer is a California native with a passion for entrepreneurship, contracting, marketing, and insurance sales. Iyer first began working with insurance centers to manage their traffic and improve their brand recognition nearly two decades ago. Today, he is the founder and leader of MAIS Consulting Services, an Encinitas-based agency specializing in optimizing the contracting and marketing strategies of their health and dental insurance clientele.