1 Faculty member of RIPI, HRM PhD Student, Tehran University, Tehran, Iran

2 HRM & System Analyst Expert at RIPI, Tehran, Iran


Organizational silence is defined as the lack of effective interactions among staff and it stands opposite to the concept of organizational voice. In the present research, the purpose is to measure the silence behavior among the Research Institute of Petroleum Industry (RIPI) staff before and after the implementation of a comprehensive suggestion system. A suggestion system is an internal structure easily accessed by all the staff to state their suggestions in a pre-structured format. The roots of silence behavior are studied based on a deep literature review to find out possible solutions to improve organizational voice. To conduct the research, a self-structured questionnaire has been developed and distributed among all the staff. A quasi-experimental methodology has been adopted to compare pretest and post-test results of silence status before and after implementing the suggestion system. The results show that the silence behavior has been meaningfully reduced. This is based on a simple t-test performed by SPSS software, where there is a meaningful difference between the silence status of pre-test and post-test. In other words, a suggestion system could be a communication opportunity to encourage staff to provide suggestions and to cooperate for promoting the organization, which will finally reduce the organization silence. A major gap within the studies of Iranian scholars about organizational silence is the failure to introduce effective solutions to reduce it. However, this research is innovative in the sense that it fills the mentioned gap. This research shows that large scale organizations like RIPI need to consider methods like suggestion systems to break bureaucratic obstacles so that their staff can easily find open routes to share their ideas and suggestions in a prestructured format. This cooperating will lead to mutual benefits for both parts, since suggestions could be used to enhance organizational structure and performance and the staff could also witness their impact on organizational improvements.


Iranian Journal of Oil & Gas Science and Technology
Vol. 4 (2015), No. 2, pp. 68-83
Organizational Silence, from Roots to Solutions: A
Case Study in Iran
Petroleum Industry
Mehdi Afkhami Ardakani and Ehsan Mehrabanfar
Research Institute of Petroleum Industry, Tehran, I
September 07, 2014
; revised:
December 31, 2014
; accepted:
March 14, 2015
Organizational silence is defined as the lack of ef
fective interactions among staff and it stands
opposite to the concept of organizational voice. In
the present research, the purpose is to measure th
silence behavior among the Research Institute of Pe
troleum Industry (RIPI) staff before and after the
implementation of a comprehensive suggestion system
A suggestion system is an internal structure
easily accessed by all the staff to state their sug
gestions in a pre-structured format. The roots of
silence behavior
are studied based on a deep literature review to fi
nd out possible solutions to improve
organizational voice. To conduct the research, a se
lf-structured questionnaire has been developed and
distributed among all the staff. A quasi-experiment
al methodology has been adopted to compare pre-
test and post-test results of silence status before
and after implementing the suggestion system. The
results show that the silence behavior has been mea
ningfully reduced. This is based on a simple
performed by SPSS software, where there is a meanin
gful difference between the silence status of
pre-test and post-test. In other words, a suggestio
n system could be a communication opportunity to
encourage staff to provide suggestions and to coope
rate for promoting the organization, which will
finally reduce the organization silence. A major ga
p within the studies of Iranian scholars about
organizational silence is the failure to introduce
effective solutions to reduce it. However, this
research is innovative in the sense that it fills t
he mentioned gap. This research shows that large sc
organizations like RIPI need to consider methods li
ke suggestion systems to break bureaucratic
obstacles so that their staff can easily find open
routes to share their ideas and suggestions in a pr
structured format. This cooperating will lead to mu
tual benefits for both parts, since suggestions cou
be used to enhance organizational structure and per
formance and the staff could also witness their
impact on organizational improvements.
: Organizational Silence, Organizational Voice, Sug
gestion System, Research Institute of
Petroleum Industry
1. Introduction
In the Persian language literature, silence indicat
es an individual’s high degree of personality, as p
have even blamed voluble people and have considered
being silent as a value. But in today’s
organizational fundamentals, this attitude has chan
ged as organizations change rapidly in a natural
response to economic and environmental circumstance
s (Quinn and Spreitzer, 1997). Organizations
are now required to cooperate with employees more t
han before. The rapid change in organizations
Corresponding Author:
M. Afkhami Ardakani and E. Mehrabanfar / Organizati
onal Silence, from Roots ...
enables them to adapt to new conditions and to solv
e problems more successfully. As a result of this
approach, superior managers would be able to obtain
the best suggestions about their problems from
the lower levels of organizations as their employee
s are tangibly involved in most of those problems.
