Decoding the Silence

Recently we heard Associate Professor Ram Vemuri (Charles Darwin University) speaking in a radio interview about the sounds of silence in the workplace that indicates that there is much happening yet not said. Associate Professor Vemuri is researching the impact of workplace silence. We believe this is very much needed to uncover issues, challenge norms, and to have companies realise that they are not hearing what they need to hear. Part of it also is that the companies should be addressing issues more effectively than they have in the past.

Our workplaces are full of various ways that we behave, some of which is our adaption to the environment, by that I mean that we, like plants, adapt to the environment for survival. So, if the environment accepts and implements a code of silence then we will adapt even if we are uncomfortable about the flexibility that is needed.

A code of silence can be formed through the number of experiences that have met the expectations of our convincer strategy. Meaning that if we have heard it once, twice or thrice, it is likely that we will believe the behaviour of the past and will not trust in the future, especially if there is to be a “said” change.

Some people have a behavioural preference to silence. By not saying anything until they hit the point that they can no longer tolerate. This is like a volcano; the silence leads to high levels of stress as the fire of anger burns low and deep until the eruption. This behaviour style prefers sincere, collective and frequent personal communication which is not always achievable at the frequency that would best suit them.

Steadiness Behaviour is the most populated cohort of workplace behaviour for Australia. What does this mean? Well people with Steadiness Behaviour are predominately employed in government and in processing, social service type occupations. They prefer to work where the is financial security and safe strong policy so that they know where they are at and what they need to do at each given time.  A strong team player this behaviour type will not speak out for fear of creating conflict and so will sit back and take it until the volcano erupts.

Sometimes Steadiness runs under the radar of observation and they blend in with the group so well that you may not see them. So, their silence is particularly telling if not recognised and acknowledge by an astute leader. Hesitation and indecision can be a fault, if overused, yet the warmth and inclusion of their behaviour can give a false sense of illusion of the truth.

What will have a Steadiness Behaviour preference remain silent is the fear, hostile attention and possible retribution that may come their way should they speak out. Organisations constantly get the HR process wrong and in doing so the Steadiness behaviour continues to withdraw because if they speak up they could be moved, or questioned and put on the spot.

Steadiness Behaviour brings a great deal to the business operation yet can be sitting in an uncomfortable situation for a very long time as they contemplate moving on and with all the options. Employees with a Steadiness Behaviour preference are strong and support team players who thrive on established processes in a stable, friendly environment. Revealing the symptoms and reasons for silence and promoting clear communication will contribute to an effective organisation where people can develop their potential and become part of its success.

If you want to know more about behaviour and how to lead, manage change and inspire, head over to our online store to book-in and join us for the Decoding Behaviour Workshop to be held Wednesday 7 June 2017.

Douglas Gillanders
HR Specialist