Passionate employees are often the lifeblood of an organisation. Their enthusiasm, dedication and creativity drive innovation and fuel success. However, when these passionate individuals fall silent, it can be a cause for concern. The silence of passionate employees is like a silent alarm that should prompt leaders and organisations to take action. It is often not easy to detect, but its consequences can be far reaching. Let us explore some of the ways to recognise the signs of silent, passionate employees, understand the effects on workplace morale and innovation, and consider the decline in productivity associated with their silence.
Sujiv Nair, global CHRO, Re Sustainability, states, “Passionate employees often become silent for various reasons, including a loss of motivation, a breach of trust when commitments are not upheld, the distinction between absolute and relative injustice and personal challenges at home.”
Passionate employees may cease to actively contribute ideas and become less involved in team activities. Leaders need to be vigilant and recognise these subtle signs, as they can serve as an early warning system for potential issues within the organisation.
“Passionate employees often become silent for various reasons, including a loss of motivation, a breach of trust when commitments are not upheld, the distinction between absolute and relative injustice and personal challenges at home”
Sujiv Nair, global CHRO, Re Sustainability
The silence of passionate employees isn’t confined to just their individual experiences. It can have a domino effect, affecting the morale of the entire workforce. When passionate employees fall silent, it can create a sense of disillusionment and negatively impact the overall workplace culture. Employee enthusiasm is contagious, and when it wanes, it can lower the collective spirit of the organisation.
Passionate employees are inclined to think outside the box and propose creative solutions. When these individuals go silent, it’s akin to shutting down a valuable source of creativity and innovation within the organisation. Valuable opportunities for growth and advancement may be missed as a result.
According to Mangesh Bhide, senior vice president and HR head, Reliance Jio Infocomm, “Passionate employees turning silent can be indicative of underlying issues within an organisation. Initially, this silence may result from the perception that their efforts and contributions are undervalued or overlooked, which can lead to a feeling of withdrawal. It’s vital for organisations not to disregard this behaviour.”
Nair points out how passionate employees may exhibit several common signs when they become silent in the workplace.
“First, they may withdraw or become reticent, reducing their active participation in meetings, discussions and collaborative efforts. Additionally, they may refrain from demonstrating proactiveness. That is, they may avoid taking the initiative, or offering innovative ideas that were once characteristic of their enthusiasm,” shares Nair.
He further adds, “This withdrawal can also manifest as a lack of interest in long-term projects, and their overall output may decrease, impacting their productivity. Finally, a notable decrease in employee-engagement scores is often observed, signalling a decline in their overall involvement and commitment to the organisation. Recognising and addressing these signs is crucial for maintaining a motivated and passionate workforce.”
To effectively respond to the silent alarm of disengaged, passionate employees, organisations should prioritise several key strategies. Encouraging open communication allows employees to share their thoughts and ideas without fear of consequences. Feedback mechanisms, such as surveys and suggestion boxes, offer structured platforms for employee voices to be heard.
Emmanuel David, senior HR leader, suggests, “Leaders should have the ability to detect subtle signs before employee concerns become a major issue, and these shouldn’t be underestimated by organisations.”
“Leaders should have the ability to detect subtle signs before employee concerns become a major issue, and these shouldn’t be underestimated by organisations.”
Emmanuel David, senior HR leader
“This includes creating a culture where people can openly express their concerns. Some indicators to consider are changes in communication patterns within the organisation, such as employees becoming reticent or disengaged, which can result from leadership changes, increased autocracy, or favouritism”.
He believes that it’s essential to pay attention to these signals, as people tend to be more vocal about negative experiences than positive ones. The absence of feedback or indifference can be a clear indication of a ‘silent alarm’.
“To detect these signals early, leaders should develop sensitivity and empathy, actively listen to what’s being said. Sometimes, they can rely on a skip-level intervention to gain insights into employee concerns,” opines David.
Investing in professional development and offering training and growth opportunities not only enhances employees’ skills but also reignites their enthusiasm. These strategies collectively work to address the silent alarm, fostering a more vibrant and engaged workforce.
“Passionate employees turning silent can be indicative of underlying issues within an organisation. Initially, this silence may result from the perception that their efforts and contributions are undervalued or overlooked, which can lead to a feeling of withdrawal”
Mangesh Bhide, senior vice president and HR head, Reliance Jio Infocomm
Bhide emphasises, “The silence of passionate employees is concerning because studies have shown that there’s a fine line between being engaged, neutral and disengaged. Neglecting this issue can lead to the loss of valuable talent and skills, causing passionate employees to shift from being fully engaged to a state of disengagement.”
Google has followed a ‘20 Percent Time’ philosophy for nearly 20 years. This ongoing initiative allows engineers to dedicate one day a week to projects of their choosing, whether they’re personally intriguing, outside their usual job duties, or addressing a nagging issue. This approach is widely recognised for playing a key role in the creation of some of Google’s most successful products, including Gmail and AdSense.
Google’s ‘20 Percent Time’ strategy provides employees with an extraordinary level of freedom, flexibility and autonomy to pursue their own ideas and passions. By engaging in this programme, the employees are able to enhance their creative abilities, leading to the development of innovative solutions that may otherwise go undiscovered.