If managers recognize the need for cooperation at a
ll organization levels, it will be possible to make
use of the defined strategies to promote the level
of organizational voice. That is, efficient coopera
in an organization is a concept against the organiz
ational silence. Using suggestion systems is one of
these strategies, a purposeful method for elevating
the level of providing useful opinions about
organization problems by staff members. Employees,
through this system, will be able to openly
provide their suggestions for promoting their own w
orkplace and their organization. In response to
this cooperation, organizations acknowledge accepte
d suggestions with rewards. These rewards work
as a compensation and are classified into intrinsic
and extrinsic. Extrinsic rewards can be controlled
by managers, but intrinsic ones are created by the
motivation and cooperating in organizational
decision makings.
Employees generally deal with various problems rela
ted to different parts of their organization. In
response to these problems, employees choose to be
silent or have an organizational voice (Milliken
and Morrison, 2003). Organizational voice means sta
ting suggestions about the existing problems and
silence means the lack of efficiently expressing op
inions. In a large number of organizations,
organizational silence exists due to many various r
easons. Milliken and Morrison (2003), as the
founders of modern research on organizational silen
ce, were the first to investigate the fundamental
reasons behind organizational silence. They present
ed a fundamental model following an exploratory
qualitative study at the New York University. In th
eir model, they described causes of organizational
silence in three dimensions, namely
individual traits, organizational traits, and relat
ionship with
. Their model has been used as a basis for further
research on the concept of organizational
silence. Regardless of the comprehensive model pres
ented, each organization should measure the
reasons behind its organizational silence based on
its own atmosphere and culture. Based on research
carried out in this regard, the roots of silence li
e in the invisible relationships between the organi
and its employees. Basically, any organization has
its own atmosphere and culture, which affect the
relationships among individuals. Therefore, organiz
ations have obviously their own specific
problems. This is why organizational research is ne
cessary to define and clarify the specific concepts
of human resource within every organization.
RIPI, as one of the most important research and tec
hnology organizations in Iran using elite human
resources, needs to determine its own organizationa
l voice level and to find the roots of any silence
behavior. For this purpose, superior managers have
worked out and implemented a suggestion system
as a key tool to increase interaction with employee
s as well as to take advantage of their suggestions
in achieving organizational goals. In this regard,
the level of organizational silence has been evalua
before and after adopting this tool. The present re
search aims to study the results obtained through t
implementation of the suggestion system. It focuses
on the concept of organizational silence, looks fo
its roots, and suggests strategies to solve it.
In this paper, the most important achievements in r
esearch on silence and other influencing
parameters were reviewed to reach our main hypothes
izes. Moreover, Iranian scholars’ studies were
studied to find out the roots of the problems and t
he solutions they provided for Iranian organization
Then, they were compared with international studies
to find out the main gap of silence literature
between the two. We have also explained our quasi-e
xperimental methodology, designed and started 6
months before running the suggestion system, to fin
d out the silence status before and after the
Journal of Oil & Gas Science and Technolog
Vol. 4 (2015), No. 2
implementation of the suggestion system. The result
s of pre-test and post-test were gathered and
compared to find out if a meaningful change existed
. Based on the results, conclusions were drawn
about the silence behavior, and the roots and reaso
ns behind the silence were found out according to
the related literature. Comprehensive solutions wer
e proposed for organizations like RIPI to solve
their silence problems, and the question whether ru
nning a suggestion system is a good method for
increasing voice was answered. Finally, some sugges
tions were offered for further research on silence
In following sections, the literature about silence
, voice, and suggestion systems in the national and
international works is reviewed and the existing ga
p is discussed. In the research methodology
section, we delineate our model to execute a sugges
tion system as a silence breaking structure. The
analysis, questionnaire, and the results of the
-paired test are presented in the results section.
In the
final section, the results and the solutions develo
ped for the silence behavior problem in Iranian
organizations like RIPI are addressed. Some new sug
gestions for Iranian organizations to use
suggestion systems as well as further research topi
cs about silence are also proposed.
The main question of this paper is to investigate t
he relationship between suggestion system
implementation and the silence behavior among RIPI
employees. This question leads to
“Q1: Is there a meaningful relationship between sug
gestion system implementation and silence
2. Literature review
The concept of organizational silence was first int
roduced in 1980s in the theories of administrative
justice, which had been formed following the ethica
l and administrative scandals happened at that
time. Morrison and Milliken (2000) have discussed t
his concept as the modern organizational silence
and have drawn the attention of organization resear
chers to a modern form (Bogosian, 2012). They
could finally provide a comprehensive model to disc
uss silence in modern management literature,
which was afterwards used as the best model in othe
r scholar’s research and has still remained as the
most comprehensive model.
