The Silent Participant

In recent years we see many companies promoting open culture and freedom for their workforce to express.

It surely gives them competitive advantage. Companies strongly believe that employees if valued, empowered to think freely and encouraged to express fully-Companies will earn rich dividends in return, and we all know it's true-but let's see the real time scenarios and try and understand the need gaps.

during any decision making meeting, or Brainstorming session for new idea generation or simply deciding new rules for attendance or for any other agends-is it not a common scene to see the Team leader or group leader or the chair person holding a pen in his hand-standing besides a huge chart paper and several members shouting out ideas and opinions-soon there is a long silence and the leader asks-"have we got all that we could think of"

and then all agree to which idea to take it forward.

I am sure many will not see any unacceptable thing happening in the above mentioned scene. Especially extrovert people like me may find this as an enjoyable option. True-but in this diverse world there are people who may shudder at the thought of having to take part in such brainstorming rituals, they may just lose their energy and may not make any creative contributions.

Is it not dangerous that the solution or idea generated which has been labelled as "agreed by group" represents only few contributors?

Let's look at following cases-

Rita had been working in an MNC company for over 10 yrs, was more introvert than her colleagues, so was completely ignored by them, and so could never make any contributions in any meetings so far, even when she had loads to offer.

Shankar was quiet and shy boy, had lots of ideas but could not interact with his Type A colleagues who have a tendency to cut others off in conversation - not to be rude, but to be right, love the spotlight and you may call them attention-seekers. Obviously Shankar was always left out of discussions and working diners.

Sara was just 2 months old in her job and surrounded by people who have history together, she is not naturally outgoing and has not made friends yet and feels like a new kid in the school.

Don't we keep meeting Rita, Sara and Shankar in most of the companies?

And don't you think most of the time their contribution is missed out and we never know how valuable that could have been to the company's success.

As a trainer, one of my prime jobs is to ensure that there are no barriers to participation from participants

Apart from above mentioned reasons, any of the following reasons can just shut few participants-

The list can go longer-

If few individuals are too silent, their valuable input is lost from the group. Silent participants pose another problem for a trainer or an organisation, as one may have difficulty assessing whether they are engaged in the meeting/training. We cannot always assume that too much or too little participation is a reflection of hostility toward trainer or the ongoing process. Overly vocal participants may simply be very enthusiastic and excited about the issues, and silent participants may just be nervous about expressing themselves in front of the group.

I kept struggling for a long on this challenge but I got my solution to this challenge by applying facilitation style to my workshops.

In facilitation

As a trainer I found all these facilitative techniques very useful and the results were amazing.

I could get so many novel ideas from so may Ritas, Shankars and Saras who were in my training sessions-who are there in every organization waiting for their chance to express...