Measuring Organizational Silence

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Leisha DeHart-Davis

Leisha DeHart-Davis is an Albert and Gladys Coates Distinguished Associate Professor of Public Administration in the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government. She studies workplace dynamics, including employee voice and empowerment, organizational structure, diversity and gender in public organizations. Her book, Creating Effective Rules in Public Sector Organizations, is forthcoming from Georgetown University Press in 2017. She holds a PhD in public policy from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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When employees hesitate to speak up about workplace concerns, it interferes with a local government’s ability to develop to its fullest potential (Morrison and Milliken 2000). That means that workplace issues are not flagged and corrected, feedback loops are interrupted,  and organizational learning slows way, way down. Local governments can incorporate “organizational silence”  questions into employee surveys to get at how often employees are keeping tight-lipped when they should be sharing what’s on their minds (see questions at link below). Employees asked these questions by the Local Government Workplaces Project indicate that they almost never keep silent about serious issues that could cause organizational harm. But on average 60 percent say that  they sometimes, frequently, or always keep silent when they have concerns. These findings suggest that local governments should find outlets for employee input that are safe and positive for employees, supervisors and managers alike.

Organizational Silence



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