Learning & Development

Is Quiet Constraint the Latest Headache for Employers?

Every company wants to minimize turnover and improve employee engagement. But along with the recent media buzz about “quiet quitting,” there is an even bigger threat to employee engagement and productivity: “quiet constraint.”

Game-changing innovation and ideas exist in the minds of your workforce. But what if your employees are holding back, not speaking up, and not sharing valuable information and ideas? This spirit of staying quiet, even with valuable knowledge to share, is called “quiet constraint.”

According to a new U.S. Workforce Culture Report from Kahoot!, 58% of enterprise workers are holding in valuable information that could benefit their coworkers. But it’s not because they’re being selfish; quiet constraint is often a symptom of larger communication issues and cultural disconnects within the organization.

Let’s explore why quiet constraint is quietly killing your organization’s productivity and how to fight back.

Employees Want to Work Hard, But Quiet Constraint Is Holding Them Back

Despite the recent media narrative about “quiet quitting,” most employees really are trying their best. Our study found that 76% of workers want to go the extra mile at work, and 71% of employees are “extremely” or “very” interested in their work.

But even though most people care about their jobs and want to bring their best effort to work, quiet constraint is causing them to stay silent and not share helpful information with the team:

  • 87% of employees feel bored at work.
  • 63% of men and 57% of women hold back information.
  • Young workers are more likely to feel constrained; 77% of Gen Zs said they silently sit on information that could be beneficial to their teams.

What if your company’s next big efficiency idea, creative new marketing campaign, or game-changing product breakthrough is sitting untapped in the minds of your employees? This is the hidden cost of quiet constraint—when your team holds back from sharing their ideas, your company is held back from innovating and improving.

What’s Driving Quiet Constraint: Tedious Virtual Meetings and Online Training

Some root causes of quiet constraint are related to the hybrid work environment and remote collaboration. While virtual and hybrid meetings, presentations, and training sessions are the new norm, companies have yet to make them truly engaging. The survey found that 35% of workers mentally check out of online training, 32% lose interest in virtual presentations, and 31% lose attention span for virtual team meetings. When people feel bored or disconnected during daily online communications, they’re less likely to share ideas or pass along helpful suggestions to the team.

Another big culprit is the company culture itself. When asked why they don’t share helpful information with their colleagues, our survey found:

  • 74% of employees are never asked to share input, or they believe their talents are undervalued and their voices are stifled by their company.
  • Many employees don’t feel empowered to share ideas and suggestions. Our survey found that a total of 54% of respondents said they have “no channel/means” to share information, are “not enabled to be my best self” at work, or don’t share because they feel “intimidated.”
  • Many companies have an atmosphere of unhealthy internal competition and disconnection in which helpful information is not getting shared among the team. Forty-one percent of survey respondents said their quiet constraint is fueled by not wanting colleagues to get an edge, that they have no incentive to share information, or that they don’t want to “appear smarter” than their colleagues.

If your company is not helping people feel comfortable, empowered, and safe to share their ideas, you might be inspiring silence and driving good ideas (and good people) away.

3 Big Ideas to Combat Quiet Constraint

Here are a few ways to get your employees to open up and share the good ideas and helpful insights that are on their minds.

  • Build a culture of collaborative sharing. If people see their colleagues as “competition,” they’ll be less likely to speak up with helpful information and creative ideas. Make it clear to your team, every day, that the real competition is outside the organization, not inside. Or, make competition more fun and friendly; 59% of Gen Z respondents said that “a little dose of friendly competition” would help them feel more engaged.
  • Make presentations and online communication more interactive. Are you leveraging technology to make virtual collaboration as engaging as it can be? Our survey found that 38% of employees thought “more rich and interactive media” would improve their engagement. Make every online collaboration session count by directly asking people for ideas and drawing upon everyone’s best thinking.
  • Give people more incentives to share. Fifty-one percent of our survey respondents said brainstorming with coworkers would help them be more engaged. Revamp your meeting formats and presentation styles to give people everyday opportunities and incentives to speak up and share knowledge.  

Sharing knowledge and offering ideas shouldn’t just be for “creative” job functions or senior executives. It should be part of the everyday culture of the organization. When people feel safe, empowered, and inspired to share their best thinking, your company can unlock the best ideas and create value for the entire team.  

James Micklethwait is the VP of Kahoot! at Work. Kahoot!’s award-winning learning platform makes it easy for any individual or corporation to create, share, and host learning sessions that drive compelling engagement.

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