Morrison and Milliken (2000) have stated that silen
ce in organizations is a collective-oriented
phenomenon. As the majority of the organization mem
bers do not tend to negatively comment, the
silence would become a collective-oriented phenomen
on. The fact that the organizational silence is
not counted as an individual-oriented phenomenon in
dicates that the silence does not mean an
individual’s feedback in the organization, but it i
s a collective movement by a group of employees
who are silent. Therefore, the silence atmosphere i
n the organization may result in adverse
organizational performance. In fact, the increasing
impact of the silence originates from the collecti
silence within the organization. In other words, it
can be stated that silence might be like a contagi
virus as it can be transferred from an individual t
o another. As stated by Bowen and Blackmon (2003),
it can be transferred from a subject to another one
. Consequently, silence on one issue may lead to
silence on another issue too. When interacting with
others, silence, which is due to deliberately
maintaining information, may lead to the reduction
of relationships and trust among individuals
(Milliken and Morison, 2003). Trust itself is one o
f the major components of social capital, the
reduction of which causes a decrease in the organiz
ation’s social capital. In other words, there is a
close relationship between the roots of silence and
the social capital (Milliken and Morison, 2003).
M. Afkhami Ardakani and E. Mehrabanfar / Organizati
onal Silence, from Roots ...
Milliken et al. (2003)
have proposed a model for the appearance of silence
in organizations. They
have studied the phenomenon that someone’s choice t
o be silent within an organization can be seen in
three dimensions:
individual traits
organizational traits
, and
relationship with supervisors
. Shortage
of experience or the individual’s low position in t
he organization is counted as “
individual traits
”; the
hierarchical structure existing in the organization
and cultural roots are viewed as “
”; and the lack of close relationships with a super
visor or a supervisor’s superiors is considered
as factors related to “
relationship with supervisor
”. Based on this classification, scholars have form
two separate viewpoints on the appearance of silenc
e. According to the first viewpoint, personnel
might think that breaking the silence ends in a neg
ative attitude towards themselves or their
colleagues. Based on the second viewpoint, personne
l imagine that their opinions do not lead to an
effective change. In both viewpoints, personnel dec
ide to be silent. In their research, Milliken et al
(2003) have found the roots of these two viewpoints
in the social capital. They have concluded that
factors such as low trust, weak social relationship
s, weak collaborations, weakness in performance,
and the possibility of jeopardizing promotion chanc
es all originate from several dimensions of social
capital. They are considered to be the roots of the
silence phenomenon.
The term “organizational voice”, which means statin
g effective opinions and ideas, is discussed as
opposite to the phrase “organizational silence”. Or
ganizational silence occurs when organizational
voice does not exist (Brinsfield et al., 2009). In o
ther words, when the down-top relationship weakens
in the organization, organizational voice would be
undermined too and organizational silence would
replace it. In a model on the classification of emp
loyee’s silence and voice and their behavior toward
them, proposed by Van Dyne et al. (2003), three cla
sses were considered. According to their model,
employees show three types of behavior as follows:
They are in the passivity mood (aloof mood), in whi
ch they imagine that stating their opinions is
not useful and accept the status quo;
They are in the conservative mood (self-protected m
ood), in which they fear to state their
opinions; and,
They are in the active mood, in which they are acti
ve and state their opinions.
Based on the aforementioned
three moods, there will be three types of silence.
A silence resulted from
the imagination that breaking the silence will end
to no result is categorized as “
obedient silence
which is originated from fear and risk. The second
one is “
defensive silence
”, which is resulted from
trying to maintain confidential information; and th
e third one is “
altruistic silence
” which is resulted
from maintaining valuable information. According to
this classification, three types of organizational
voice are also created. First, a voice which is tow
ards apparent support but based on passivity. The
second originates from fear, in which the individua
l tries to draw attentions to something else. Final
the third is an organizational voice in which effic
ient solutions to the organization’s actual problem
are stated. In the present research, what is referr
ed to as voice is the third type of the mentioned
categories, and what is referred to as silence is t
he first and second type of the above-mentioned
In the models proposed before Morrison and Milliken
(2000), more fundamental concepts around
silence had been stated. All of the models presente
d after Morrison and Milliken, proposed in the
years after the end of twentieth century, have used
and combined these models. Argyris (1977)
considers silence as originated from current defens
ive routines and strong norms in the organization,
which prevents employees from stating their opinion
s easily. In other words, he considers silence as
the result of policy-making and micro-cultures, whi
ch have been created due to the superior and
Iranian Journal of Oil & Gas Science and Technolog
Vol. 4 (2015), No. 2
middle manager’s behavior within the organization.
This idea has been also supported by the model
presented by Vakola and Bouradas (2005). In their m
odel, which is also used as a basis for our present
research, they have considered three factors, namel
y superior manager’s attitude towards the
organization’s silence, supervisor’s attitude, and
opportunities for making relationships. In other
words, they accept the idea that organizational sil
ence originates from the higher levels of the
organization. This idea is also supported by Millik
en and Morrison (2003). They consider manager’s
fear of employee’s negative feedback, manager’s ima
ge in their mind of lazy employees, which is the
same as X-McGregor theory, and the organizational c
ulture as the roots of organizational silence.
