At ETHIX360 we’re frequently asked, “How many incidents are normal for a company of my size?”  That’s a tough question to answer, but it can be very revealing.  David Maxfield is a New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, and leading social scientist for business performance, and in article recently published in the Harvard Business Journal, he addressed now as much the sound of silence as the cost.  

In that article, he dealt with several types of issues ranging from employee behavior, abusive managers, lack of accountability and even general dysfunction.  He found that instead of speaking up in these situations, interviewees admitted to engaging in one or more resource-sapping behaviors including: complaining to others (78%), doing extra or unnecessary work (66%), ruminating about the problem (53%), or getting angry (50%).

One conclusion he drew was the simple economics of the deafening silence - the average person surveyed estimated the cost of silence at $7,500, and 20% of the sample estimated the cost of avoiding a difficult conversation to be as much as $50,000.  Further, the interviewees described ways that silence damages employee engagement, relationships, deadlines, budgets, and culture. Given that the fact that every one of the people interviewed identified at least one costly example, he concluded that it’s likely that every employee in your organization is adding to the cumulative organizational cost of silence eating away at your bottom line.

But it’s been our experience that this is the tip of the iceberg.  Although those economics really do matter, they are theoretical in nature.  We have unfortunately had clients come to us after ending up on the wrong side of a class action suit with a lot more commas and zeros.  It’s why our mantra is “the more you know the better company you can be.”

We have found that by offering as many ways as possible to allow your employees to communicate about issues ranging from employee conduct, workplace violence, discrimination, fraud, financial malfeasance and conflicts of interest, those issue come to the surface and allow the employer to address them and resolve them often eliminating the potential for costly litigation.  Some of the ways we address this is by offering many ways to communicate and maintain your anonymity until the employee has the confidence to openly come forward.  Think about it – if an employee’s issue is an aggressive and abusive boss they will fear retaliation, loss of their job or worse.  Now let’s consider that employee is a millennial, if you have the ability for employees to communicate via text anonymously, it’s much more likely that they will report the behavior, the company can act on it and resolve, and correct the abusive behavior with counseling or termination and avoid the economic issues raised by David Maxfield, or the more costly litigation we see all too often.

Our approach has been to make sure our customers’ deployments are done in a way that encourage dialogue by offering culturally sensitive tools to communicate and to have trained agents that diffuse the emotion from a situation while still offering a sympathetic ear.


J Rollins is the co-founder and CEO of ETHIX360.  At ETHIX360, our goal is simple, to provide an affordable, flexible and comprehensive answer to employee communication and case management on issues related to corporate ethics, code of conduct, fraud, bribery, EH&S and workplace violence.  To learn more about ETHIX360, please visit www.ethix360.com, or follow us on twitter @ethix360.