Notwithstanding management’s well-intended open-door policies, employees avoid voicing concerns when they don’t feel safe doing so. They think it’s more harmless to “duck and cover” than to speak up and help the organization.
Employees don’t want to jeopardize their jobs. They don’t want to be labeled troublemakers and alienate themselves from co-workers and supervisors. In some cases, employees’ fears may not be of immediate retaliation but instead a deferred reckoning that could upset their careers years down the line.
The self-preservation motive is so dominant that the perceived risks of speaking up are very personal and immediate to employees. In contrast, the potential benefits to the organization from sharing concerns seem distant and abstract.
Consequently employees often instinctively play it safe by keeping quiet. Often, they rationalize their implied compliance by saying that the concerns are none of their business—and wishing that somebody else would speak up.
Idea for Impact: The freedom to raise questions, concerns, and ideas is at the heart of an open organizational culture. Unless employees are convinced that they’ll be supported to do the right thing, they could hesitate to speak up and help remedy problems before they can blow up.