Among the other theories, Izraeli and Jack (1986) c
onsider inducing employees to accept the belief
that they have no volition or potential to make a b
etter comment as the root of silence. Even managers
may apparently favor receiving suggestions from the
ir employees, but in practice, force them to be
silent (Hennestad, 1990). As a result of such an ap
proach, employees retreat so as not to be placed in
the group of “problem-causing individuals” and will
not state their opinions (Dickson and
Roethlisberger, 1966). The reason behind this is th
Mum effect
phenomenon, which was first
introduced in the field of organizational silence b
y Morrison and Milliken (2003). In other words, an
individual does not like to bring bad news.
Milliken and Morrison (2003) proposed several reaso
ns behind the silence in organizations such as
employee’s fear of manager’s negative reaction and
relations structure between supervisors and
employees in the organization so that individuals d
o not like to give negative information to their
supervisors. However, managers are not the only mai
n guilty side. As stated by Bowen and Blackmon
(2003), support from others may lead to organizatio
nal voice. It can be concluded that support from
colleagues and group-mates is also effective in dec
iding by employees to be silent or to state their
own opinions. This logic can also be seen in the ea
rlier viewpoints such as those proposed by Janis
(1982) and Noelle-Neumann (1974). According to thei
r idea, support from colleagues and
imagination are also highly effective in stating su
ggestions. In a fundamental viewpoint on defining
silence suggested by Noelle and Neumann (1993), the
model “
Spiral of Silence
” has been stated as the
fundamental reason for silence. When an individual
sees himself in the minority, he does not feel the
required support and becomes silent. In fact, he su
ccumbs to the group as a whole. This theory has
later been completed by Morrison and Milliken (2000
They also identified silence as a collective-
oriented phenomenon. However, this approach had pre
viously been proposed by Solomon Ash in
1950 (Capanzano, 2012). He considered imitating oth
er members of a group as the dominant reason
behind wrong suggestions. He discussed conformity a
nd pressure from colleagues, which later
became very effective factors in the field of organ
izational behavior and the analysis of group
Based on the viewpoint on supporting the position o
f the opinion-stating individual, there are two
major types in several studies about organizations.
The first is when an issue or problem is discussed
amongst colleagues and it is not referred to the bo
ss, as stated by Morrison and Milliken (2003). In t
second, the case is referred to none of the bosses
and colleagues, as stated by Bowen and Blackmon
(2003). Based on this classification, it is possibl
e to enter psychological issues through the concept
such as being valuable or safety feeling (Morrison
and Milliken, 2003).
Milliken and Morrison (2003) have counted social ca
pital, culture, and the type of relationships as
concepts related to psychology, and the type of att
itudes as the root factor in several studies. In ot
words, various factors are involved in the occurren
ce of silence. This variety of factors, as believed
Dyne et al. (2003), leads to different understandin
gs of silence. Looking for the reason behind the
silence may lead to an incorrect understanding of t
he circumstances helping to develop incorrect
M. Afkhami Ardakani and E. Mehrabanfar / Organizati
onal Silence, from Roots ...
relationships and attitudes. Because of this, it is
very important to correctly understand the reasons
while dealing with the study of silence.
In a research conducted by Zarei Matin et al. (2011
), silence is considered as being resulted from a
series of managerial and organizational variables,
which require some qualitative studies such as
Grounded Theory
for finding the roots and presenting useful strate
gies such as suggestion system due
to the shortage of practical domestic research. Mor
eover, Afkhami and Khalili (2012) have measured
the impact of employees’ personality-related traits
on their knowledge-related silence in RIPI based
on a five-factor model. They have concluded that ne
uroticism and agreeableness lead to silence, while
openness in relationships, extraversion, and dutifu
lness result in organizational voice. Based on the
research model presented by Vakola and Bouradas (20
05), Danayifard et al. (2010) investigated the
organizational silence in the governmental sector.
They concluded that there is a meaningful
relationship between the silence atmosphere consist
ing of the attitudes of superior management and
supervisors towards silence and the opportunity to
make relationships on the one side, with the
employee’s professional attitude towards silence on
the other side. They also implied the suggestion
system as a method for improving the silence enviro
nment. In the continuation of their research on the
relationship between the atmosphere and the silence
behavior, Danayifard et al. (2011) investigated
the effect of the role of organizational culture on
them in three universities of medical science. The
have studied the culture based on the four dimensio
ns, namely agreeableness, participation, adaptive,
and mission, where there is a stronger correlation
between the first two items and silence. They have
stated that improving any of these four dimensions
elevates the organizational voice level.
