The Costs Of Staying Silent And Hoping For The Best

The Costs Of Staying Silent And Hoping For The Best

Do you delay or simply avoid speaking about potential problems you see or experienced in your company? 

Do you keep mum about situations that could be improved? 🤫

You might have concerns, for example, about the scope or schedule of a project, the lack of executive leadership on it or the way the work is being shared between the team members.

Bringing up these issues takes some courage. Many of these situations feel risky and uncertain. The stakes feel very high.

Perhaps it seems safer to do and say nothing… but is it?!?

When employees do not or cannot acknowledge problems directly and productively, feelings or situations can escalate. At the very least, it colours your view of a person or project or team, and it potentially affects your behaviour in lots of ways. There’s no chance to clear up misunderstandings, or redirect a project that’s not going well. In the worst cases, people can resort to backstabbing, gossip and passive aggression – and this erodes trust and keeps everyone in survival mode.

A study described in the excellent book Crucial Conversations by Joseph Grenny, et al., which included over 2,200 projects and programs across hundreds of companies, found that:

  • Projects are more than twice as likely to fail when employees can’t or don’t speak up about concerns.
  • Not speaking up was also associated with spiralling project costs, missed deadlines and pitiful team morale.

Researchers were able to predict this failure with 90% accuracy just by knowing whether employees could initiate these specific, relevant crucial conversations. It’s that important!

Conversely, where employees are able to bring up vital concerns like these, companies:

  • reduce by 2/3 employee injury and death due to unsafe conditions
  • increase trust and reduce transaction costs, particularly inside virtual teams
  • respond 5 times faster to financial downturns, and make more intelligent budget adjustments
  • save over $1,500 and an 8-hour workday for each crucial conversation that employees have.

Furthermore, research shows that the shorter the time between identification of a problem and a discussion about it, the better a group functions.

And naturally we want to build a cohesive team that works together smoothly. When people feel safe enough to bring up issues right away, and they see their bosses doing the same, then you have the opportunity to create ease and flow in projects and teams, and by extension, in the company.

So please speak up!

Contrary to what many of us assume, the choice is NOT between (a) staying quiet and hoping a problem will resolve itself, or that somebody else will bring it up or deal with it… all the while feeling increasingly uncomfortable and frustrated vs. (b) saying something and damaging a relationship or getting into trouble.

On the contrary. Having crucial conversations--in a productive way--is definitely possible!

Obviously this doesn’t apply to toxic workplaces where there is truly no safety. If you find yourself in such a situation, please make plans to extract yourself as soon as possible.

For the majority of situations, there are ways you can communicate well and proactively address the issue, which allow you and the other person or people to still feel safe and like part of the same tribe. Please check out my post called How To Have Difficult Conversations, Part I (there are two parts), to get concrete tips and how-tos!

Like everything, it’s a matter of knowledge and practice. Is it worth the effort to learn? Yes, absolutely.