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Workplace: Silence

Silence. Some of us prefer to work in a silent environment so that we can concentrate and accomplish more in less time. For others, silence is overwhelming and background noise or music is a motivating force for work accomplishment.

Silence. Used as a protective force, silence can help a situation or a person and it can hurt. Silence when a comment might hurt another may make sense. Silence when a person is being hurt usually does not make sense. The challenge of course is determining whether silence is the best option in any given situation. And it is not an easy determination process. Consider your human resources policies. Consider the reality of the situation and the level of harm(s) being caused. Consider whether others will stand with you to take action, or not.

Silence to not improve a situation and then to lay blame on another’s actions is not a reasonable choice. I am aware of several workplaces in which silence was chosen and was not the helpful route. Here are some examples in which silence was not used effectively.

  • An employee was not coached for improved behavior until the annual review. Thereby making it too late in the process to have improved the workplace environment more immediately.
  • An ineffective employee was not given feedback and moved to another department. This silence hurts the employee and the new department which now has to deal with the ineffective employee. Providing employee coaching for improved performance would have been useful. And if no improvement followed, releasing the employee from employment would have been better for all concerned.
  • A workshop group did not find value in the instruction. However, rather than asking the instructor questions to make it a valuable use of time and content, many participants waited until the written evaluation to comment. This silence diminished the value of their time when instead it could have been enhanced. Speaking up during the workshop would have been more effective.

What would have been better? Truth. Productive question asking to seek improved communication. Immediate one-on-one coaching and continued on-the-job performance coaching for improvement. Individual employees and teams benefit when silence is broken in a healthy and helpful way.

What is your need for silence? Are you getting the amount of silence you need in your life? What will you do to pursue to the right amount of silence, or to break the silence?

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