70% of Employees are Avoiding Conversation at Work — Here's Why You Should Care

Woman at work


Leah Thomas
Leah Thomas866

We have a communication problem in our workplaces — some are calling it the “conversation gap” — and it’s not only hurting employees: it’s hurting business, too.

According to Bravely, 70% of employees avoid initiating difficult conversations with their boss and colleagues. Fifty-three percent of employees are choosing to ignore workplace problems rather than working to solve them, and only 31% of managers believe they address workplace confrontations well.

“The conversation gap doesn't just have an impact on employee productivity and engagement—it has a huge impact on talent retention, and in turn, on a company's bottom line,” Sarah Sheehan, Founder & Chief Customer Officer of Bravely, told Fairygodboss in an email. 

There are several causes associated with the conversation gap, including a lack of trust between employees and the company they work for. Only 65% of workers say they trust the company that employs them. And when there is a manager-employee trust gap, employees are less productive, less engaged, and less likely to stay at the company. 

In fact, fifty-one of people are considering quitting their jobs. And according to Deloitte, companies spend over $200 billion each year filling empty positions.

Because employees do not trust their employers, they are afraid to speak up when they're unhappy or considering quitting due to retribution — and this fear disproportionately affects women. 

“As a woman who has spent more than 20 years in the workplace, I know firsthand what it feels like to be afraid to speak up at work,” Sheehan told Fairygodboss. “If the #MeToo movement showed us anything, it's that female employees who talk openly and honestly about the issues they're facing are often punished, or worse, ignored.”

Of course, the communication gap also costs employees money. According to a study by CPP Inc., employees spend 2.8 hours each week dealing with issues in the workplace, which adds up to $359 billion in paid employee hours (based on an average hourly wage of $17.95).

In order to close the conversation gap and steer clear of the toll it can take on both employers and employees, companies must prioritize fostering a workplace culture that allows employees to feel comfortable discussing and working through difficult situations in a productive way. Employees who are encouraged to have honest conversations are overall happier and healthier. 

“For decades, companies have perpetuated cultures of silence by making people — especially women — feel like speaking up would result in inaction or punishment,” Sheehan told Fairygodboss. “At Bravely, we're actively trying to flip the script, working with progressive HR leaders to encourage employees to speak out and speak up—whether they're reporting harassment or simply voicing that they're struggling with their performance or growth.”