Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Corporate Epidemic: “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” Workers

Microsoft missed the Internet. Google came years late to social networking. Pepsi didn’t notice people drinking bottled water. And Nokia didn’t really appreciate the power of software.
Were these companies crammed with stupid people? People who just didn’t care? No, of course not. They were crammed with people who saw the opportunities but didn’t or couldn’t communicate it. This problem is more common than you might imagine.
Think about it: Enron and WorldCom’s serious accounting problems were obvious, but few employees spoke up.
Why? It’s not because they don’t care.  They do care, often quite a lot. But in most cases, they’re afraid that if they raise a problem, or dare to raise a challenge, they’ll be punished or fired.
That’s the conclusion drawn from an important study into organizational silence. Most employees have, at one time or another, failed to raise an issue at work because they fear the consequences. (In the U.K., when I conducted a similar study, the results were the same except that British employees weren’t so much afraid as they were hopeless; they believed raising an issue would be futile.)
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