Long read

Want your team to open up? Start taking their safety and privacy seriously

Written by
Saul Johnson
Published on
May 31, 2023


Being a leader is, at its core, about empowering people. It’s about realising that a group of skilled, driven and motivated individuals working towards a common goal can achieve more together than you ever could by yourself. As you transition into a leadership role, your focus evolves from solely achieving personal goals to empowering others in attaining theirs. This shift is a monumental adjustment, and many up-and-coming leaders may encounter challenges in navigating it, perhaps even multiple times.

I know I did.

Armed with my own difficult lessons in tech leadership, before I wrote a single line of code when building Noon, I asked myself three questions:

  • “What single tool do I wish that I had when I was finding my feet as a leader?”
  • “What single tool do I wish my leaders had at their disposal during my career before transitioning to leadership?”
  • “Would I still be using that tool today?”

After Hendrik-Jan and I built and shipped the first version of Noon — a one-of-a-kind platform for helping leaders and team members alike build a healthier relationship with work — I think we hit the mark.

Don’t get me wrong, we still have a long way to go in fully realising our vision. We have a ton of features waiting to ship and feedback is coming in by the hour, but we’ll always have our guiding principle:

"The most valuable feedback about your company culture comes from team members who are empowered to share it, and feel both safe and in control while doing so."

Whether you agree, disagree or are just curious, stick around and I’ll make the Noon case to you as best I can.

My best folks are resigning! Why don’t they say anything beforehand?

Ask anyone who’s been in leadership long enough about their first team member that resigned “out of the blue” and chances are, however long it’s been since that time, they’ll be able to recount the event in detail. It’s a key moment in any leader’s career.

Whatever your first experience with a sudden resignation, the reasons behind it will fall into one of three categories:

  1. You couldn’t have prevented it. It was out of your control. It was a sudden change in life circumstances like a sudden illness unrelated to work, a bereavement, or breakdown of a relationship. Alternatively, perhaps they were switching careers, heading back into education or were scooped up by another company offering compensation and benefits you simply could not match despite your best efforts.
  2. It was preventable and apparent, but you still didn’t see it coming. They were stressed, felt under appreciated/underpaid or held back professionally. It was, in hindsight, obvious. Maybe they even mentioned it to you!
  3. It was preventable, but the person actively masked the problem(s). They were unhappy for one reason or another, but pretended otherwise until the resignation letter was on your desk. Maybe you even checked in with them recently and everything seemed to be going great.
Things that could be on people’s minds when it comes to resigning their job: stress, negative experiences or changed career plans.

How then, as a leader, should you approach these scenarios?

First and foremost, in all cases (and I cannot stress this enough), is to provide support. I mean it, your obligations as a leader don’t stop just because the resignation letter is on your desk. Listen to them, lift them up as best you can, respect their privacy, write that recommendation letter and do everything you reasonably can to contribute to their long-term success.

More specifically, however, let’s go through these 3 scenarios one by one. Let’s get 1 and 2 out of the way first:

  1. Some things are beyond your control. Accept it. If the reasons behind your team member’s resignation were truly out of your hands, there is nothing you can do aside from accepting the situation with grace and compassion.
  2. If you failed to prevent a preventable turnover, you failed. Take the L. This is one of the hardest lessons you might face as a leader. Accept it, learn from it, use it to grow. Things can get hectic no matter where you work, but with the average cost of a resignation in 2021 coming to $11,372 according to The Predictive Index’s 2022 State of Talent Optimization Report, ask yourself if you can afford not to prioritise retention.

I want to give special attention to number 3. This is not talked about nearly enough. For one reason or another, this person did not open up to you. Maybe that’s because of your company culture, maybe they didn’t feel they could approach you personally, but more often than not, in my experience, it might not actually be your fault!

Let’s talk about why your team hesitates to express themselves and the possible solutions.

Why Doesn’t My Team Open Up?

Let’s take a moment of self-reflection. Ask yourself why this person didn’t open up to you about how they were feeling at work. Are you doing what you can to create an open, positive environment and cultivate an air of approachability and trust?

Once you’ve looked within yourself, it’s time to evaluate the work environment you’ve created and beyond for more insights.

You can be the most approachable, trustworthy person in the world, but if your team members don’t trust your managers, or company leadership in general, it’s going to have a real chilling effect on their willingness to discuss their well-being with you.

Their assumption, not unreasonably, is that if they talk to you, the leadership levels above you will on some level be listening in. In the culture of many companies, like it or not, this can be very much how things work.

Once bitten, twice shy

I can say with some certainty that one bad experience from opening up to a manager at a previous job can permanently discourage a person from discussing their well-being at work with any of their subsequent managers, sometimes for their entire career.
Why am I so sure? Because I’ve been there myself.

Early on in my career, after opening up to my manager about how I was struggling to find pride and meaning in my work as a developer, I received a pretty devastating performance review focusing on what was termed an “attitude problem”.
Needless to say, I went quiet as the grave.

I spent the next few weeks looking for a new job. Looking back, my silence was a way of hoarding all the control I could, avoiding engaging with management as much as possible until my short but polite resignation letter was on my manager’s desk.
It took me 3 more jobs and two career pivots to regain my ability to open up to leadership. My subsequent managers were fantastic, but they all suffered on some level for the mistakes of that manager early on in my career.

If your team members are carrying the burden of experiences like this, or they don’t trust company leadership, you can feel powerless to retain them.
This is where guaranteeing safety and privacy for employees offers leaders a way forwards. This is why we built Noon.

