Free Essay

Employee Silence

In: Business and Management

Submitted By tk111
Words 1382
Pages 6
Organisations must implement a variety of techniques to overcome employee silence as if it is not overcome throughout the organisations growth, many underlying problems concealed by the silence will appear out of the blue. With the growing culture of intimidation in the workforce there is also the growth of employee silence, and “the only consequence of their (employee) silence is that the blind (employer) lead the blind,” (Heffernan, 2011) this is further supported by Detert and Birrous’ statement that chances are employees are withholding valuable intelligence (2016, p. 85). Regardless whether it is intentional or unintentional from their employers the damages that an employee’s silence only promotes detrimental factors for an organisations’ future. Although employers do not purposely create a fear factor for the employees, the most frequently mentioned reason for remaining silent was the fear of being viewed or labelled negatively (Milliken, 2003 p.2). With the employees supressing of information it can lead to the rise of poorly planned projects and the loss of potential innovation that could drastically benefit the organisation. Furthermore, employee silence not only negatively affects the organisation but also affects the employees, causing the development feeling unvalued, a lack of control and a cognitive dissonance (Jacobsen 2014) from the workplace and a sensation of autopilot, these could produce slack and disregardful behaviour. (danaghey et al, 2011).
A contributing factor to employee silence is the widely used closed-office layout in which each employee is given their own booth to work in individually with communication occurring behind the screen. This encourages employees to close themselves off from other colleagues and discourages them from making direct contact with their work force. Another common mistake made by many senior staff members is that they assume that talking to the employee's direct supervisor and/or thinking that a downward communication is enough, (Forbes, 2014) however this creates the atmosphere of a closed-door environment where employees are too afraid to approach their seniors and give feedback. These factors can be countered by the development a group voice climate through the use of regular feedback and casual exchanges. It is vital that there is a mix of personal as well as formal communication channels for senior managers to communicate with staff (Forbes, 2014) as frequent face to face conversations will allow the employers to infiltrate the employees personal space breaking down their barriers thus urging them to practice extroversion and develop extrovert qualities. (Helgoe 2008 as cited in Jalili; Mall-Amari, 2015) This helps to create an ideal relationship between the employer and employee where the employee feels that they can freely give feedback and information to the employer without the fear of being told to shut up and be labelled as a troublemaker. (Milliken, 2003 p.1). In addition, scheduling regular meetings within the workforce will help create a better atmosphere for the employees. This helps counter employee silence as they feel that they are regularly updated and their position in the organisation is important relieving them from feeling dissatisfaction and feeling like a replaceable piece of a machine. Furthermore, an important agenda to place into the scheduled meeting is employee feedback, a time frame solely dedicated to the employers listening to what the employee’s personal opinions on items in relation to the organisation. It is important that regardless whether the feedback is useful or not, that the employers acknowledge what the employee has to say so that the employee will not feel that they have been shunned. Through the introduction of more face to face conversations and meetings a more vocal culture will be created, removing the employee’s personal barriers and thus employee silence.
When tasks provided by the employers are set to their own personal agenda and or a set standard employees develop an autopilot mode. This occurs as the employer has failed to allow their employees to model free expression, this will result in a work force of ‘yes men’ and pseudo-participation – going through the motions of listening, with little intention of following up. (Milliken, 2003 p.1; Detert and Birruos, 2016 p.85) The consequences of this is that the employees are not willing to give feedback and will most likely turn a blind eye to underlying issues that they have noticed but does not concern them or will try to work around them. This can be cancelled out by the employer casting a much broader net by being less specific about what result they want and only handing out the objective of the task; this encourages the employee to go out of their way to research the topic instead of following a set regime, giving the employee a sense of individuality and forcing the employee to place their own personal input for the task. This is beneficial for the employer as well as the employee as when an individual is forced to view the world from a different perspective, many potential and rigorous ideas are hindered, ultimately destroying one’s capacity to self-contemplate. (Cain, 2012) Through asking for ongoing feedback on the task and how the organisation could improve on it a sense of trust and psychological safety is developed as employees increase their sense of control. (Jacobsen, 2014) It is important for the employer to acknowledge the employee, discuss over the feedback and if valuable to act on the feedback. This active effort helps counterbalance the inhibiting forces of a climate of fear, or a work environment that causes employees to feel disengaged or powerless. (Jacobsen, 2014)
It doesn’t take a tyrannical boss to inspire fear within an organisation. Nor does it matter if unsettling events like restricting or a takeover happened long ago, (Detert and Burris, 2016, p.82) so it is vital for employers to go out of their way to make the work place a comfortable place to prevent employee silence from occurring. Employers commonly believe that soliciting employee feedback is an unnecessary task and/or anonymous feedback is a reliable source of obtaining feedback from employees but the truth is that it in fact discourages innovations and encourages that those who contribute their input are going to be shunned or that there is a negative impact of expressing their thoughts and opinions. The ladder of power often creates fear within the workforce to express themselves, especially those in the lower levels so it is crucial for employers to change how they are perceived by the employees and to play down their power when interacting with employees as that is when they get the truth from their workers. (Detert and Burris, 2016. P.86) Through incorporating group work between the employer and the employees a sense of equality is established, this helps break down the mental barrier of the employer being absolute and encourages the employee to express his values and ideas to the employer more readily. It is also vital for senior managers to reflect diversity in terms of culture, gender and training. This can be achieved through multidisciplinary work groups and eliminating barriers to recruitment. (Forbes, 2014) Through this method employee are exposed to different viewpoints and culture in the workforce and the implication that the organisation is more likely to practice toleration. Through employers establishing a connection with the employee the barrier of fear is broken down and employees will more readily break their silence.
Ultimately, employee silence is a very detrimental factor when it comes into the development of an organisation and is an area which must be prioritised by employers. It is vital for employers to make sure that there is ongoing feedback and regularly scheduled meetings to promote trust and psychological safety for the employees towards the employers while simultaneously removing issues unidentified to the employer. Through the encouraging of individuality in the organisation many employers will innovate towards new ideas and products which will not only benefit them but the organisation itself. When an employer softens the power cues the employees are encouraged to communicate with their employers which hinders a culture of intimidation forming within the work force as well further encouraging employees to report information beneficial for the organisation to their employers. Hence, it is definitely essential for organisations to overcome employee silence because for as long as an issue remains invisible, it is guaranteed to remain insoluble. (Heffernan, 2011)

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