There are probably some people within your organization who do not feel like they have a voice in larger issues or policies, yet some of those people have forfeited their voice by choice. In unhealthy cultures, it is easier to remain quiet, doing your work under the radar rather than paying the price that people who speak up often pay. If raising questions or pointing out issues only results in pushback or creating enemies, why is it worth it? It is often so much easier to just go with the flow.

The same is true about being informed; if you remain blissfully ignorant of the issues, you relinquish your obligation to address them or to engage in finding a solution. You can focus your efforts on the surface instead of tackling the hard stuff that lies underneath.

Cultures that don’t provide the psychological safety and overt encouragement to foster disagreements, challenges and risk-taking fall into a muted rhythm where things hum along without disruption – until they don’t. Avoiding issues does not solve them, rather it just prolongs their emergence and intensifies the reaction that occurs once the festering bubbles to the surface.

If you find yourself in a culture that operates like the old Whac-a-Mole game – where anyone who pops their head out of their hole is beaten down – you have two choices: find a critical mass of “moles” to pop up with you, thus avoiding the silencing of all or find yourself another culture where you can do your best work. It may be uncomfortable to stick your head out and use your voice, but it’s the only way change can really happen.

Originally published in modified form on January 28, 2019

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