Pity the poor manager whose motto is “no news is good news”. It’s quiet in his office because it’s all happening at the water cooler as his employees discuss their complaints and issues with their peers.

Sometimes this reluctance to talk to the boss is because employees are fearful of the outcome if they raise their issue with management; they struggle with how to deliver a difficult message.  Sometimes it’s because the employee has lost interest or sees the boss as lacking the power to resolve the issue. There’s a real cost to both the individual and the company for this silence.

For the individual, there’s increased anxiety, stress and worry causing true discomfort in the short term. Unchecked, these symptoms can lead to serious health problems. Lack of a strong relationship with management can also lead to the individual quitting, at least emotionally, from the company yet staying on to collect a paycheque. 

WorkJournal.Com, from the Wall Street Journal On Line, reported a story based on information from a Harris Interactive poll that showed 25% of employees are just “showing up to collect a paycheque”. That’s a lot of employees who have likely lost interest in their work and rarely show up at the boss’s office door to raise an issue. That’s also a lot of untapped potential.

Silence has a cost for the company too. When employees don’t speak up, companies miss opportunities and productivity is reduced. Relationships between employees and managers need to be strong for companies, and employees, to flourish.

The good news: it’s pretty clear what most employees want:

  • Appreciation
  • Autonomy
  • Affiliation
  • Status role

Even a simple “thank you” can make a difference to how an employee feels. In these uncertain times when so many of us are feeling strained, it’s important to remember that silence is not golden (or at least all the time).

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