Trending terms such as "quiet quitting" and "quiet hiring" have recently gained a lot of traction in the media. But what is workplace silence and why have workplaces become so quiet?

When employees are not speaking up at work, it is likely that they are speaking up elsewhere. While this could come in the form of venting online or to their families, it can also manifest into applying to various jobs where they believe they would be heard better. In this instance, it's vital to maintain open lines of communication.

Why do employees not feel heard at work ?

As return-to-office policies are beginning to take effect, employees are finding themselves dealing with a lot of change. Questions such as "Mom, can you please drive me to so-and-so's house?" have been replaced with, "So, did you do anything fun this weekend?" A 15-minute break to walk your dog around the block has been replaced with a quick stroll to the water cooler to refill your bottle. It's a big change and can take employees a while to adjust.

Disengagement is a key factor in workplace silence. According to Gallup, employee engagement in both their work and their workplace has significantly declined following the pandemic.

Disengagement has been fueled by a number of factors. Only 48% of employees know what is expected of them at work, as few as 43% of employees feel cared for by their employer and just 30% of employees feel their opinions matter in the office.

How do we break through workplace silence?

In order to promote a "speak-up culture," it is essential to instill a sense of psychological safety. When workers feel inspired by and invested in their work, connected to their employer and feel that their opinions matter, they are more likely to speak up in the workplace. The secret to the happiness and welfare of employees seems to be simple communication.

Create an open and respectful workplace environment

Although it may seem straightforward, doing so in practice can be challenging. Creating this kind of environment can be accomplished by avoiding harmful management practices and through a variety of approaches depending on what works best in certain workplace environments.

One solution is to create a survey of your organization to uncover the root cause of feelings of mistrust and disrespect. Addressing the top causes will allow your employees to feel heard and believe their workplaces care for their opinions.

Give employees decision-making power

Allowing employees to weigh in on decisions such as hybrid work schedules promotes a "speak-up-culture." Employees will be more likely to speak up in situations where they feel directly affected by the outcomes of the decision.

Be open about and discuss mental health and wellbeing

According to the American Psychological Association, eight in 10 employees look for workplaces that offer mental health support. Showing care not only for an employee's work, but also for them as human beings fosters a sense of respect and connection between employees and their employer.

Actively listen to employee's opinions

Employees are more likely to speak up when they see a history of their organization not only listening to opinions but putting them in action as well. When employees have concrete examples of their opinions implemented around the office, they are reminded that their employer respects them and believes in their work. This serves as encouragement to speak up in the future.

Employers who actively support their employees and give them a sense of safety to speak up in the workplace allow their employees and organization to thrive. When employees speak up, they are advocating for better solutions, communicating future concerns and creating new organizational opportunities. This will not only increase employee satisfaction and decrease turnover, but it will also benefit the organization's financial performance. Everyone wins when employees speak up.