If you’ve ever been in a room at work where someone confidently voiced an opinion you disagreed strongly with, but felt too afraid to speak up, you’re not alone. Initially proposed by German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann in 1974, “Spiral of Silence” refers to the tendency to remain silent when people feel that their views are in opposition to the majority view on a topic. This silence can have serious ramifications for individuals in a law firm and the firm itself.
For individuals, the “Spiral of Silence” can mean workers don’t feel comfortable sharing their opinion or voicing concerns about how they or others are being treated. This allows mistreatment and biases to go unchecked at an individual level and can also result in a secondary spiral in which workers feel they are not able to fully express their personal identity in the workplace. Such employees are stuck in a terrible position, where they feel that expressing their opinions could negatively affect workplace cohesion but saying nothing increases their own feelings of isolation and reduces their sense of genuine belonging.