If employees aren't speaking up, take a look at company culture

Companies benefit when employees share their opinions, and while their silence may sometimes be attributed to their personal dispositions, it is more likely due to a company culture that does not encourage and may even punish speaking up, according to the Harvard Business Review.

In a 2014 study of a manufacturing plant in Malaysia, Hemant Kakkar and Subra Tangirala, PhD, surveyed 291 employees and their supervisors on 35 teams. After employees took psychological evaluations to see whether they were personally inclined to speak up, each one rated the company's culture on speaking up.

Though personality orientation was an important indicator of whether employees would speak their minds, the researchers found that environmental norms often overrode personality. Even those who weren't personally inclined to speak up shared their opinions when they felt their team expected it of them, but those with strong personalities were less likely to speak up if they felt their teams discouraged or punished such behavior.

The researchers suggested that leaders who reward and encourage speaking up can get even the most risk-averse employees to share their opinions, which ultimately benefits both team members and the organization.   

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