Authority Gradient - Why people don't (or can't) speak up.

healthcare Jan 08, 2016

I was chatting with a colleague this morning about the inability of teams to speak up when needed, especially when there is someone very senior in the room and we talked through some examples like the Tenerife Crash of 1977, or the case of a surgeon who removed the wrong kidney despite a medical student questioning the status quo.

He pointed me in the direction of this German research paper in which showed how big the problem can be:

"During debriefing participants were asked to verbalize the motives which they thought might account for their silence or level of challenge. In situations where non-verbal conflict resolution was possible 65% of the participants pursued that strategy whereas 35% voiced an opinion."

So it appears that the majority of subjects would rather physically do something rather than raising a concern verbally which might lead to conflict.

"Situations necessitating verbal intervention were identified in 66% but 72% of the participants chose to remain silent....

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