Futility is 1.8 times more common than fear as a reason for withholding ideas.
Employee silence is thought to come from fear, but there may be a stronger factor that’s keeping people silent. A recent HBR post tells us why employees are saving their breath.
Key findings and stats
- Not fear alone. Silence in the workplace is though to have stemmed from fear – but people are now saying they are just being silent because it’s a waste of time to share their thoughts.
- Bosses aren’t listening. Some say that the sense of futility drives from the perception that bosses don’t even want to hear from their employees.
- Futility over fear. In a 2009 Cornell National Social Survey, 26% of the respondents withheld information due to a sense of futility and 20% due to a fear of personal consequences.
- Almost double. In another study, they found that futility was 1.8 times more common than fear as a reason for withholding ideas from direct supervisors in a large multinational corporation
The desire to speak up is essentially about the wish to change something and make a difference. If you continue to enforce employees’ belief that speaking up is a waste of time, they’ll save their breath. The voice of your employees is an important one – they know the company and therefore their opinion should be valued. Focus on creating an environment in which everyone feels safe to share their ideas.
Read the rest of Do Your Employees Think Speaking up Is Pointless is available at HBR.