Organizational Silence

My response to the Sounds of Silence by Elizabeth Wolfe Morrison and Frances J. Milliken:

The article claims that there are two main factors that promote ‘organizational silence’: that top managers’ fear negative feedback and that top managers’ have a set of unstated beliefs that employees have self-interested and untrustworthy ideas.  Even though I agree with this opinion I do believe that the later statement is more prevalent than the first. 

Working for a utility where a majority of the employees work under a collective bargaining agreement and most of the system in which we all work was negotiated for has created an atmosphere where many top level managers have come to distrust the lower level worker.  As a management employee works her way up the corporate ladder, she becomes less and less engaged with the blue collar worker.  It’s not a natural occurrence; at least I would hope it’s not, but I do believe that ‘group think’ will play an inevitable role on an individuals thought process.  As a rising employee moves her way up the ladder she spends less time with the front line workers.  She continues to receive less direct feedback as she spends more time with upper management.  It’s a result of a lack of convenience and familiarity with the workers.  The more time you spend with people -in this case blue collar worker or upper management- the more interaction and comfort you have with them, and vice versa. 

Cause and effect:

Because an upper level manager is now spending a majority of her time with upper management; there is a distrust developed between both the manager and the workers.  There is now less engagement and interaction and therefore as a result there is now a distrust and silence that occurs.  As an alternative solution to what the article mentioned, one way to fix this ‘organizational silence’ is to get involved.  It’s important to spend time with the workers and familiarize yourself with their environment and concerns.  Laugh, joke, and connect with your workforce.  The more time you spend with people in general; the more trusting and open people will feel to voice their thoughts and ideas.  This interaction and friendship will eventually destroy any silence that plagues a company.


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