Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Myths about Speaking Up
My classmate from the HBS doctoral program, Jim Detert, and several coauthors have published some fascinating findings about why people are afraid to speak up. They examined the impact of income, education, and gender on the likelihood that someone would be unwilling to speak up due to fear or a sense of futility. They found that people with higher incomes were just as likely to withhold their input from senior managers as those with lower incomes. Similarly, education levels did not make a significant difference on the likelihood of speaking up. Finally, contrary conventional wisdom, they found that women were no more likely to withhold their input than men. Of course, this research is not saying that large status differences within a small team don't matter. People may fear speaking up if they perceive themselves as low in expertise, power, or status relative to other team members.