Why do employees stay silent when they should communicate?

A team of researchers have completed a study involving 8,222 employees across organizations in 33 countries (Knoll et al, 2021). Their focus was understanding why employees stay silent when we would expect more communication (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/job.2512).

Here are the 4 reasons for employee silence determined by this study:

We fear the consequences of speaking up.

We don’t think that speaking up will make a difference.

We want to protect or avoid embarrassing superiors or colleagues.

We want to maintain a knowledge advantage and/or avoid gaining any additional workload.

Now, quiet can be good and productive but we want talent talking when needed. Innovation, performance, and productivity are typically best when teams talk. Continuous and effective communication and coordination within, across, up and down, and outside the organization are needed to create and sustain success.

Communication is strongly influenced by leadership and culture. Hiring also plays a key role. Who says what when and how often determines our destiny. The bottom line is we need talent talking.