One of the methods to decrease organizational silen
ce is to successfully implement a suggestion
system in organizations. Studies carried out indica
te that correct implementation of this system in
organizations has been very effective (Rapp and Ekl
und, 2007). Bassford and Martin (1996) have
suggested that implementation of such systems lead
to remarkable improvements in employee’s level
of comment-making and participation. Furthermore, R
obinson and Schroeder (2009) have found
receiving suggestions so useful that it resulted in
an extra 350 million dollar profit per year at Toy
The influence of the implementation of suggestion s
ystems in organizations has been improved over
the recent years more than the past, as complexity
growth has made organizations move towards more
flexibility and adaptability. Generally, failure to
adapt could lead to the destruction of organizatio
(Fairbank and Williams, 2001). These changes requir
e top-down and down-top interactions within the
organization. They are influenced by the interactio
ns of superior managers and employees. In this
regard, organizational strengths and weaknesses are
discovered and then corrective changes are made.
Suggestion systems are implemented within the organ
izations in order to encourage the employees to
refer different issues to relevant units after they
are analyzed from a practical point of view.
Similar researches carried out by Shell, KPN, and X
erox Corporation indicate improvements in
employees’ participation level and taking advantage
of their innovation in processing their ideas
towards continuous improvements within the organiza
tion (Dijk and Ende, 2003). The correct
implementation of suggestion boxes in these organiz
ations along with using intrinsic and extrinsic
awards has led to getting several useful opinions.
In general, it can be noted that the suggestion
system is implemented in order to receive organizat
ional voice and is a tool for increasing the voice
level in large administrative organizations. In oth
er words, considering the converse relationship
between organizational silence and voice, this tool
has been used so as to decrease the silence
phenomenon in the organizations, even though it is
a lateral function. Dijk and Ende (2003) have
Iranian Journal of Oil & Gas Science and Technolog
Vol. 4 (2015), No. 2
identified organizational support, allocating resou
rces, and encouraging employees as key factors for
the model which makes the system work out in the or
ganization. That is, the correct implementation
of this system leads to the promotion of the organi
zation’s voice level as well as a decrease in its
silence level. Thus if we see a reduction in the si
lence level, it can be conversely concluded that th
project has been implemented successfully.
Based on research literature review, there is a gap
between international research and the work by
Iranian scholars, especially in the solutions provi
ded to increase voice in organizations or the reaso
behind the occurrence of silence. There have been m
any great studies by international scholars about
the relationship between silence and social capita.
Their research had ended up in several applicable
models on the topic. However, Iranian scholars have
not applied the models to the Iranian
organizations. Differently speaking, silence theori
es are discussed among Iranian scholars but are not
completely used as a tool in a case study. Most of
the researches are qualitative based and have not
used any quantitative research methodology to provi
de any solution to silence behavior. The current
research is developed to connect silence, the quant
itative methodology, and a real applied solution.
The current research conceptual model in which step
by step research progress is shown is depicted in
Figure 1. In the first step, communication barriers
and silence behavior are discussed before the
silence behavior status is assessed. Then, a sugges
tion system is implemented in RIPI and silence
behavior is evaluated again.
Figure 1
Conceptual model of the research.
3. Research methodology
The present research is of practical type carried o
ut based on the quasi-experimental methodology
with a pre-test and a post-test with one group (
). O
refers to the first observation and O
Initial Silence Assessment
Silence Behavior
Suggestion System
Final Silence Assessment
M. Afkhami Ardakani and E. Mehrabanfar / Organizati
onal Silence, from Roots ...
refers to the second observation; X is the interven
tion in the group. In a quasi-experimental design,
one may observe the change after occurrence and sho
uld control the group. In contrast, the group
might not be completely controlled in the experimen
tal design. The experimental design is mostly
used in science; however, it could be used by socia
l science scholars too.
Quasi experimental design is used when a change is
applied to a group, while the control of other
changes in the group is not possible. In our case,
the experimental design is not applicable as the
target group might be faced with other factors. As
the suggestion system is run in a period of 6
months, two appraisals are performed. However, the
learning ability of the group in the period
between the pre-test and the post-test is most like
ly a variable factor. The quasi-experimental design
would then be more applicable. In this design, base
d on the results of the pre and post implementation
period, the target factor (i.e. silence behavior) i
s assessed. The statistical population of the resea
includes the employees of RIPI in Tehran. The sampl
e individuals, to be tested, have been selected in
a random manner. The questionnaires were distribute
d in April 2014. The number of sample
questionnaires filled up and returned was 181. Each
respondent was given a code, which was used in
the post-test in October 2014.
