I know who it was, he left the company

It’s that season again. LinkedIn is flooded with people sharing the news of a new job. What I notice is, some people, who I would identify as a voice of the system, left their company. Whatever reason these people had to leave, I believe the leadership team of these companies should take a deep and hard look at the reason why they left. Maybe something is broken in their system and they have to start to listen to the voice in their system.

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What is the Voice of the System again?

The Voice of the System are people who do not only have (and share) their individual opinion or vision. They sense and share what is happening in the system. Are closely connected to the values of this system and they function as the air valve when there is pressure in the system. They speak on behalf of the system they are a part of. Another entity for leaders to take into account and to listen to.

Unheard voice left the company

Last year, I had a conversation with a department manager and asked him who the voice of their system is. He fell silent, after few minutes he replied:

‘I don’t know. I know who it was, he left the company a few months ago’.

So, I asked him, how he felt about this person leaving. He replied that he was a little relieved to see this person go. Because this person was continuously pointing out things that to his eyes were not OK. Sometimes, this resulted in some irritation and frustration with this manager. I asked him, after this person left, if things got better? To be honest, he replied, no! Someone else, who hardly spoke up before, now started doing the same thing.

Transfer of the voice

This is the most interesting aspect of the voice of the system. We think, if someone speaks up, they do so on their own behalf. However, the voice of the system speaks on behalf of the entire system, it just happens to be very close to their personal beliefs. There is a very thin line between these two voices, one’s personal opinion and that of the system.

If the voice of the system leaves the company, there is something wrong in the system. The problem is still there and the next person who’s own values are closest to the systems’ values will start to speak up.

Some of the companies I follow closely on LinkedIn have seen over 3 to 5 voices of the system leave within a few years. Most likely there is a problem in the system that is still not fixed. Over time the new voice will also leave the company. A decision they do not taken overnight but is the only thing remaining a voice can do to be heard.

The Lewis Resistance Line

Before a voice of the system leaves the organization, there are other types of behavior that occur first. These signs of resistance are visualized in the Lewis Resistance line. Starting with (sarcastic) jokes and if unheard, eventually results in war or withdrawal (people leaving).

Lewis Resistance Line

Have you ever seen or heard yourself or someone within your company show this kind of behavior? Ask yourself, what could possibly have lead to this behavior? If you look back at the people leaving the company, have they all walked the Lewis Resistance Line?

Begin to listen to this voice of the system! Otherwise you’ll lose committed people who’ve had the courage and cared enough about your company, to speak up. 

Stephan van Rooden
People Developer - 'I get energy from growth, both personally and from my surroundings. By using my ability to learn quickly and think creatively. By always staying close to my own values. And ensuring a healthy body and a healthy mind.'

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