Many brilliant and implementable business ideas are being wasted unnoticed. And many workplace discriminations have continued to thrive, just because of employee silence – some employees have refused to speak up. Perhaps due to fear of retribution by their supervisors or in order to escape embarrassment and ridiculed when their thoughts are utterly dismissed.
The resultant effect is that innovation will be stifled, ideas would die undeveloped, diversity becomes an illusion, and employee morale dwindled while organizational effectiveness will be hindered at large. These resultant effects are particularly core ingredients to destroy productivity and to damage the effective delivery of high-quality public services. That’s why every employer must overcome employee silence. No enthusiastic employee will intentionally give his or her ideas when the enthusiasm is bruised. There would be recline of the employee morale and having embraced defense, no idea for workplace improvements will emanate from such employee. Can you imagine if one-third of your employees are like this?
Employee silence means valuable information is not making it to the upper hierarchy for consideration. In trying to understand the weight of employee silence, a research by Local Government Workplaces Initiative at the University of North Carolina on its extent and impact found a very troubling fact. 3,234 local-government employees for over 18 months were placed under survey, and 1,617 of them (50 percent) reported that they sometimes do not speak up when they have ideas for improvement. The odds that these same employees were thinking about quitting were nearly four times that of vocal employees. Hence, a fact is established that silence is a morale issue which compounds workforce turnover.
Organizations at every level can forestall or overcome employee silence by adopting the following framework for public administrators.
Organizations must call for employee input
There really is insincerity in calls for employee input amongst managers of firms and departments. Some claim to want it but in reality, do not. The best public managers understand the benefits of employee input and work systematically to encourage input with a continent plan to act on these inputs. Any manager who does not find him or herself in this cadre only succeeds in demoralizing the employees.
Create official channels and processes for employee input
These channels should also encourage protection of employees from witch-hunt or retribution. One of the channels could be by creating employee forum to provide regular feedback on workplaces issues, and an employee task force to address pay structures. These forums will give plenty of employees a strong voice. In addition to the channel and process, there should be follow-ups when employees speak out or air some ideas or concerns. Each follows up move should commence by appreciative acknowledgments of the ideas, concerns, and suggestions.
Next line of actions on volunteered information by employees should be outlined, with a time frame attached duly. The volunteering employee should also be promptly notified when the information has been acted and decided upon. If rejected, it should be respectfully communicated to the employee with valid reasons and if there is to chance of revisiting the idea or concern, also duly inform the employee letting him or her know the nearest available opportunity that the issue will surely be revisited.
Train supervisors in employee input
Capacity building in employees input handling should be undergone by trained supervisors, as it is easier for supervisors to be trained in giving employees feedback rather than in receiving it. They should be urged to be proactive, encouraging and responsive to input, with strong emphasis laid on the importance of careful language and the importance of being encouraging rather than dismissive.
Overcoming employee silence is a crucial challenge for public organizations and is also a matter of understanding the harms of silence, recognizing the benefits of employee input and having the will to improve your public-sector workplace.