Five causes of employee silence at workplace

In the workplace, employees unable or unwilling to behave consistently across differing groups people might suffer from organisation silence. Net photo.

While the business model of products and services providing value to consumers exists as the backbone of any company, employees serve as the hands and feet of a firm.

Employers expect their employees to not only fulfil the functional duties of their job description, but also be kind and help one another when needed, go the extra mile for the organisation, speak up to give useful moneymaking or money-saving suggestions, and raise the alarm when dangerous or unethical events could cause grave harm.

Sometimes, despite an employer’s earnest desires, the staff fail to speak up at work yet in their own personal lives those same individuals talk freely with others and share meaningful ideas.

In a social setting, ever seen a friend behave one way in front of one person but then act an entirely different way in front of a second person? Such duplicitous behaviour can prove frustrating for friendships. Among our social circles, humans crave authenticity.

In the workplace, employees unable or unwilling to behave consistently across differing groups people might suffer from organisation silence. The term describes situations whereby otherwise communicative employees keep silent on helpful or harmful firm practices instead of speaking up.

When the plurality of staff in a firm decide not to share opinions and concerns, then the entity suffers from collective organisation silence and no one practices the important behaviour of telling truth to power.

Some employees thrive under some bosses but whither under others. Creative more assertive workers, as an example, get demoralised and reduce work output and outcomes when they feel forced into organisational silence.

Akram Akbarian, Mohammad Esmail Ansari, Ali Shaemi, and Narges Keshtiaray looked at dozens of research studies on why employees in varying firms display organisation silence behaviour. The social scientists found the following five primary causes of organisational silence.

First, a toxic organisational culture could give rise to organisational silence by not celebrating divergent thinking or looking down on new ideas.

Second, employee fear about what might happen to them if their innovative suggestion fails to yield fruit or fear about blaming the bearer of bad news.

Third, when workers do not trust their superiors or their coworkers, they tend to go quiet and become less helpful.

Fourth, bad previous experiences from irrational or overtly punitive managers correlates strongly with organisational silence.

Fifth, a history of condescending, unappreciative, false, or negative feedback by management can push workers into reticence.

As an executive, if you face a quieter or quieting workforce, sit and ponder which of the five causes might underpin your organisation silence dilemma.

On the other hand, if as an employee you currently do not speak up and give your contributions in the workplace, then identify the source of your fear, firm’s culture, distrust, or poor human resources mitigation.

Then, either work to change your response to the negative stimuli or commence a job search for a new position where you can thrive and contribute happily.

The writer is the Assistant Professor of Management, United States International University – Africa. 

The views expressed in this article are of the author.