Employee Silence definition

Employee silence occurs when workers fail to bring pertinent information to the attention of their employer. Employees may withhold information from colleagues, line managers, leaders and HR and in a range of contexts. The withholding of this information prevents improvements to processes, projects and strategy being made.

It’s important to note that remaining silent is a conscious choice of employees; industrial and organisational psychology is concerned with identifying the reasons employees stay silent and finding ways to encourage participation in the communication process, known as employee voice.

The effects of employee silence are considerable. For the organisation, employee silence can cause minor inefficiencies or problems to snowball into large problems that threaten the organisation’s future.  According to organisational behaviour experts Jerald Greenberg and Jason A Colquitt, employee silence can cause an “escalating level of dissatisfaction” among employees which can threaten productivity. Other researchers have identified that employee silence can give rise to indifferent – and therefore unengaged – employees. Employees may also feel alienated from their positions as well as guilty for failing to raise concerns.

Encouraging workplace justice is a potent way to protect against employee silence, as well as prevent other forms of counterproductive work behaviours (CWB). This is because encouraging workplace justice balances perceptions of fairness among employees.