Tim McClure, Professional Speaker and Brand and Leadership Consultant, noted: “The biggest concern for any organisation should be when their most passionate people become quiet”. Highly motivated individuals – their participation, their creativity and ideas and their keenness to be involved – carry the best of the organisation’s culture and establish it in an aspirational way as the benchmark of dialogue, teamwork and participation. The passion of these culture creators and environment enforcers becomes positive and inspirational sustenance for all other employees, who look to them for guidance and counsel. Their enthusiastic approach to finding solutions and their creative ideas carry others along in the process of growing the business. They become the necessary internal energy force to move the business forward.

What happens, however, when your most motivated employees become quiet? Tim McClure also said: “Passion is contagious … so is not having it”. When passionate employees become quiet, usually as a result of some form of a break of trust in leadership, negative energy ripples around the organisation with the same force that their previous positive energy induced. Suspicion and insecurity clouds the culture and employees retreat into self-protection behaviour patterns and become distracted. The growing unease disables focus and rumours occupy the theme of most conversations. The environment has become dysfunctional.

Motivated employees ‘become quiet’ when one or more of the following issues are experienced:

  • Breach of trust – leadership integrity is paramount to maintaining relationships and keeping people focused and energised. Not living the company values inevitably leads to distrust.
  • Lack of leadership consistency – fairness, consistently applied, leads to a growing confidence amongst the staff complement. Employees feel insecure when there is favouritism, nepotism or irregular behaviour on the part of leadership.
  • Being overlooked – not being listened to, being ignored or contribution not being recognised all lead to apathy. Energy gets sucked out of the system and people lose heart.
  • Dishonesty – leadership untruths breed distrust. Employees easily perceive dishonesty and hate any attempts at being conned.
  • Insufficient information and communication – where managers withhold pertinent pieces of information for power purposes or fail to communicate adequately with employees, staff feel neglected and worthless.
  • Leadership selfishness – big leadership bonuses with small pay increases for employees, benefits and values being ‘customised’ to suit leadership desires, etc.
  • Lack of vision – when leadership operates out of a vague sense of direction with little or no communication of an expected future state.

The ‘quietness’ of typically motivated employees is an organisational alarm which leadership needs to recognise and act on. Internal reflection is necessary as the origin of the lack of passion so often lies in leadership inappropriateness, neglect or selfishness.