Overcoming Fear, Fostering Courage and Unleashing Candour
New Horizons in Management series
Edited by Ronald J. Burke and Cary L. Cooper
Employee silence can have deleterious consequences in work organizations. For employees, the decision to withhold valuable information can negatively affect well-being and job commitment (Bowen and Blackmon, 2003), as well as contribute to a sense of failure, poor performance, disengagement, and turnover (Brinsfield et al., 2009; Pinder and Harlos, 2001; Ryan and Oestreich, 1991). For organizations, silence means missed opportunities for innovation and improved processes (Argyris and Schon, 1978; Tangirala and Ramanujam, 2008). In some cases, it has even contributed to corporate scandals (e.g., Enron), and human and environmental tragedies (such as the BP oil rig explosion and the Columbia spacecraft disaster, respectively) (Ashforth and Anand, 2003; Schwartz et al., 2005). Such potentially far-reaching consequences speak to the importance of understanding why employees engage in employee silence – that is, why employees withhold “ideas, suggestions, or concerns about people, products, or processes that might have been communicated verbally to someone inside the organization with the perceived authority to act” (Kish-Gephart et al., 2009:165–166).
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