Is Company Culture Threatening Free Expression?

by Jody Ordioni

Employee opinion helps shape up the company. It is imperative that employees can candidly offer their feedback and suggestions as it helps the company to better forge opportunities and construct plans. Yet employees usually keep their opinions and suggestions to themselves; not comfortable in sharing due to supposed repercussions.

Why Employees don’t like to Share?

One reason for this hesitancy can be a personality perspective. This means that the employee is inherently shy or cannot articulate their thoughts well. They might lack the disposition that allows them to speak up on critical issues. Such a problem can be countered by seeding employees who are more proactive in their approach and are inclined to voice opinions in a dynamic structure.

However, the other reason that pertains to company culture is the situational perspective. Herein, the employee is unable to speak up as they feel the work environment may not be conducive to criticism. The idea that they might face social costs by going against the boss might coerce them into silence. this particular problem can be tackled by the managers by creating changes in the social norms that allow employees to voice concerns without fearing consequences.

Even though both of these perspectives are not dependent on each other, they do influence the functioning to a certain degree. If the personality aspect it the hindrance then even with a conducive environment it is possible only those employees who inherently speak up will. However, if the workspace is not an open floor, then even personality cannot influence their decision- employees would speak up despite their disposition if the workspace allows room for it.

Therefore, a company culture that gives space to employee opinions ensures that employees can state their thoughts, suggestions, and criticism.

What the Research Survey Says?

In a research survey, that collected data from a manufacturing plant in Malaysia that considered 291 employees and their supervisors, the aforementioned hypothesis was carried out. The question that was considered was whether employees inherently utilized opportunities that were present in the work environment.

The comparison was then used to analyze whether employees were inclined to speak up in the workplace. Other parameters included- whether stating their opinions was a job criterion they had to fulfill, whether stating opinions was rewarded or punished. Each employee rated using exact measures their expectations and approach. The supervisors, in turn, rated the frequency of the employee speaking-up.

Upon analyzing the data, it was concluded that both personality and environment had an influence on the ability of the employee to speak up at work. The frequency of the employees’ participation directly correlated to whether the behavior was encouraged or not within the workplace. It was also found that if the engagement of the employees was to be increased, changing social norms and the environment helped.

An open environment did encourage employees to overcome their personal hesitancy and allowed them to participate in meaningful discourse. Specific issues plaguing the company could be addressed by the active participation of the employees. And for this engagement to take place a conducive environment becomes necessary.

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