When your most passionate employees become quiet

After eight months of working in her new role as a senior associate, Sarah begins to notice a change within the organization, and it’s making her very uncomfortable. Now, if you know Sarah, she loves her job; she is the spark and energy of the room, going the extra mile and dedicated to ensuring that the company fulfills its purpose and achieve its vision. But something was changing, the leadership made significant changes within the organization without any input from staff, and this affected Sarah immensely.

She tried to offer her feedback, but no one took her seriously. As a result, the organizational culture was slowly shifting from one that was very inspirational and motivational to one that breeds toxicity. Sarah, sensing that the organization did not value her work again, became very disengaged; she kept her head under the radar while she looked for a new job, losing all enthusiasm for the job.

When passionate employees become quiet, according to Tim McClure, it usually sends a signal that the work environment has become very dysfunctional. Suspicion and insecurity clouds the culture and employees retreat into self-protection behavior patterns to protect themselves from the forces within the company. According to Jonathan Mills, the growing unease disables focus, breaks trust in leadership, and a wave of negative energy ripples through the entire organization with the same force that their previous positive energy induced. 

What are the causes? According to Mills, it may be any one of the following.

Breach of trust

Leadership integrity is paramount to maintaining relationships and keeping people focused and energized. Not living the company values and leading by example inevitably leads to distrust. 

Lack of leadership consistency

Fairness, consistently applied, leads to growing confidence among staff. Employees feel insecure when there is favoritism, nepotism, or irregular behavior on the part of leadership.

Being overlooked

Not being listened to, being ignored, or contribution not being recognized all lead to apathy. Energy gets sucked out of the system, and people lose heart.


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 ‘customized’ to suit leadership desires, etc.

Lack of vision and purpose

 When leadership operates out of a vague sense of direction with little or no communication of an expected future state, people within the organization will eventually become very disengaged. 

 To prevent your most passionate employee from becoming quite, you need to look at the leadership of the organization as the first order of business because the problems usually start from there. Ask yourself these question 

 Has the company moved away from its purpose and vision? Is there open and honest communication to reinforce the company’s purpose, vision, and values. Or to ensure that the entire company is informed about any changes taking place.Have the leadership stay true the values of the company and leading by example; What about empathy? Does the leadership value empathy and recognize this as a critical aspect of their leadership. 

 When your most passionate employees become quiet, it’s a signal that something is out of alignment, and as the leader, this is something you must observe and act on immediately. People don’t lose their motivation and inspiration overnight; it’s always a combination of small and big things that creeps into the organization slowly and consistently over time.

When you have a team passionate, inspired, and motivated to help the company achieve it’s vision while fulfilling its purpose, you must do everything in your power to ensure that this team keeps this vibe. Otherwise, you run the risk of pushing away great talent while settling for mediocrity.


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  1. From my experience the biggest culprit that leads to most of the others listed is the greed element of upper management.

    For this situation to arise, there has to be an element of hubris and sense of entitlement where the upper management leadership group decides that it is more important, more integral to the operation than everyone else. This justifies the shift from sharing the fruits of the work amongst the other employees to just the powerful few. We see this not just in corporate America but in some personal relationships as well.

    Unfortunately for Americans, this has become a major problem these past four decades. To the point that the economy is seriously stunted. During the 1980s he ratio of pay between the highest and lowest paid in an organization began to change from the average of 40:1 to 350 to 550:1. Some are now reporting that it is up to 850:1. This disparity is so wide and so pervasive throughout our society that it has severely damaged the economy. It is one reason that despite our unemployment rate now floating between numbers not seen since the 1950s, we are not seeing such bombastic economic benefits that the nation did at the time. The money isn’t nor has been making it down to the middle class, or what is left of it. The entire middle stratum within the middle class is essentially a pale shadow of what it once was having been starved out of existence. The money isn’t funneling down there and hasn’t for forty years.

    Today, Denmark is number one for highest standard of living. They’re still maintaining a ratio of highest paid to lowest at 37:1. The U.S., has long since fallen to twentieth for standard of living. We can split hairs, bringing up the finest and most obscure details as to why this has occurred in an attempt to deflect the blame from wealth disparity, but numbers don’t lie. People do. And we will use any tools at our disposal to accomplish this. Much like guns don’t kill…

    Having said that, when we point at management failings, regardless of what they are there is usually something behind it. Something that they are not sharing with the rest of the team any longer. And typically, this will have something to do with the basest element of the organization and those who run, control, and or own it–compensation. Which usually has everything to do with increasing one’s power and control. This almost always eventually translates in to increasing compensation for themselves over the rest of the firm. Money and power are expressions of each other.

    When someone denies that this is the case there is usually a good chance that they themselves believe that overcompensation of the higher stratum over everyone else is proper and appropriate, or they themselves are part of that very situation of enjoying the fruits of everyone else’s contributions. Otherwise known as living off the backs of others.


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