Team meetings are filled with frustration, complaints, and expectations for changes. Yet, when you held a meeting this time, it only lasts for 25 or even 15 minutes because not a single one of your team members in the room utter their opinions about something or asks changes about projects. Good for productivity, right? Wrong! When your employees – especially your most motivated employees – become quiet, this cannot be a good sign. When the room is full of silence, you should be wary and expect nothing but awry.
Employee silence is dangerous as it might cost a business a fortune, even bankruptcy. Brigette Hyacinth mentioned that giant companies such as Blackberry, Kodak, and Nokia are the real examples as they have paid the price for leaders who refused to listen to the progression proposed by subordinate employees. In the case of Kodak, for example, the company failed to innovate because the leadership management refused to invest in the simplicity of digital, rather they stay with the traditional film. Thus, the refusal to listen to progression has put the business into defeat as modern film shooting industry reveals.
Besides, employees feedback are also important in helping businesses thrive in the competitive market. Leaders could have better experiences with business management. However, with all the tight schedule, leaders might miss some critical things that are important for business success. That being said, leaders will need to master the skill of “Lead with Listening”, Hyacinth suggested.
More often than not, individuals become quiet once their argument is being ignored. Taking your employee’s opinion for granted, Hyacinth said, will lead employees to the point where they no longer care. When employees reach that point, they will not go the extra mile. They will not take the initiative to solve problems. They prefer to become a yes-sayer while seeking another opportunity that will appreciate their critical thinking.
Another reason your employees are quiet about progressions and ideas might also come from the culture you build and the human-touch you no longer give. The ever-changing technology has somehow created a gap between leaders and subordinates to have real face-to-face communication, leading to communication gap and sometimes – miscommunication. Thus, rather than having miscommunication about work-related matters, employees prefer to be quiet.
Leading a team that cannot express honest opinions or new ideas is dangerous. To get your employees to speak up again, you should revisit the workplace culture. Self-reflection is the key here. Leaders and managers who often conduct self-reflection will be able to turn the workplace into a home for all employees. Asking questions such as “Do I often take my employee’s feedback for grated?” or “What do my employees think about me?” might give you a clue to what to change in your leadership approach.
Leaders should also try a better approach in their dialogue with employees. Too often, individuals are being quiet because the question asked are sounding interrogative which leads to denial of one’s feeling, said Todd Williams. Thus, in a one-on-one discussion or group meeting, a leader should instead shut down the communication with an empathetic statement such as “that must make you feel horrible”. This kind of empathetic strategy will help put yourself in your employee’s shoe and make your employees belong to the conversation. This will result in an open-ended discussion which could lead to a better solution.
One more reminder, as a leader, you should be open to criticism. Criticism is essential for leaders to grow, therefore, don’t be closed-minded about it.