If you want to get on don't rock the boat. Don't contradict your manager. Best avoid topics of race , faith and sexuality so as not to risk saying the wrong thing. Don't go out of your way to upset your workmates by telling tales to management. This is the unofficial culture of every organisation I have ever worked in.
This unofficial culture explains why whistleblowers are officially encouraged but then left to feel vulnerable and unsupported, why despite the strong equality and diversity statement staff from minority groups feel racism and homophobic bullying goes on whilst others complain of "special treatment " but are afraid to say so publicly for fear of being labelled racist or homophobic and why those who disagree or express concern about proposed changes are seen as disloyal. Most organisations are not safe places to say what you are really thinking.
If work was a safe environment, there would be less chance of bad practice going unchecked, institutional racism would be more likely to be challenged as would negative stereotypes and myths about sexuality, gender, faith and disability, senior management would have a more accurate picture of what it was like to work here, changes would be smoother and more likely to work.
A culture of Openness
What does a safe work environment look like?
How do you creat a climate of safety where people can question, challenge and be challenged?
What type of managers and management behaviour is required?
A safe working environment, is a safe place to say what you really think with out fear of retribution, being considered disloyal, a snitch or a racist.
A safe working environment comes from the top, senior management model the desired behaviour, give permission to say the wrong thing, open out as opposed to close down discussion and are prepared to manage the emotions stirred up. Senior managers put the same emphasise on values as budgets and performance.( and are prepared to be challenged where these appear to be in conflict for example staffing levels and budget cuts). Senior managers creat opportunities for direct face to face communication as opposed to having messages filtered through middle management . Communication is tailored to the different audiences to make it relevant to their area of work, so the chief executive regular blog is not the way to go but social media does provide staff with the opportunity to ask questions. Senior managers need to model speaking plainly and not skirt round difficult questions this requires courage and confidence.
To creat and maintain a safe working environment Managers need to be good people managers. Managers need to demonstrate integrity, no cover ups , no putting a positive spin on events, ignoring criticism or treating those who disagree as disloyal.
To effectively manage people managers need insight into how their own behaviour affects others. Managers who have good people management skills are able to gain the trust of these they manage and work with. Trusted enough for others to say what they are really thinking.