According to a model based on the organizational si
lence behavior presented by Lam (2013)
at the
University of Michigan, a standard questionnaire ha
ving 26 questions has been prepared after being
edited with due consideration of the internal chara
cteristics of RIPI. “Silence behavior” was then
investigated through the prepared questionnaire. Th
ere are 5 questions about communication
problems and 6 questions about the silence behavior
. For each question, there are a mean and a
standard deviation. Table 2 shows the total mean of
all the questions before and after the running of
suggestion system. In Table 3, a paired
sample test was used to compare the results in pre
- and post-
test to find out whether there is a meaningful vari
ation or not. Paired
-test compares the difference in
the means from the two variables measured on the sa
me set of subjects to a given number (0), while
taking into account the fact that the scores are no
t independent.
Table 1
Self-structured questionnaire based on Likert scale
from 0 to 4.
The collaboration with other workers is easy,
Transferring experience and knowledge is easily don
e among coworkers,
Staff can easily communicate with their supervisors
Organization changes are informed in a good style,
RIPI informs the staff about its mission and goals,
Personnel can easily show their disagreement about
issues related to the organization
with their managers,
Personnel can easily show their disagreement about
issues related to their unit with
their managers,
Personnel can easily show their disagreement about
issues related to their job with
their managers,
Personnel can easily show their disagreement about
issues related to their job
satisfaction like salaries, compensation, work cond
ition, etc. with their managers,
Personnel can easily show their disagreement about
issues related to work processes,
structures, etc.,
Personnel can easily state their suggestions and cr
iticisms with their supervisors.
Reliability of the questionnaire was tested and ver
ified using Cronbach’s alpha. The alpha obtained is
M. Afkhami Ardakani and E. Mehrabanfar / Organizati
onal Silence, from Roots ...
Results and discussion
The comprehensive suggestion system was implemented
in RIPI. Then, the organizational silence
behavior was measured using the same questionnaire
used for pre suggestion system implementation.
Given that the quasi-experimental method has been u
sed in this work, it is necessary to use the same
individuals for pre and post-tests. For this purpos
e, each of the individuals participated in the pre-
was given a code which was again used in the post-t
est. Consequently, the same individuals have
participated in the test. In order to evaluate the
average of the two statistical populations, the pai
test was carried out by using the SPSS software. As
shown in the Table 2, the mean score of silence
has decreased from 2.1532 to 1.4033. Furthermore, t
he results shown in the Table 3 indicate a
meaningful difference in the value of silence betwe
en pre and post-test (sig<0.05). Therefore, it can
be concluded that the implementation of the suggest
ion system has a meaningful impact on the
reduction of employee’s silence behavior. Table 3 s
ummarizes the mean score of the data gathered for
the pre-test. Each cell shows a mean score of a que
stionnaire of the pre-test. Table 4 lists the post-
data for the same questionnaires. The difference of
the overall means in Table 3 and Table 4 is
0.74987, which is used as an input for the paired
-test. The paired
-test, as shown in Table 5,
indicates the significant difference of the overall
means of the pre-test and post-test.
Table 3
Mean scores of data gathered for pre-test.
O v era ll M ea n
2 . 1 5 3 2
M. Afkhami Ardakani and E. Mehrabanfar / Organizati
onal Silence, from Roots ...
meaningful relationship between the pre-test and th
e post-test silence status. If the
-value were more
than 0.05, there would have been no relationship. T
his means that there has been a meaningful
relationship showing an effective change in the gro
up silence behavior. As there have been no other
intervening variables, it can be inferred that the
suggestion system implementation in the organizatio
has been the main variable for these changes. All f
ormulas used in the current work methodology are
listed in Table 7.
Table 7
List of used signs in paired
sample test
Data from sample 1
In this work, the means are show
n instead of the samples.
Data from sample 2
In this work, the means are shown instead of the sa
The pair wise difference
The standard deviation of the sample pair
wise differences


The sample size
181 samples have been accepted.
The true mean of the population of pair
wise differences

is defined as the difference between means.
The hypothesized mean of the pair wise
It is zero.
The present research has been conducted using a qua
si-experimental method. In terms of internal
validity, the method is very strong and its validit
y has been improved by observing the organizational
and employee’s conditions. Quasi-experimental desig
n leads to a weak external validity, which means
the low effectiveness of using the same results for
other organizations. However, we have controlled
the organizational conditions to reduce this effect
and to make it possible to use the developed model
as a highly useful tool to measure organizational p
arameters in similar circumstances. Lack of the
implementation of other similar or interrelated pro
jects in the period of the experiment, accuracy in
administering the test, and educating the employees
all lead to an increase in the external validity.
positive results after running the suggestion syste
m also indicate the lack of any fall in the sample
individuals. In other words, the external validity
is improved by controlling the system as a whole,
and thereby leading to the results that are closer
to the reality.
