Walls of Silence
‘Walls of silence’ are those dangerous roadblocks in relationships that stop the flow of open, two-way communications. They are risky on a personal level, and they negatively impact business results when they are prominent fixtures in the offices of any corporation.
Employees who are categorized as ‘actively disengaged’ operate covertly behind these walls. These employees are ’emotionally and cognitively divorced from their work, they have in a sense “checked out” although they are physically there. They are disgruntled, unhappy to be there and their negativity is palpable, infectious and disruptive for the organisation’ (The Conference Board in the USA).
Working with some of our clients, we see firsthand the disruption these walls cause in a typical leadership communications cascade. The reality is, ‘actively disengaged’ employees refuse to hear any form of communication when sitting behind them! It seems once the wall has been built, messaging does not breakthrough the bricks of mistrust, frustration and lack of confidence.
Only an internal communications strategy will effectively bring down these ‘walls of silence.’ A key step in the strategy is to reach around these emotional barriers and simply listen to these employees. By giving them a voice in the organization, it results in a critical shift in the way they think, feel and act.
Research suggests that the strongest driver for employee engagement is a sense of feeling valued and involved (The Institute for Employment Studies).
Through this exercise, an up and down cascade of leadership communication and trust is established. In a 2007 Towers Perrin Study, “only 38% of employees surveyed felt senior management communicates openly and honestly, and just 44% agreed senior management tries to be visible and accessible”.
An unobstructed cascade of information is integral to creating and maintaining employee engagement, and engagement is the best competitive advantage companies can leverage to impact business results.
The Conference Board in the USA (2006). Employee Engagement, A Review of Current Research and Its Implications.
The Institute for Employment Studies (2004). The Drivers of Employee Engagement. Robinson D, Perryman S, Hayday S, April.
Towers-Perrin (2007). Global Workforce Study.