Silence and Voice in Organization: Who Is the Beneficiary?

In: Giving Voice to Silence

There is a controversy in organizational and management literature whether silence is a simple opposition to voice. Originally voice in organization was defined as a pro-socially motivated act of unveiling information which is important for making improvements both in the productiveness and moral conduct. Streaming from the idea of voice, silence appears to be a display of reluctance to be wholeheartedly involved in organizational strategies and aims. The decision not to speak up in the face of perceived problems, misconduct and impropriety seems to be selfish and builds a barrier to change. The voice and silence is then arranged along one dimension with the change and status quo as two extremes. The change is good whereas status quo is unacceptable. As it is well known in the management literature successfully conducted change takes time and effort of those who are in power. It is a challenge because the process of change has to be negotiating in nature. That means opening the door for controversy, contradictory values, unwanted negative emotions and seemingly irreconcilable interests. The voice in such a process is welcomed even when hearing it demands patience, self-withdrawing and cognitive effort. The silence is respected without devaluating the reasons for which it is held. This ideal vision of change resembles the ideal talk, where partners are guided by cognitive curiosity and the need to understand the position of the other. Both sides benefit from the process. Negotiating character of change in organization assumes the employee to benefit from the collective effort to bring new solutions and define new practices. If the frame of ideal organizational change is not put on the silence and voice agenda then the question of silence and voice beneficiary remains unanswered.

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