Beneath the Sound of Silence

I just read an article by Elizabeth Wolfe Morrison and Frances J. Milliken entitled “Sounds of Silence.”  It is an informative article about active-internal communication, questioning and conflict.  I think the topic is very straightforward and as you read it I think you will agree with it 100% unless you are the self-conscious boss who never listens to his employees.  Employees and bosses alike have tough times seeing the importance of asking questions beneficial to the company because of fear of backlash from the boss or as I just said the boss is self-conscious and he does not like his ways being “threatened.”  That silence in the workplace is very damaging and it is bound to fail.  Employees are often silenced or they feel threatened and they never question anything.  The silencing manager and the threatening company will eventually figure out things can run smoother and by that time it is too late.  Things run more efficiently when internal communication is allowed and encouraged from the bottom-up.

Having good internal communication is very good and productive in the right environment.  I think it is hard to implement it in an active organization.  As I read along I wondered what would happen it I told my employees, “We want and need your input.”  After some more thought, I realized we had talked about this in my class on a couple of occasions.  We talked about the comparison between the Japanese and American auto industry.  The Japanese companies are very efficient and they encourage all of their employees to give input to management.  It works very well because every suggestion is taken seriously and they implement a lot of them.  The Japanese employee’s and their customers’ suggestions are pivotal to their success.  To try and match the Japanese efficiency and productivity, the American companies tried to implement this and it failed miserably.  Most of the employee’s suggestions were kicked to the curb or they were stolen by supervisors and managers and given as their own.  The employees therefore quit giving suggestions and now the American auto industry is broken.  I think there was no way that would have been successful with their current management system and team.  The employees were almost forced to give their input and it was either stolen or shot down without appreciation.

I think that comparison is very effective when talking about this, but we still do not know how to implement it correctly.  Morrison and Milliken offer a great way to implement a trusting, don’t kill the messenger environment, fire the old untrustworthy manager and hire someone with a proven record of being open and trustworthy.  It is a lot easier creating an open and trusting environment from scratch rather than trying to implement it into an active system.  The old manager would have to change himself before he could ever think of changing the minds of the employees.  The damage the old manager has created is often too great to just change the old manager’s ways and start over with a smile and open arms.  It would not work, so you have to start over.  There are so many negative remnants of the old system that the employees will not believe it and it will be difficult to gain their trust and break the sound of silence, but good news, the new manager will come in and she will change everything.

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