Although companies benefit when employees speak up, many employees are reluctant to offer suggestions, opinions, or concerns. Two theories attempt to explain why: The personality perspective attributes this reticence to shyness and introversion; the situational perspective ascribes it to environments that discourage speaking truth to power.
The two are not mutually exclusive, but Subra Tangirala, Dean’s Professor of Management and Organization at the University of Maryland, and Hemant Kakkar, a PhD candidate in Organizational Behavior at the London Business School, wanted to test which one mattered more (https://bit.ly/2E4HDVN).
The researchers surveyed 291 employees and their supervisors (from 35 teams overall) from a manufacturing plant, and from their data concluded that “both personality and environment had a significant effect on employee’s tendency to speak up with ideas or concerns.” But they also found that strong environmental norms could override the influence of personality on employees’ willingness to speak up at work. Even if someone was quite shy, they spoke up when they thought it was strongly expected of them. (Tweet it!)
Say the authors, “This finding suggests that if you want employees to speak up, the work environment and the team’s social norms matter. Even people who are most inclined to raise ideas and suggestions may not do so if they fear being put down or penalized. On the flip side, encouraging and rewarding speaking up can help more people do so, even if their personality makes them more risk-averse.”
Do you feel your organization’s culture promotes or discourages employees from speaking up? What specific work environment practices contribute to this culture? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
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