Silence – defined here as an absence of speech or noise – has been generally ignored as a form of communication in OB because it represents inaction or non-behavior. But it’s not necessarily inaction. Nor is silence, as many believe, a failure to communicate. It can, in fact, be powerful form of communication. It can mean someone is thinking or contemplating a response to a question. It can mean a person is anxious and fearful of speaking. It can signal agreement, dissent, frustration or anger.
In terms of OB, we can see several links between silence and work-related behavior. For instance, silence is a critical element of group-link, in which it implies agreement with the majority. It can be a way for employees to express dissatisfaction, as when they “suffer in silence.” It can be a sign that someone is upset, as when a typically talkative person suddenly says nothing — “What is the matter with him? Is he all right? It’s a powerful tool used by managers to signal disfavor by shunning or ignoring employees with “silent insults.” And, of course, it’s a crucial element of group decision making, allowing individuals to think over and contemplate what others have said.
Failing to pay close attention to the silent portion of a conversation can result in missing a vital part of the message. Astute communicators watch for gaps, pauses, and hesitations. They hear and interpret silence. They treat pauses, for instance, as analogous to a flashing yellow light at an intersection – they pay attention to what comes next
Silence is sometimes golden especially if opening your mouth can cost your job and good will. People will talk and that is something you have no control over, and their talk can sometimes get you into trouble if you choose to talk on. If you violate the golden rule of silence in the following areas, the adverse consequences of your speech will cause your career and reputation much damage. Below are some situations where your silence will keep your reputation and stakes guarded.
Colleagues sometimes love to talk about their love life by taking you in confidence. It is more of a declaration of their importance than the necessity to share. Make sure you do not discuss that personal information at all with other colleagues.
Colleagues will sometimes discuss their squabbles at home with you. In your discussing that with others will invalidate your trustworthiness and respect. Sometimes people just want to talk their problems out. Keep it only with in you.
In talking their problems out, people may often complain about other colleagues to you. Don’t make the mistake of taking action on it, and definitely don’t make the mistake of spreading the word around. Let them sort out their differences, keep yourself out of the uncomplimentary talk about their colleagues.
Gossip on colleagues especially the boss: Whenever some gossip reaches you about colleagues or your boss, make sure you keep your lips tightly sealed. The minute you leak it out, you will also be rounded up in the process of losing good will.
Sometimes colleagues in moments of weakness or intense emotions may let you in on their dark secrets. Forget you ever heard it. If your mouth is not shut on it, you will create an enemy out of your colleagues though they might have revealed to you earlier their dirty past.
Like Silence is a golden rule but not always. When required proper communication is also very essential. Look at the following catastrophes,
In November 1996, there was a mid-air collision near New Delhi of a Saudia 747 and a Kazakhstan Airlines cargo plane .Investigators placed blame for the collision on poor communications between the Kazakh pilot and the Indian air-traffic controller. The crash killed 349 people.
In September 1997, a Garuda Airlines jetliner crashed into a jungle, just 20 miles south of the Medan Airport on the island of Sumatra .All 234 aboard were killed. The cause of this disaster was the pilot and the air traffic controller confusing the words left and right as the plane approached the airport under poor visibility conditions.
The preceding examples tragically illustrate how miscommunication can have deadly consequences.