Why won’t people speak up? Unpacking silence at work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate


Purpose: This paper examines employee silence, namely, the causes of silence and how it might be overcome. Design/methodology/approach: Drawing from academic research and work with organizations, the author explains that workplace diversity is insufficient to guarantee the contributions of diverse voices. The author then provides an overview of why individuals choose to remain silent and explores aspects of organizational culture and climate that contribute to silencing behaviors. Finally, the author offers suggestions on how organizational leaders can overcome silence. Findings: The findings suggest that employee voice can be activated through a psychologically safe working environment in which leaders adopt a learning mindset, practice humility, create opportunities for all team members to contribute, treat people with fairness and respect, and hold others accountable to do the same. The findings also indicate that leaders can support safe and inclusive working environments by challenging basic assumptions and accepting vulnerability. Originality/value: This paper makes an important contribution to the field of organization development and change by providing suggestions for how organizations can address workplace concerns and enhance performance by removing the inhibitors of “employee voice”.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-4
Number of pages4
JournalDevelopment and Learning in Organizations
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar. 2022


  • Diversity
  • Fairness
  • Humility
  • Psychological safety
  • Silence
  • Voice


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