Herein, based on Morrison’s model, silence is studi
ed through individual, organizational, and
relationship concepts to understand it from the vie
wpoint of relationships or behavioral obstacles. It
was found out that the most important reason behind
this can be seen in the individual’s behavior
affected by conformity with the group of colleagues
or fear of receiving a negative feedback. In fact,
today’s models such as Vakola and Bouradas (2005) a
nd Milliken and Morrison (2003) have
confirmed these fundamental facts as silence is a c
ollective-oriented phenomenon which appears to
maintain the status quo and the fear of the future
situation. In other words, silence might be seen as
virus as it spreads and is transferred from one ind
ividual to another and even from a subject to anoth
M. Afkhami Ardakani and E. Mehrabanfar / Organizati
onal Silence, from Roots ...
silence behavior studies. For future studies, using
a pre study about social capital and checking the
status of its dimensions before and after running t
he suggestion system is suggested. It is also
recommended that more attention should be paid to t
he concept of culture as well as social capital in
the occurrence of silence in future research. It is
possible to take advantage of the Hofsted model in
connection with culture (Mehrabanfar and Nobari, 20
13) and the Kennedy Harvard design for
measuring social components (Mehrabanfar and Aghaz,
2014), especially as it seems that there is a
shortage of domestic research regarding the relatio
nship between these components and the
organizational silence, while they have a remarkabl
e impact on the occurrence of the silence.
5. Conclusions
Silence is a concept intertwined not only with the
organization context, but also with several concept
in politics, culture, and even history. To determin
e the value of silence in the administration of jus
one may refer to the movie “
To Kill the Mockingbird
” (1960), which shows the real value of voice.
However, silence is a fundamental and infrastructur
al phenomenon. This is why so many scholars
have suggested different reasons behind its occurre
nce and investigated it in terms of several aspects
The reasons suggested by different scholars are not
separate from each other. Social capital cannot be
separated from culture and culture cannot be separa
ted from manager’s attitude as there is a close
relationship between these factors. The identificat
ion of the existence of silence may be of the first
priority as there are a large number of studies, wh
ich show that employee’s silence may cause stress,
dissatisfaction, and the reduction of organizationa
l commitment (Beer and Eisenstat, 2000). In other
words, obviating the silence, if existed, is of top
priority for any organizations as it may be the ro
ot of
some other problems. Milliken and Morrison (2003) h
ave stated the factors related to social capital,
culture, and the structure of relationships among e
mployees and supervisors as the reasons behind the
occurrence of silence. Vakola and Bouradas (2005)
paid their attention to supervisor’s attitude
towards the silence phenomenon as well as the exist
ing opportunities to make relationships. But none
of these studies, especially those by the Iranian s
cholars, has tried to get out and improve the
organizational silence concept and to change it to
the organizational voice. The current research has
tested the suggestion system, as a systematic tool
for eliminating or improving the silence conditions
According to the results obtained, the administrati
ve assessment of the project is estimated to be
: Research Institute of petroleum Industry
: Student’s
: Statistical package for the social sciences
Std. deviation
: Standard deviation
Sig. (2-tailed)
: Significance (2-tailed)
Afkhami Ardakani, M. and Khalili, A., Investigation
of the Relationship between Personality-related
Factors and Knowledge Employee’s Silence, General M
anagement Researches, Vol. 5, No. 18,
p. 65-83, 2012.
Argyris, C, Double Loop Learning In Organizations,
Harvard Business Review, Vol. 55, No. 5, p.
115-125, 1977.
Bassford, R. L. and Martin, C. L., Employee Suggest
ion Systems: Boosting Productivity and Profits,
Iranian Journal of Oil & Gas Science and Technolog
Vol. 4 (2015), No. 2
Menlo Park, California, USA, Crisp Publications, 19
Beer, M. and Eisenstat, R., the Silent Killers of S
trategy Implementation and Learning, Sloan
Management Review, Vol. 41, No. 4, p. 29-40, 2000.
Bowen, F. and Blackmon, K., Spirals of Silence: the
Dynamic Effects of Diversity on Organizational
Voice, Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 40, No.
6, p. 1393-1417, 2003.
Bogosian, R., Engaging Organizational Voice: a Phen
omenological Study of Employee’s Lived
Experiences of Silence in Work Group Settings, Ph.D
. Dissertation, Faculty of Graduate School
of Education and Human Development of the George Wa
shington University, 221 p., 2012.
Brinsfield, C. T., Edwards, M. S., and Greenberg, J.
, Voice and Silence in Organizations, Historical
Review and Current Conceptualizations, Voice and Si
lence in Organizations, Chapter 1, p. 3-33,
Campbell, D. T., Stanley, J. C., and Gage, N. L., E
xperimental and Quasi-experimental Designs for
Research, Boston, USA: Houghton Mifflin, p. 171-246
, 1963.
Capanzano, M. S. and Asch, Solomon, Encyclopedia of
the History of Psychological Theories, USA,
Springer, p. 90-91, 2012.