How Does Noon Help?

Personal dashboard

When we set out to build Noon, we wanted to build a platform that empowers teams to build a healthier relationship with work by offering insights into their sense of fulfilment across the different areas of their work-lives. We wanted to be able to integrate it straight into a company’s existing productivity stack (starting with an integration for Slack) and have it deliver science-backed, actionable data at both the individual and team levels.

But once we started building it, the true mission came into sharp focus.

What we were building, ultimately, was a much-needed safe space where none had existed before.

Keeping it Simple

A check-in question from Noon I received today. This question relates to fairness, and the answer I give affects my score in that area.
A check-in question from Noon I received today. This question relates to fairness, and the answer I give affects my score in that area.

The Noon platform plugs straight in to your company Slack workspace, and sends your team a daily question on an area of their work life, encouraging them to reflect on their relationship with that aspect of their job.

These are designed to be conversational in tone, take less than 10 seconds to answer (minimally disruptive to your team) and generate a continuous stream of data relating to your team’s well-being at work. As you can imagine, this has its advantages over point-in-time workplace surveys.

The way your team answer these questions feeds in to the scores shown in the Noon web app, which your team can access by simply signing in with their Slack accounts. Noon shows 8 simple metrics in both the personal and team-level dashboards — its highest-level data views:

  • Scores in each of six work-life areas out of 100: this helps you focus your attention where action is needed where scores are low and learn from your successes where they’re higher.
  • An overall score (out of 100): this is calculated from each of the 6 separate work-life area scores.
  • An engagement score out of 100%: this shows the level of engagement your team has with Noon.

Where do these 6 areas of work-life come from?

The 6 areas of work-life — workload, control, community, rewards, fairness and values —originate in research pioneered by prominent workplace psychologists Maslach and Leiter. Let’s break these areas down:

  • Workload: how is your team coping with the amount, type and complexity of their work?
  • Control: does your team feel sufficiently in control of their outcomes at work? Can they exercise their professional judgement or do they feel helpless to act?
  • Community: is there a strong sense of connectedness at work? Is the atmosphere supportive and nurturing or cold and distant?
  • Rewards: are you compensating and motivating your team enough? Do people feel underpaid, underappreciated or like they don’t have support in achieving their professional goals?
  • Fairness: do team members feel like they’re being treated fairly, or do they sense inequity between how they and others are treated?
  • Values: is everyone on the same mission? Do team members feel like they’re contributing to something bigger than themselves?

Breaking down a person’s relationship with work like this has one significant additional benefit that might not be obvious right away: it equips them with the vocabulary to reflect on their work-life with themselves, with their peers and, vitally, with leadership should they chose to do so.

Drilling Down

A screenshot of the drill-down view into the Workload work-life area in Noon.
Drilling down into the Workload work-life area to get a finer-grained view of where to take action, as well as how Workload score has evolved over time.

Sometimes you need to zoom in to get a finer-grained view of exactly what your team is struggling with. Accordingly, drilling down into the “Workload” work-life area within Noon reveals the 5 topics that comprise it.

If we want to get an up-to-the-minute update on one of these topics, we can initiate a check-in right from the web app to collect an update from everyone on the team immediately.

A screenshot of the modal pop-up used to initiate a check-in in Noon.
Initiating a check-in to find our more about how my team feels about their work demands.

Protecting Privacy

A side-by-side comparison of the Noon personal and team dashboards.
Noon offers a personal dashboard with your own scores (left) and a team-level dashboard (right) containing aggregated scores for the team, but will never offer a way to view another person’s individual scores.

Let’s go full-circle back to the beginning of this article and our guiding principle at Noon:

The most valuable feedback about your company culture comes from team members who are empowered to share it, and feel both safe and in control while doing so.

Noon protects individual team members by keeping their individual scores and individual answers private to them. By design, Noon does not and will never offer a way to single out an individual team member, or access someone else’s personal dashboard.

What’s more, every user has access to the team-level dashboard as well as their personal dashboard. Everyone can see and reflect on their individual relationship with work, as well as the team’s as a whole.

Looking to the Future

If you’ve stuck around to the end of this article, thank you! We have so much more in the works at Noon that we can’t wait to bring to you. I’m limited in how much I can reveal here, but I’ll say this much: we’re focusing on making Noon’s insights even more actionable.

You’ll be able to see for yourself in just a few days! 😁

If you want to lend your voice to help shape what Noon becomes, join us over at Noon and become a launching partner with a 30-day free trial! See you over there! 👋

🧑🏾‍🤝‍🧑🏼 Update (21/05/2023): Teams are Live!

We just now shipped the ability to group users into teams in Noon, giving access to team-level as well as company-level well-being insights and dashboards!

In keeping with our promise, we considered the privacy implications here carefully:

  • Teams containing fewer than 4 members are not allowed.
  • You can only view a team dashboard if you’re a member of that team yourself, regardless of whether or not you’re an admin.
  • To protect the privacy of individual user scores, teams can never differ by just one additional user. That is to say — it’s not possible to compare two teams, one with a user and one without, to figure out what their individual scores are.
  • Team-level data is only collected from the date the team is created, and is not retroactively populated.

Turn stress into your strength!

No credit card needed.

Monthly newsletter
No spam. Just the latest releases and tips, interesting articles, and exclusive interviews in your inbox every week.
Read about our privacy policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.