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Engaging Organizational Voice: A Phenomenological Study of Employees' Lived Experiences of Silence in Work Group Settings Open Access

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Employee silence can have a far-reaching effect on individuals and organizations. Employees who remain silent about relevant work issues that could inform their managers and organization about relevant issues, knowledge and problems are in effect preventing the flow of potentially valuable information. Silence has individual emotional effects that are not clearly understood in the current body of silence literature, which is primarily theoretical. The lived experience of employee silence has not been adequately researched in the literature on organizational silence. It is unclear specifically how the individual employee experiences the phenomenon of silence. Group dynamics and leader actions play a part in the silence phenomenon. Organizations must gain a deeper understanding of how group and manager behaviors elicit silence and or encourage voice. Based on the limitations of current organizational silence studies, it is no surprise that organizations continue to struggle with communication flows and the potential consequences of silence. This phenomenological study contributes to the literature by presenting four conclusions that capture the rich, descriptive individual lived experiences of silence. This study shows how humans experience the phenomenon of silence in the workplace and concludes that: (a) Silence is a response to perceived injustice of power exerted by autocratic or abusive managers over employees, (b) silence is usually accompanied by a contraction in employee's discretionary effort, (c) autocratic leaders and group membership conformity create a perception of threat that elicits silence as a self-protective mechanism, and (d) employees are motivated to use offensive or defensive silence in response to perceived injustices of manager practices.

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