More workers are keeping mum – here's why

Honesty isn't always the policy that hybrid workers follow

More workers are keeping mum – here's why

Hybrid working and rotating shifts could mean seeing a number of your colleagues less frequently and, with that, having fewer chances of engaging in open and honest conversations. In fact, in a recent study, this decrease in communication negatively affected the way employees opened up about issues at work.

Employees are more than twice as likely to keep mum if they had issues with their colleagues and managers while working in a remote environment, than if they were working face to face. A breakdown in communication would likely impact their well-being and productivity, according to a new study led by corporate L&D firm VitalSmarts.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, a little more than one in five workers (22%) would keep problems to themselves for a few weeks before they began raising a concern. Today, however, more than half (54%) would rather say nothing until they reached breaking point.

Read more: Does remote work cause communication breakdown?

“In the past year, this silence has led to more unresolved issues that harm both the employee and the organisation’s bottom line,” said researchers. “Top frustrations for remote employees include colleagues and managers not following through with commitments, making changes to projects unilaterally or without warning, and giving half-hearted commitment to their priorities.”

When employees evade conflict, they also tend to experience:

  • More stress (23%)
  • Wasting more time (21%)
  • Lower morale (21%)
  • Lower productivity (14%)

Among the most common sources of annoyance are:

  • Poor performance
  • Behaviour concerns or violations
  • Perceived bias and inequities
  • Failure to meet deadlines, budgets, project specifications, etc.
  • Concerns about team strategy

Read more: Humanising HR: Communication in the ‘next normal’

“This study confirms distance is destroying dialogue,” said Emily Gregory, researcher and VP of product development at VitalSmarts. “Thirty years of research and consulting has taught us that in cultures where silence prevails, individuals disengage, relationships and teamwork are at risk, and results are elusive.

“Ultimately, leaders are responsible for monitoring dialogue and facilitating it when and where it isn’t occurring – especially with remote employees. Distance can’t be an excuse for silence.”

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