Danayifard, H., Fani, A., and Barati, E., Explainin
g the Role of Organizational Culture in
Organizational Silence in the Public Section, Outlo
ok on public administration, Vol. 8, No. 3, p.
61-82, 2011.
Dickson, W. and Roethlisberger, F., Counseling in a
n Organization: A Sequel to the Hawthorne
Researches, Boston, MA, USA, Harvard University Pre
ss, 1966.
Dyne, L. V., Ang, S., and Botero, I. C., Conceptual
izing Employee Silence and Employee Voice as
Multidimensional Constructs, Journal of Management
Studies, Vol. 40, No. 6, p. 1359-1392,
Fairbank, J. F. and Williams, S. D., Motivating Cre
ativity and Enhancing Innovation through
Employee Suggestion System Technology, Creativity a
nd Innovation Management, Vol. 10, No.
2, p. 68-74, 2001.
Hennestad, B. W., The Symbolic Impact of Double Bin
d Leadership: Double Bind and the Dynamics
of Organizational Culture, Journal of Management St
udies, Vol. 27, No. 3, p. 265-280, 1990.
Izraeli, D. and Jick, T., The Art of Saying No: Lin
king Power to Culture, Organization Studies, Vol.
7, No. 2, p. 171-192, 1986.
Janis, Irving. L., Groupthink: Psychological Studie
s of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes, 2
Boston, Massachusetts, USA, Houghton Mifflin, 1982.
Lam, C. F., Direct or Polite, Antecedents and Conse
quences of How Employees Express Voice, Ph.D.
Dissertation, University of Michigan, 2013.
Mehrabanfar, E. and Aghaz, A., Investigation of the
Role of Social Capital in Effectively Sharing
Knowledge among the Employees of Pars Oil and Gas C
orporation, Quarterly Journal of Human
Resource Management in the Petroleum Industry, Vol.
4, No. 21, p. 64-76, 2015 (In Press).
Mehrabanfar, E. and Nobari, S., The Role of Culture
in Entrepreneurial Consciousness in Iran Using
GEM Data, Quarterly Journal of Technology Growth, V
ol. 9, No. 34, p. 25-33, 2013.
Morrison, E. and Milliken, F., Organizational Silen
ce: a Barrier to Change and Development In a
Pluralistic World, Academy of Management Review, Vo
l. 25, No. 4, p. 706-25, 2000.
Milliken, F. J., Morrison, E. W., and Hewlin, P. F.
, An Exploratory Study of Employee Silence:
Issues that Employee Don’t Communicate Upward and W
hy, Journal of Management Studies,
Vol. 40, No. 6, p. 1453-1476, 2003.
M. Afkhami Ardakani and E. Mehrabanfar / Organizati
onal Silence, from Roots ...
Milliken, F. J. and Morrison, E. W., Shades of Sile
nce: Emerging Themes and Future Directions for
Research on Silence in Organizations, Journal of Ma
nagement Studies, Vol. 40, No. 6, p. 1563-
1568, 2003.
Noelle-Neumann, E., The Spiral of Silence a Theory
of Public Opinion, Journal of Communication,
Vol. 24, No. 2, p. 43-51, 1974.
Noelle-Neumann, E., the Spiral of Silence: Public O
pinion-our Social Skin, USA, University of
Chicago Press, 1993.
Quinn, R. E. and Spreitzer, G. M., the Road to Empo
werment: Seven Questions Every Leader Should
Consider, Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 26, No. 2,
p. 37-49, 1997.
Rapp, C. and Eklund, J., Sustainable Development of
a Suggestion System: Factors Influencing
Improvement Activities in a Confectionary Company,
Human Factors and Ergonomics in
Manufacturing, Vol. 17, No. 1, p. 79-94, 2007.
Robinson, A. G. and Schroeder, D. M., the Role of F
ront-Line Ideas in Lean Performance
Improvement, Quality Management Journal, Vol. 16, N
o. 4, p. 27-40, 2009.
Tulubas, T. and Celep, C., Effect of Perceived Proc
edural Justice on Faculty Member’s Silence: the
Mediating Role of Trust in Supervisor, Procedia-soc
ial and Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 47, No. 3,
p. 1221-1231, 2012.
Van Dijk, C. and Van Den Ende, J., Suggestion Syste
ms: Transferring Employee Creativity into
Practicable Ideas, R & D Management, Vol. 32, No. 5
, p. 387-395, 2003.
Vakola, M. and Bouradas, D., Antecedents and Conseq
uences of Organizational Silence: An
Empirical Investigation, Employee Relations, Vol. 2
7, No. 5, p. 441-458, 2005.
Zarei Matin, H., Taheri, F., and Sayyar, A. G., Org
anizational Silence: Concepts, Reasons and
Consequences, Managerial Sciences Journal of Iran,
Vol. 6, No. 21, p. 77-144, 2012.