Today, HR specialists and other professionals involved in the management of human resources point out how important it is for employees to have a voice in an organization – to have their ideas heard, discussed, and perhaps implemented. Yet, there are organizations across industries (and their leaders) that promote micromanagement as part of their culture. This approach is often accompanied by what is known as silent approval. In today’s post, we’ll explain what this mostly negative phenomenon is and some of the best strategies for avoiding it. Read on to find out more.
Silent approval – table of contents:
What is silent approval?
Silent approval refers to a situation in which people don’t express their dissatisfaction, opinion, or objection to certain activities, ideas, and decisions – even though they may disagree. This phenomenon involves an apparent lack of opposition or voice. It often leads to the mistaken belief that everyone involved agrees with the proposed course of action.
In organizations, silent approval usually occurs in situations where employees are afraid of losing their jobs. They feel that expressing dissatisfaction or dissent could damage their reputations or careers. Other than fearing possible negative consequences, the most common reasons for tacit approval are as follows:
- Shyness – a personality trait that makes it difficult to speak up,
- Lacking confidence – believing that the opinion expressed will not be relevant,
- Fear of conflict – a person does not want their opinion to cause problems or offend colleagues or a team leader,
- Need to fit into the group – employees want to be treated as part of the group,
- Organizational culture – if a company does not encourage open communication and diverse perspectives, employees may avoid expressing their opinions.
Consequences of silent approval
Silent approval leads to making decisions based on inaccurate or incomplete information, which can sometimes result in implementing ineffective strategies, ideas, projects or activities. A lack of an open dialog can also lead to dissatisfaction among employees, making them feel that their input is not valuable. This makes them disengaged from their work, and sometimes leave their jobs altogether.
Other possible negative consequences of silent approval in organizations are a lack of innovation, diversity of activities and perspectives (wasted potential), or development of communication skills.
How to avoid silent approval?
This phenomenon has negative consequences both at the organizational level (affecting the entire organization) and at the individual level (affecting each employee). Therefore, to avoid it, it is necessary to implement appropriate strategies on both levels – trying to create a safe space to communicate. Practices that yield the best results in this regard are presented below:
- Anonymous feedback tools – implementing anonymous surveys, forms, or communication platforms can help employees express their opinions without fear.
- Interpersonal communication training – introducing this type of communication-related training can help employees (and, if necessary, managers) develop their ability to express their opinions and listen to others.
- Regular brainstorming sessions – holding meetings where employees can voice their opinions on projects, policies, or organizational issues to reduce the risk of tacit approval of decisions.
- Rewarding initiative – recognizing people who communicate actively publicly encourages others to act in a similar way.
- Diversity– providing a variety of experiences, perspectives, and opinions is helpful in generating different ideas.
- Empowerment – giving employees more responsibility, authority and control over their work and decisions makes them more committed and thus less likely to give silent approval.
With Firmbee, you can assign individual tasks to specific people, who can then manage them by giving statuses, priorities, or deadlines (if you haven’t set one together). This way, the team gets more flexibility while still having the option to track progress with easy-to-read Kanban boards and the timesheet feature, which shows how much time people have spent on specific tasks.
By fostering an open, trusting, and respectful communication culture (e.g., using the strategies listed above), organizations can effectively counteract tacit approval and create a healthier, more innovative and empowering work environment.
However, what truly matters is leading by example – guiding others through your behavior. Avoiding tacit approval requires three important elements: a well thought-out approach (a strategy of action), time (change will not happen in a few weeks), and commitment from both employees and management.