Difficult Communication in Organizations

Although we would like to imagine that information and ideas flow freely at work, reality is more complex. People sometimes choose to remain silent even when they are mistreated, or they might avoid pointing out a problem or making a suggestion because they believe they will not be listened to. In addition, some people are more proactive then others in seeking information by, for example, actively requesting others to evaluate their behavior or performance. My research on difficult workplace communications attempts to elucidate and explain this complex reality.   

My work focuses on number of questions:

​First, I explore why are people often reluctant to seek information from others or react negatively when such information is communicated to them? For example, I explore how factors such as perceptions of influence and confidence in one’s ability affects decisions to seek information (e.g., ideas, feedback) from others at work.

​Second, I explore why people are more or less likely to speak up? For example, I explore the unique factors that lead people to speak up and to remain silence (highlighting that two are not merely opposite of one another). In another example, my work highlighted that men are less likely to speak up about gender-parity initiatives, because of their poor psychological standing, or perceptions of their legitimacy to speak up about an issue.

Third, I explore how distributions of communications in team settings affect teams’ performance. For instance, when most of the voice in the team is concentrated in one individual, this can have adverse effect for the team. However, my research suggests that this adverse effect depends on the personality of the central member. More reflective members can help teams, while more dominant members can end up harming internal team processes.

Selected Difficult Communication in Organizations Research

Distinguishing Voice and Silence at Work: Unique Relationships with Perceived Impact, Psychological Safety, and Burnout (2020)

With Michael Parke and Sofya Isaakyan

Read the full article in the Academy of Management Journal.

For summaries and further discussions see:

  1. Harvard Business Review: "You Might Not Be Hearing Your Team’s Best Ideas"

I Do Not Need Feedback! Or Do I? Self-efficacy, Perspective Taking, and Feedback Seeking (2020)

With Elizabeth Morrison

Read the full article in the Journal of Applied Psychology.  

For summaries and further discussions see:

  1. HR People + Strategy: "How Leaders Can Balance Confidence and Humility"

  2. I/O at work: "How Organizations Can Encourage Employees to Seek Feedback"

Why Managers do not Seek Voice from Employees: The Importance of Managers’ Personal Control and Long-term Orientation (2019)

With Subrahmaniam Tangirala and Vijaya Venkataramani

Read the full article in Organization Science.

For summaries and further discussions see:

  1. Harvard Business Review: "Research: Why Managers Ignore Employees’ Ideas"

  2. Work Futures: "Less Management, More Autonomy"

Centralization of Member Voice in Teams: Its Effects on Expertise
Utilization and Team Performance (2018)

With Ruchi SinhaSubrahmaniam Tangirala, and Nikhil Awasty

Read the full article in the Journal of Applied Psychology.  

For summaries and further discussions see:

  1. HR People + Strategy: "Forge a Deeper Level of Diversity"

It Is Not My Place! Psychological Standing and Men’s Voice and Participation in Gender-Parity Initiatives (2017)

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