There is a difference between employees not speaking up at work because they don’t have anything to say and not speaking up because they fear the consequences.
Managerial behavior can signal employees that it is unwise to speak up. But even when managers are not to blame, some employees will still be reticent to share information they believe is risky.
“The Academy of Management Journal” recently published an extremely well done study by James Detert and Amy Edmondson that examined employee beliefs about when and why speaking up at work is risky or inappropriate.
The authors found that “sometimes unwillingness to speak up is not experienced as intense, discrete fear but rather as a sense of inappropriateness; voice seems risky because it seems wrong or out of place.”
Through a series of four studies, they identified the following five beliefs employees can hold about authority figures that can cause them to exhibit self-protective silence:
1. Negative career consequences of voice. If you want advancement opportunities in today’s world, you have to be careful about pointing out areas of improvement to your boss.