Insidious Leadership: Are You Silencing Employees? | #EmployeeEngagement

Leaders and managers, are you silencing employees? It’s an important question. Silencing employees can have very damaging effects on morale and results. Here’s a fifteen point checklist to help you avoid this mistake.

Are You Silencing Employees: Image is round head w/ hand around throat.

Leaders, Are you silencing employees? Image by Neil Tackaberry via Flickr Creative Commons License.

Image via Neil Tackaberry via Flickr Creative Commons License.

Leadership: 15 Ways You May Be Silencing Employees

There are many ways you as leaders and managers may be silencing employees without knowing it.

Do you …

  1. Look unapproachable? If you rarely establish eye contact, smile or initiate conversation, you may discourage employees from speaking with you.

  2. Have a thin skin and make everything about you? You will have people walking on egg shells and going silent.

  3. Not ask for their input? Assuming employees will speak up is risky. Bad experience with previous leaders, personality differences, and cultural norms cause some employees to hold back. If you don’t ask them for their ideas, you are in essence silencing them.

  4. Bully and berate them and/or their ideas? This is a surefire way of silencing employees. Why would they stick their neck out again?

  5. Speak only to employees that make you feel comfortable? Other employees will take this as a sign you don’t want to hear from them.

  6. Ignore employees when they raise issues? Your lack of listening and your silence silence them.

  7. Create a hierarchy of those you speak with and those you don’t? This organizational move silences some employees.

  8. And Still More Ways You May Be Silencing Employees

  9. Claim you want innovation but demand proof during the creative phase? If you want people to brainstorm ideas, silence your panicky need for data. Otherwise you will silence them.

  10. Take credit for employees’ ideas? This is a smarmy leadership move and quick path to silencing employees. It also shows a gross lack of integrity and insecurity.

  11. Accuse and blame them especially in public? Employees will disrespect you for doing it and go into self-preservation mode. Silence becomes the norm.

  12. Nit-picking on details when employees first offer ideas? I watched one leader obsess over how employees expressed an idea vs. discussing the idea itself. The idea in question was a radical change that he didn’t like. Instead of saying that, he nit-picked about the way the employees wrote the proposal. Employees felt disrespected and offered no further ideas.

  13. And Ignoring Them & Their Ideas

  14. Change the subject without acknowledging what employees said? You will come across as cowardly and manipulative. Both contribute to silencing employees.

  15. Pit one employee against another? You may see it as a way of creating competition to improve results. In truth, it creates mistrust and employees go silent. This is not healthy.

  16. Override every decision they make. Lip service about empowerment silences employees when they realize they don’t matter.

  17. Lead chaotically with constant exaggerations and untruths? As employees feel overwhelmed, they grow mistrustful and apathetic. Eventually they grow silent. They think why bother engaging if the chaos will conquer them anyway?


Silencing employees is a risky business. It disconnects and disengages them. It weakens their confidence and crushes morale. Silencing employees makes them dependent on you. What will happen when you aren’t available? Silencing employees also feeds groupthink and stifles innovative problem solving.

Perhaps most importantly, silencing employees leaves the talent you hired untapped. After awhile, the talent leaves. They find employers who show them they matter!

How do you feel & react when people silence you?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
6 Reasons Leaders Get Annoyed w/ You & How to Prevent It
18 Things Respected Well-Liked Leaders Consistently Do

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Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

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3 Responses to “Insidious Leadership: Are You Silencing Employees? | #EmployeeEngagement”

  1. Alli Polin says:

    Twice I worked for someone who yelled. Not speaking loudly or menacingly, really shouting. People quickly got the message that they were better off avoiding conversation let alone confrontation. This is a great list, Kate and I hope that leaders everywhere give it a read. The real problem is people who are doing some of these things, are blind to it, and have created a culture of silence where no one is willing to take the risk to let them know the impact of their behavior.


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Alli,
      Your comments always expand and deepen these discussions. I echo your point about awareness … that’s the key to professional development.

      Grateful for you,

  2. […] Leadership coach Kate Nasser posted a bold article on the workplace scenario of silencing employees. […]

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