Sounds of Silence

This is an article written by Elizabeth Wolfe Morrison and Frances J. Milliken of Stern Business School of New York State University. It explores the reasons for employees not speaking up against the top management and the organizational climates that prevent open communication.  An Industry Week survey showed that only 29 % of the first level supervisors feel that the company encourages them to express opinions. The authors of this article found from their own interviews that 85% of the MBA students were unable to express themselves in their organizations. I believe that the employees should come forward to create ways to communicate with the top management if there are no formal channels to communicate with the management. Many employees fear of losing job, but that is not the case all the time. Every organization and the management need employees to run the business.

It is true that quality of the decisions deteriorates if multiple prospective and alternatives are not considered. Also innovations always start from deviation. Unfortunately, in many organizations, management wants to precisely direct the employees and want to micromanage employees’ day to day work. I agree that it is a human nature that people want to control their immediate environment and the decisions that affect them. Being able to express themselves gives a sense of that control.

It is unfortunate that managers believe that employees are self-interested and untrustworthy. I believe that there is nothing wrong in being self-interest while contributing positively towards the organization. I also believe that personal growth of each employee will make a positive impact on the business of an organization. The other issue is the informal formation of “good old boys club” in the management. This happens when the top management team is assembled with the members who know each other beforehand and who are stable for a long time. In some cases, the top manager brings his clan from outside and not promoting internally. In this case, the long-term committed midlevel people and the other employees start to suspect the motives of the top management and the management starts to watch the employees. The communication and cordial relationship between the employees and the top management fell apart with time.

I don’t believe that breaking the organizational silence is hard or impossible. All we need is the change in the behaviors of the management and the employees. Managers should work hard to learn to accept negative feedback. Employees should come forward with their opinions without fear. Employees should know that each position in an organization is unique and they are not a burden to the company. Employees are the biggest assets and that cannot be thrown away easily by the top management.


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