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Once a month we have a meeting, where nearly all employees, managers and the boss (CEO) participates. The main goal of this meeting is to keep all informed about relevant news regarding the company and to have a dialog between the CEO and the employees.

In practice it is a monolog from the CEO, who always tells how good everything is. Last time a manager told us that we should talk about some topics we are not happy with. e.g.:

  • pauses
  • air conditioning
  • future of the company
  • etc.

IMHO, this is a very bad idea. It seems this is a beginning of a string of layoffs as cost cutting measure. None of the employees have done this until now. There is a possibility to use a postbox, but a colleague told me that his question got filtered out. After the works council got involved this shouldn't happen again, but I don't know how trustworthy this statement is and I see no sensitive topics. If I talk with some colleagues I clearly see some topics of conversation.

So is it a good idea to talk about workplace improvements at all? How can you start talking about sensitive topics without being disreputable?

7

Maybe I am too cynical.

The main goal of this meeting is to keep all informed about relevant news regarding the company and to have a dialog between the CEO and the employees.

No, it isn't.

In practice it is a [monologue] from the CEO, who always tells how good everything is.

Yep, like I said.

Last time a manager told us that we should talk about some topics we are not happy with

Whose manager, yours?
Let the manager who made the suggestion do it.

So is it a good idea to talk about workplace improvements at all? How can you start talking about sensitive topics without being disreputable?

The risk here is that you catch your CEO by surprise and cause her/him to feel embarrassed in front of everyone.
Which is not a good career move.

I see no sensitive topics. If I talk with some colleagues I clearly see some topics of conversation.

If you don't have a problem, keep quiet.

If other people are really concerned about something, let them figure out how to get their opinions heard.

  • 4
    Cynical? Yes, you are. However, you are also right. I would be leery of speaking up in any situation where you could catch the CEO (of what I am assuming is a small company) off-guard and risking negative interactions with someone in that position. – J Crosby Jul 9 at 16:26
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    Sounds like the manager doesn't want to stick their neck out for the team and raise it up the chain. – Smock Jul 10 at 12:47
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So is it a good idea to talk about workplace improvements at all?

If no one else, including your manager, is willing to bring up these topics then why should you put yourself at risk? It sounds good in theory, but I would not be the first person to ask the CEO a question that might make them look bad or feel uncomfortable.

How can you start talking about sensitive topics without being disreputable?

If your going to bring up sensitive topics, then an open forum typically isn't the way to go. I would suggest an carefully worded email, or even better, a quick one on one conversation.

This is if you decide too, and based on your question's tone, I would not.

4

I propose two-step process:

  1. Ask non-sensitive question: "CEO, what is the best way to discuss sensitive topics?"
  2. Using information from (1) bring up sensitive topics

The theory is that you ask about process first, because it seems there is no process right now. There are some suggestions, but not expectations. As others answered, it is not useful to bring up important things in a large meeting without giving CEO time to prepare.

3

One thing to remember in these kind of meetings is, that the CEO is not talking to an employee if he or she is answering your question. The answer isn't even adressed to the group of people it concerns. The CEO is talking to the whole audience.

But more importantly you are talking to the audience as wellnot only to your CEO. So if you critizise in these kind of setups, you don't bring information to your CEOs attention, you are telling him he or she messed up and that you are telling everybody here that he or she did. (Problems out of the controlof the CEO are probably ok like: "Godzilla destroyed factory 7. When will we start rebuilding").

And even if you ask your question don't expect a constructive answer. People in these situations tend to play it defensively. They probably won't want to commit to a path without thinking about it. The best you can hope for is "We will look into it" for whatever that is worth, or the speaker already has a solution/plan and you are only a way to get to this point.

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