Solita Culture – Part 3: Freedom of opinions and power of words in the organisation

Outi Sivonen Chief Human Resources Officer, Solita

Published 24 Mar 2022

Reading time 5 min

The topics in the blog series will be diving into diversity, autonomy and professionalism, freedom of opinions and courage, experiments and learning, an easy-going atmosphere, and putting life and people first.

“It doesn’t matter if our developer, team lead, unit lead or CEO is presenting: questions and criticism are always welcomed and the people asking those questions are praised instead of talked down which I think is really awesome.”

Freedom of opinion and courage is a powerful combination. What if by accident or in a wave of feelings, we say what we think, but don’t – after a while – mean what we said?

At Solita, courage has been one of our values since they were created ten years ago. Courage for us means that we boldly seek brilliant solutions and are not afraid to express doubt when it is called for. Internally and externally.

In addition, when we speak up, we want to do it the right way, so that freedom of speech also includes respect, caring and good manners when communicating with each other.

Our discussion culture in numbers

At Solita, we follow how people feel about these topics with for example these statements. On a scale of 0-10, our current grades are good, but obviously, there are still things to do.

  • My coworkers welcome opinions different from their own (8.7)
  • I feel that our discussion culture at Solita promotes diversity, acceptance of everyone, equality and inclusion. (8.6)
  • At Solita people’s ideas are judged based on their quality, and not based on who expresses them (8.6)

As the numbers do not always tell everything, I asked Solitans how they feel about this topic. Here are some of the comments:

“As a new Solitan, I was happy to notice how openly people share ideas, express opinions and even raise issues here in Slack. Even for a newcomer, it feels easy and safe to join the discussion and here’s the important part: it seems more important for people to have a discussion instead of being right.”

“I’ve been in Solita for 3 years now and I’ve always loved how openly Solitans can challenge and provide criticism to others without it being personal or ill-spirited. Not only has raising a topic been okay but the feedback has actually in many instances made an actual impact on the already decided matter”

Even though we are happy about the current situation, we also acknowledge that situations and people’s capabilities to discuss difficult issues differ and there are also other opinions – such as “Critical comments are not dealt with together”. But we continue working on it.

Freedom of opinions is a very fundamental element of a healthy organisational culture – as is psychological safety. To flourish, we all need an environment where you can feel that your opinions are valued and where it is safe to express them. Here are some things we do systematically to support and empower our discussion culture and openness of communications at Solita:

Learning the community skills

As part of our Growth Academy we have two trainings on how we all can influence our work community: Self Leadership 1 – Knowing Me, Myself & I and Self Leadership 2 – Inner Me Building Community

Onboarding to our communications culture

In our onboarding path, we discuss our values and communications culture – we even have an exclusive session regarding the use of emojis in our Slack channels 🙂 to get everyone onboard

Measuring the experience of our people

Measuring our people’s experience about it regularly in our Peakon pulse survey, with questions related to discussion culture and freedom of opinions

Raising awareness and discussion on challenging topics

Team discussion facilitated by Solitans to Solitans on topics regarding inclusion and feeling of belonging. What do these topics mean for different cultures and people? How are these connected to courage and promote freedom of opinions?

But even in a caring company culture, not all the discussions are always constructive.

Before sending a message e.g. in Slack or Teams chat, it’s good to consider:

1. Why am I sending this?

  • I want to get an answer/I have a question
  • I want attention to my topic/I have a comment
  • I want to know how others feel about the topic
  • I want to spread good mood by sharing something fun/interesting
  • I just want to chat with anyone – to feel connected

2. What do I expect to happen based on my post?

3. Who am I talking to, who is my audience?

4. How do I choose the channel? What is the relevance of my topic to the people in this channel?

5. What is the tone of voice I’m using, why do I write this way?

6. How would I say this if I would meet the person in real life, not in Slack? Would I appreciate it if somebody commented on my work or opinions in the same way?

When reacting to a message:

1. Read the message at least twice

2. Ask yourself:

  • Do I want to comment or ask a question to understand better?
  • What does my reaction to the post tell about me?
  • Can I ask more about it to understand better the needs behind a comment?
  • Can I wait an hour to get my temper down, if it went up because of the comment, and answer this message later?

The freedom of speech or courage in expressing your opinions still doesn’t have to mean offending someone or putting someone down with the way you do it. At best it means helping your colleague or customer understand the issue better, and correct their behaviour, without ‘losing face’ or their temper.

As we all know, words have a lot of power. At Solita we want to encourage our people to use that power wisely for creating a positive impact that lasts.

We are always looking for talented professionals to join us. Check out our open positions!

Read all parts of Outi’s culture blog series

Part 1: Come as you are

Part 2: Autonomy and professionalism

Part 3: Freedom of opinions and power of words in the organisation

Part 4: Learning is a skill – and it can be learned

Part 5: An easy-going cultural atmosphere embraces love over fear

Part 6: Humane working culture and healthy business – do they go hand in hand?

  1. Culture