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Chipmunk, To Speak Or Not To Speak

To Speak or Not to Speak…

…that’s the Question that Keeps Us Sitting on Our Fences.

I’ve been researching and writing about what we fondly call “the elephant in the room.” The elephant stands for all the things no one talks about in an open forum; the topics that feel too difficult to bring up. However, elephant topics ARE discussed – after the meetings – in an unmanaged and potentially destructive, rather than constructive manner.

We all have our varied reasons for choosing not to speak. Regardless of the reason for keeping silent on an issue, this lack of open and authentic dialogue IS hurting your organization.  In a hurting, or “unhealthy” organization, we often see:

  • Confusion around decisions made
  • Unclear or unspoken expectations; soon to become UNMET expectations
  • Lack of commitment and follow-through
  • Lack of accountability
  • Low morale
  • Low productivity
  • Low trust
  • Turnover or disengagement of good employees

Do you know how much these markers are costing your organization annually? Many executives I work with have attempted educated guesses; the $$ are staggering. Think in terms of:

  • Low productivity. Research conducted by Proudfoot Consulting found that on average only 59% of work time is productive1.
  • Politics, hidden agendas, & posturing; all of which skew the picture of “reality” to the organization’s executives
  • Time wasted revisiting discussions and decisions over and over
  • Turnover. Studies show that between 10% & 30% of turnover cost is directly attributable to poor management practices2
  • Delay in product to market time
  • Customer disengagement; customer lost to competition

In contrast, a healthy organization is unburdened by the time, energy, and resources the above attributes consume. I’ll talk more about attributes of a healthy organization in future blog posts. In the meantime, here’s a question for you:

– In those moments, when you decided to keep silent, why? What held you back?

Don’t miss my e-booklet, “Acknowledging Elephants: Making Peace with the Elephants in the Room.”

 Download here



1 Proudfoot Consulting. (2002). Untapped Potential-The Barriers to Optimal Corporate Productivity. Available online at

2 Branham, L. (2005). The Seven Hidden Reasons Why Employees Leave. New York: American Management Association
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De Yarrison

De is a certified professional Coach, Teambuilder and Facilitator of positive change. She is an adventurer in the world of relationships, blazing new trails of positive expression, resulting in happier leaders, employees, workplaces (and families).
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This Post Has 5 Comments
  1. I totally agree with the thoughts and questions in this paper. My experience as a manger of large teams is that taking on the issues represented by those elephants in the room and getting open dialogue within a problem solving team takes a lot of trust. The leader of the team, whether he or she be the CEO, a senior VP, or a program director, needs to create an environment where all persons are valued as and expected to act as trusted contributors. Their efforts and input must be treated with respect.

    1. Great comment. Trust & respect are the essential foundation for all great teamwork. Patrick Lencioni expressed the idea that the key to building trust and respect is courage. The courage to be real – even vulnerable – with one another for the sake of creating an authentic team environment where trust is alive and well.

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